I was talking with a friend about Thanksgiving. We were sharing why Thanksgiving was meaningful to us and our plans for this year. She was telling me how, this year, she was excited because she and her family were going to be celebrating with friends. I asked her why this was exciting. Her reply, “Because of the food.” And it wasn’t what most people think. It’s that the food would be simple and nourishing. For many in our culture, we are surrounded daily by abundance. The grocery store is stocked with 10 varieties of apples alone. There is not the knowledge of what it is to go without food or to anticipate the waning of the season of plenty and prepare for the lean months ahead.
During Thanksgiving we eat until our hearts are content and then we continue until our pants no longer fit. At one time this overeating served a purpose. It was actually important to put on weight in preparation for Winter; there needed to be fat to keep us warm but also to lose. However, when we are not met with the scarcity of the season there is simply the extra 10 pounds to deal with. We want it all, the comfort of constant abundance and the feast celebrating the seasons.
My husband’s mom, Jane, once told me a story and the details have gotten mixed up, but the gist of it has stuck. Her grandmother used to cut the ends off of her roast when preparing it to cook, so in turn her mother cut the ends off of the roast. Jane was preparing to do the same thing, but wondered what the benefit was to cutting off the ends. So, she asked her grandmother why they both did it. Her grandmother responded that she did it because it didn’t fit in the pan, while her mother did it because she thought that’s what you did when making pot roast. Many traditions are like this. We keep copying the actions long past the context holds relevant, leaving many unsure what is being celebrated.
This cultural observation is not novel, many people have discussed it. But we continue to talk as we grapple to understand this break from what our primitive selves were wired to know in order to survive. Eat food, celebrate it, and appreciate it when there is abundance. So many traditions revolve around the ebb and flow of nature, but we have broken away from nature and her beautiful limitations. We have forgotten, life is found in constraints.
We celebrate to emphasize some aspect of life we want to remember, to make it bigger than it usually is, for a day, so we can better hold it in our mind when it fades. The purpose is to take something that could get lost within ourselves within the dark days of Winter or life and say, “Oh, I remember love, light, abundance.” But, we no longer need to pull on that memory of the cornucopia of the Autumnal Harvest to get us through the Winter when we are hungry, cold, and scared. This highlighting of abundance does not continue to hold the meaning it once did. We don’t need to make abundance bigger; it’s constantly around us.
As my wise friend joyously anticipates her simple supper, I am encouraged to follow her. We can bring attention to the life that is found in simplicity. To remember that what we have is enough.
These cards themselves are simple, blank on the inside, to be filled by the drawings or words of both adults and children. A place to express the wanderings of our hearts and minds on this day of gratitude.