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A Season of Thankfulness

Mary Noble Braden and Shayne Hollifield


Gratitude is not something that comes naturally. It is something that we learn. Gratitude is something that is hopefully passed on generationally through tradition. Tradition equals ritual. Ritual is how we embed those important values, social mores, cultural ties, and religious teachings into our core family belief system.


“A regular practice of gratitude...can even strengthen our immune system!”


As we reflect on this Season of Thankfulness, it’s always the time that I take note of our family traditions and rituals. Some are silent, some are with family, some are for the neighbors to share in, and some for the whole world to see! 


Whether you have a new home, a new family, a home that you will be parting with soon, a family that is far away, or even if you are spending this time in quiet solitude, tradition and ritual is something that can make you feel close to home, close to family, close to your culture, and close to loved ones. This is the time to slow down, look around, and take a deliberate count of your blessings.


A regular practice of gratitude makes us more compassionate, sleep more soundly, and can even strengthen our immune systems! Who doesn’t want that right now?!


Here are some of our ideas to make this Season of Thankfulness a little more like years past.


  1. Pull out the family dishes or textiles for dinner. Even if the group is smaller this year, or even if you are celebrating on your own, each person involved is important. Don’t let a smaller brood lessen the trimmings you are accustomed to. Grandmother’s dishes deserve a special meal each and every year.


  1. Make a large meal. If you are fortunate to have the means, and your family can’t travel, make that large meal. Then share with others. Take some to a neighbor who may not be abBoy hanging Christmas decorationsle to travel this year or  can’t welcome their own family home for the holidays. There are so many out there this year that are missing out on special family time or who don’t have the luxuries that they may have had in past years. 


  1. Get out those Holiday decorations early! We started noticing lights up all around the neighborhood extra early this year. At first, we were puzzled (did we miss some significant date?), but quickly realized--we are all struggling to bring some in extra cheer wherever it can be squeezed in. How incredible it has been to see the little ones so excited to see the Holiday Season approaching when it seems they have been missing out on so much this year.


  1. Get outside! We are so blessed to live in this region. We have wonderful weather at this time of year-allowing for a special outdoor tradition I know so many have come to add to their Thanksgiving Day. Hike, bike, waterfall chase, horseback ride, hay ride, river or lake float, or just sit by the fire--however you do it, make sure to give gratitude to the nature around you. This way of life we are so fortunate to be a part of is so giving, so don’t forget to pause and breathe it all in.

Thanksgiving table set

5. Lastly, create a new tradition. Though this year may be one that we’d all be happy to soon forget, it has become important to me to commemorate it in small ways for posterity's sake. It has been a year of such loss, but also of many wins in terms of how we are pulling tighter together as a family. To bring a new ritual to the table to remind us of all that we can truly be so thankful for and remind us for years to come of how this year has affected us, is so important to me. This year, I will be starting the ‘popcorn ritual’. I read about it in a  beloved cookbook. At the start of our dinner, everyone will receive a handful of popcorn kernels in a small saucer. Each person will be instructed to place a kernel on the table as they think of something that they are thankful for. It’s a silent moment. A reflective one. As we clear the plates, I hope to see a mess of popcorn kernels all about the table! It seems fitting this year, as we have had an endless parade of popcorn-movie-nights. My son loves popcorn--pouring the kernels into the pot on the stove, wishing and willing the lid to pop off because there is too much for the pot to hold, and promised cuddles on the couch with a shared bowl and a quiet end to the day.

However you choose to celebrate this time of year, including gratitude and possibly a new ritual will bring a little more twinkle to your home this Holiday Season. Wishing nothing but love to you all!

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