There is no more tradition-bound holiday than Thanksgiving. And that’s just the way we like it. Try changing the ingredients in the stuffing and just see what kind of riot ensues! And don’t even think about skipping the parade just because you can recite from memory every “ooh!” and “ahh!” the commentators are going to make when the big balloons come down the street.
This is why I hesitated when inspired to call my November series “The New Thanksgiving.” Who really wants a new Thanksgiving? There’s nothing wrong with the old one, thank you very much. But all this year we have been declaring that we are ready for newness in our lives. (Newness is defined as a good “unimaginable” at this moment because it is truly new; it doesn’t come from an experience of the past. Most of our hopes are spruced up versions of something we’ve brought forward from the past, but the mind of God, where our true creative resides, always operates in the ever-expanding present moment.) Being ready for newness, of course, has created A LOT of newness for us this year. In many ways, our last six months scarcely resembles the first. There is so much energy, so many new events being planned; the Board has had to create a system for dealing with it all, something we never had need to do before.
If this year is all about newness, then this part of the year has to be, also. It doesn’t really work to rope off a part of life and say, “Everything but this!!” because it’s all ONE. If one thing becomes truly new, everything else must rise up to meet it, or pass away. And no one wants Thanksgiving to pass away. So what does a new Thanksgiving look like?
It could look just exactly like each one you’ve seen over the last six decades. But the feeling of it, the essence of it, perhaps even the result of it, will be new. Just looking at our traditions with fresh eyes creates newness even if we retain them. What if you ate the same foods but ate them mindfully, savoring each bite, truly celebrating and giving thanks for each mouthful? What if you made a point of truly contacting each of those “holiday relatives” that you only see a time or two per year? What if you found something you really appreciate about each of them and let each of them know? What if you decided to go into the holiday with “expectations of all good returning”, as we say in doing our spiritual mind treatments? Sometimes our expectations of holidays are less than happy; our highest expectation may be to simply survive the day. Ask yourself, “What new good could possibly come from spending time doing these things with these people, the same things we do every year?” You won’t be able to answer that question now because newness is “unimaginable” right now. But if you go into the day truly expecting that new good will come from the interaction, you will be blessed.
To have new, we must do new. Try something new: just be open to all the blessings of the day. We are used to counting our blessings at Thanksgiving and may do that, somewhat perfunctorily. This is new: expect blessings, without any specific vision or limit on what they may be. From the moment you get up and get the turkey in the oven, through the many, many side dishes, the football games, and into dozing on the couch, be open, be expectant. By the end of the day you will find yourself with more than your waistband loosened and your kitchen sink piled with dishes. You will find yourself with another blessing to give thanks for, something you couldn’t predict from this vantage point. How unimaginable is that? Happy Thanksgiving!