November is Native American Heritage Month, and you may be aware that for Native Americans the Thanksgiving holiday represents something very different. Since 1970 Thanksgiving has been observed as the Day of Mourning for the United American Indian Tribes in New England and Indigenous people throughout the US. To Indigenous tribes, it’s a painful and sad celebration of a false narrative. It represents to tribal nations the celebration of colonization and genocide of their people.
For the past couple of years in our household, instead of celebrating our vegan Thanksgiving, we made changes to that tradition. Instead, we have observed the day as a day of remembrance in solidarity with Native Americans as the Day of Mourning—fasting until the sun goes down. Some of our friends also observe that as well. I’ve let my family know about our observance as this is the first time we will have seen them in two years (since the Pandemic began). They understand that we will be visiting them but not be eating the food we’ve brought until evening. We’re bringing simple food—none of the traditional “special” vegan dishes we’ve had in the past. They know why and understand that as well. They’ve chosen not to take it personally or be offended, and their acceptance is to their credit and their love for us. I believe they may even be changing their time of eating to later than usual as well.
Instead of engaging in the frenzy of Black Friday, our household has chosen to have our Day of Thanks and Gratitude on the Friday after the third Thursday of November. We’ll have our special plant-based meal and dedicate the day to giving thanks and being grateful for the loving people and gifts in our lives.
I’m not writing about this because I expect anyone else to do the same. But I did want to write about how as my own awareness grows, my choices grow as well. Has it made my husband and I feel better to make that change over the past couple of years? No, but, for us, it feels right and through the acknowledgement of the truth, maybe reparations and healing can begin in our country. The truth has been covered over in our culture by a whitewashed revisionist story that I’ve celebrated most of my life, and we decided a couple of years ago that we’re not going to celebrate that false narrative again.
I had a conversation with a dear friend earlier today about how the truth of the violent and oppressive past in the US needs to be seen and the people who were and are harmed acknowledged and changes made. We both agreed that discomfort is part of the process of necessary acknowledgement of the truth. I deeply hope change will happen–reparations will happen, and justice.
Here is a powerful short video about the holiday by an independent film maker, Honor the Truth about Thanksgiving:
November is the month of Thanksgiving, and I find myself wanting to consciously and regularly take time out from my schedule, even if it’s just a few moments, to consider what I have to be grateful for. All of our lives contain a constant stream of moments, people, experiences and things that are gifts in our lives, but it’s too easy sometimes with busy schedules to let them slip by without acknowledging them. And, it’s way too easy to only remember the things that didn’t work out (or didn’t work out the way we wanted) in our daily experience. I’ve occasionally traveled down that road in the past, and the gratitude that comes from looking at what was working in my life has pulled me out of those times of not being in the flow.
The truth of it is, there are many more things that do work and are gifts in our lives than not, but it is so easy to settle into a pattern of looking at what is not working instead of what is. I have a friend who was born without eyes and has a disease that prevents him from ever being able to walk. He has a beautiful gift of music and has been able to play the piano since he was an infant. He lives everyday of his life with gratitude in his heart and on his lips. He is a happy person, even though he has to work very hard with the challenges he faces every moment of his life. He says of his disabilities, “Big deal. I have so much to be thankful for. “
Happiness is a choice. Always has been. Always will be.
I’ve found that gratitude is one of the most powerful states of mind and heart that creates happiness—consistent happiness. It’s pretty easy to be thankful and grateful for the big events and things, but it’s the little moment-to-moment experiences that make up a life of happiness and gratitude. Jotting down in my journal regularly at least six experiences, people, or things to be grateful for makes that joy more concrete, more real, and gives my mind a positive focus of what I want more of in my life. I can look at my journal when I’m finished with my entries and realize that it was a very good day and life.
Expressing thankfulness and gratitude to others for something they’ve done (or just for being who they are) not only is a gift to the giver but a gift to those on the receiving end. Obviously, this is not a big epiphany or even something new, but why don’t we do it more often? I work with clients who already know this simple, yet profound, truth, and they want to make the flow of that kind of communication and gratitude real in their workplaces and homes, because they know the power of gratitude and happiness.
It’s really nice that we have a day every year in November to remind us of all this, but shouldn’t the spirit of Thanksgiving permeate all days?
Gratitude can be a feast for our hearts and souls everyday of our lives.