Faith: Ways to give thanks
"Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub" might suffice for "The Simpsons," but most of us prefer a little more solemnity when we say grace – especially on Thanksgiving.
Offering a prayer or thanking God is tradition for some families, says Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and great-grandson of its founder, but it may not work in all situations. Consider your guests before deciding what approach to take, Post says, and don't be afraid to get creative.
1. Say a prayer
Thanking God is natural for most families whose members are of the same faith, Post says. Consider using a Bible passage that seems fitting for the celebration.
One suggestion from www.my-thank-you-site.com: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, New International Version.)
Another, from www.thanksgiving-day.org: "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:4-5, New International Version.)
2. Giving “thanks”
Prayer may not be appropriate if there are guests who are agnostic, atheist or of a faith different than yours, Post says. Keep grace nondenominational.
One example, by Taz Tagore, the author of "Seasons of Thanks: Graces and Blessing for Every Home," and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation in New York City, which helps homeless and high-risk youth get into careers in fashion, design, marketing and public relations: "May we join hands around the dinner table, to pray for the strength and patience to love one another. May our circle grow with every birth and union into a community united by love, rather than blood. May every hardship make our circle stronger. May it teach us that whenever we reach out in need, our hands will be always be clasped in the palms of others."
3. Make it personal
Some families have the tradition of going around the table and asking each person to mention something for which they are thankful. However, not everyone is comfortable doing this so don’t “put people on the spot,” Post says.
The host can take the lead by remembering those not there either by circumstance or death and acknowledging family milestones -- job promotions, new babies, successful surgeries -- before inviting others to join in, he says. Most importantly, don’t forget to thank the person responsible for making dinner.
4. Quiet contemplation
"A moment of silence can be a wonderful thing," Post says, "because the individual can express thanks in their own way." Plus, it's a great way to get around the issue of prayer if there are many different beliefs among those in attendance. Those who are religious can say a silent prayer while those who are not can have a moment of quiet thought and contemplation, Post says.
5. Try something different
Creative hosts find things that are appropriate to the occasion, Post says. The Web site www.thanksgiving-day.org offers many suggestions for poems and quotes, including, "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice," by German theologian Meister Eckhart. Or, “Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow,” by writer Edward Sandford Martin.
Post's only word of advice is keep it short and sweet: "All (recitations or toasts) should be kept to under a minute in length.”