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Changing Traditions Of Thanks

Feb 3, 2008
The whole power of tradition is founded upon the act of repetition. By doing something on a certain date in a certain way the way it has been done countless times before we reiterate to our consciousness the value of what we are celebrating. Thanksgiving is a tradition in which we eat, share, pray and give thanks for the blessings we have in our lives. However modern culture has sought ways to keep Thanksgiving from becoming a meal we simply have by rote and has begun changing tradition to bring back the meaning and the message.

Time for new food

For many families a traditional Thanksgiving meal starts and ends with turkey. However, a growing trend in the nation has seen families adding their own culture or recipes to the Thanksgiving meal, making it uniquely theirs. Vegetarians, thankful for their healthy bodies, have spurned a traditional turkey meal in favor of tofurky - a wobbling gelatinous tofu substance only slightly resembling the bird it is replacing.

Others, not quite willing to abandon meat on this holiday, add items to the dinner reflective of their history and culture. People in the Southwest may begin their dinner with tamales while people in the Northeast start with a nice clam chowder. Advocates for this change suggest it offers families a better sense of memory and personal meaning.

Time for new prayers

A traditional Thanksgiving prayer is usually said by a member of the clergy or the male head of household. It encompasses thanks to God for health, food, family and friends. However as laity has become more involved in directing and sustaining their own spirituality they have found new ways to incorporate a sense of thankful prayer into their day. Many families have started a tradition called the Thanksgiving Scrapbook. By taking a notebook or other collective device, families ask each member to write down what they are thankful for that day.

As this tradition continues year after year members of the family get a catalog of their lives, loves and history. By participating in their own faith practices Thanksgiving is no longer a one-day event but a lifetime of hope.

Time for new dessert

People who don't even like pumpkin pie will probably eat it on Thanksgiving anyways because that's what you do. However, a renewal of understanding that it is the people who make our lives good and not the things that surround us has led some to a new desert tradition. Besides the traditional pie, the host or hostess writes on a small piece of paper something they are thankful for about each person at the dinner. They then tie that with a string and list the person's name on the outside of the scroll. When the time for dessert comes each person gets their note out of the dessert bowl and along with a sweet treat gets the blessing of knowing that someone is thankful for them.

The method of tradition may be repetition, but the value each holiday has can be best exemplified when families take tradition into their own hands and make meaning and memory for themselves.
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