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When There’s Not a Lot to be Thankful for at Thanksgiving

When There’s Not a Lot to be Thankful for at Thanksgiving

Well kids, it’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving. Or maybe you call it something else. Or maybe you’re outside of the US, and you’ve already celebrated a Harvest holiday. Whatever. For those of us who have Thanksgiving, you may be feeling like I do. That is, there isn’t a lot to celebrate. And you’re probably right.

Lack of Thankfulness or Gratitude on Thanksgiving

I’ll admit. There’s not a lot of things to feel thankful about this Thanksgiving. We’re still in a pandemic. There’s a lot of civil unrest. Cost of everything has skyrocketed. People have lost their minds and believe all sorts of insane notions.

I look at what is happening and I’m convinced we’re doomed as a species. I used to think people were somewhat logical. Boy, was I wrong.

So, if you’re not feeling particularly thankful this Thanksgiving, I’m with you. No matter what people say to try to foist a warm and happy feeling on you, don’t feel guilty for not feeling thankful. Your feelings are your feelings.

Hope, or The First Step on the Road to Disappointment

My spouse always quips that hope is the first step on the road to disappointment, and yeah, it’s true. Of course, we’re cynics, which means we can’t be disappointed if something goes wrong. But honestly? I can’t help but think living one’s life being in a constant state of cynicism isn’t healthy. Which is why in the past I kept thinking people couldn’t get so idiotic. First step…disappointment.

Scientists Tell Us to Be Grateful Anyway

This is NOT me.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on improving one’s mood, and one of the things scientists tell us is to come up with things that we’re grateful for. Just saying the words are enough to help improve your mood. I’ve tried it, and the jury is still out on that one. As is the advice, “fake it until you make it.” Or act like you’re happy, and you’ll feel better. The thought is if you go through the motions of celebrating the holidays, you’ll feel better. Again, I don’t know.

The other thing scientists tell us to do is write down all the positives of our lives so we can see how wonderful it is. My list using looks like:

I’m grateful:

  • I’m alive.
  • My spouse is alive.
  • I have dogs.
  • I have cats.
  • Hunting season is upon us.
  • Someday I will get those book contracts.
  • I got one deer.
  • I do not have COVID-19, nor do any of my family.
  • There are vaccinations for COVID-19,  and I am innoculated.
  • I have firewood and a wood stove.
  • It is fall, although it is snowing.
  • I have Tyr and Skadi.

Yeah, for a writer, I have no imagination. I don’t know if it makes me feel better, but at least I’m not spending time moping about the stupid shit.

Tricking your Mind, or Why My Sibling is Getting Better

Apparently, gratitude of some variety helps. By not focusing on your problems all the time, you can genuinely make yourself happier. I’ve seen this in action, and dare I say that I’m impressed.

Maybe Jedi Mind Tricks Would Work?

You see, one of my Christian siblings suffers from addiction and depression. They are active in their church, which means they do get to interact with people there. Well, my sibling found out a person in the church they knew didn’t have enough money to get Christmas presents for all their kiddos. They couldn’t even afford new shoes for them.

Now, the cynic in me says, maybe they shouldn’t have had so many kiddos–birth control, right?– but I honestly don’t know the parents’ situation. This has been a tough couple of years for more than just me. I know a lot of people are struggling right now.

My sibling decided to “adopt” the family and budget in presents for these people. Which is awesome. As a result, my sibling is doing better with their own problems. Their outlook is better. Their behavior is better. And they are less depressed. I can’t help but think because this sibling is focused on helping someone else, they don’t feel the need to dwell on the shit that is wrong with their life. And they feel good doing so.

My Recommendation for those Ungrateful Wretches

If you’re an ungrateful wretch like I am, you might want to consider doing something to help someone else. Or maybe look at the little things in your life which makes you happy and be thankful for them. As I was hunting, I got a beautiful show of how the waning light plays on the conifers. And yeah, I was thankful for that. Because I saw something a lot of people don’t see. Right now, I am by my woodstove, and it has a warm fire in it. I am thankful for the warmth.

But sometimes it’s tough to find little things to be thankful on Thanksgiving. Even so, you can find something in your life that gives you joy, even for a moment. Don’t look at the big stuff, unless there is something big that gives you joy. The big stuff is often overwhelming. Focus on the here and now. Mindfulness meditation can help.

I hope you have an enjoyable Harvest celebration or Thanksgiving. Stay safe.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

As a Thanksgiving treat, I’m providing a list of articles I’ve written which covers Thanksgiving in some way. Check them out and have a Happy Thanksgiving!




Thanksgiving or Harvest?

Is it a Christian or Pagan celebration?

Is Thanksgiving Dying?

One pagan writer is concerned if Thanksgiving is being preempted by all the other distractions. My thoughts on this.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

Most of us Heathens have Christian relatives and friends. Here’s how to have a peaceful Thanksgiving.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

It’s that time of year again.  It’s the time when we have to see our families, many of whom are of a Christian faith, and celebrate the holidays together.  If your family get togethers are something you dread, I have some recommendations for keeping true to being a Heathen while celebrating Thanksgiving.

Consider Your Support System

Oddly enough, how you handle Thanksgiving depends a lot on your family’s religious views.  If you’re the only Heathen and 20 relatives are Christian, you’re going to have a harder time than someone whose family is mostly Heathen, or their family is a mix of Christians, agnostics, Jews, Wiccans, and atheists.  You’re more likely to have more acceptance and more support with the latter two, since your family is at least used to the concepts of having relatives of different faiths.  This of course doesn’t account for those warring families who do not get along.  If you have one of those, I’d sincerely suggest you skip the holidays and celebrate it with like-minded friends or go out to eat.  Honestly, you don’t need that kind of stress in your life.

If You’re Having Thanksgiving at Your House

Having Thanksgiving at your house can be simple enough when it comes to celebrating it.  Consider it a harvest festival and look on it as a way to celebrate the end of hunting season, the end of harvest, and the beginning of the Yule month. Look at the images we use for Thanksgiving: turkey, cornucopia, pumpkins, gourds, fall leaves, and colorful Indian corn. Yes, we also use pilgrims and Native Americans as images as well, but if you want to avoid the Christian connotations, you can emphasize the friendship aspect.  If it hadn’t been for the Native Americans, it’s unlikely the pilgrims would have survived.

Because you’re inviting your relatives to your home, you have quite a bit of power when it comes to ground rules and behaviors.  Which means if they want to enjoy Thanksgiving with you, you can insist that there is no talk about religion and no arguments.  (And stick to this rule.  Yes, you may have to tell them to leave if they misbehave).

Here are some ideas for compromise:

  • Decorate your home with harvest images and nonreligious Thanksgiving images.
  • Make traditional recipes, plus recipes from Viking era feasts.
  • Serve mead.
  • When it comes time to say a prayer, ask that each of your guests silently pray.
  • End the prayer session by saying, “We give thanks for this food and for each other. Let us remember those who are no longer with us, and let us be thankful for the time we had with them.  I propose a toast to <name deceased family members and friends>”  (Yes, I know that many of us still consider our ancestors with us, but for the sake of euphemism, let’s leave it at “no longer with us.”
  • Focus on the positives with your Christian relatives.  Compliment new clothes, a tasty dish they brought, or a new style.  It’s hard to be negative toward someone who is complimenting you.
  • If someone brings us your Heathenry in a negative way, tell them gently that this is not the time to discuss it, and that you’ll be happy to talk to them about it later. If they insist, then remind them of the ground rules.  If they persist, you may have to tell them to leave if they are rude.

If You’re Having Thanksgiving at a Relative’s House

Unless you have some open-minded Christian relatives, or relatives that are basically agnostic but identify as Christian, you could be walking into some pretty dangerous territory if you’re the only Heathen in a majority of Christians — and they know it.  They also have a lot of power because you’ve come into their home.  It’s different than them coming to your home, because you are being hospitable to them and they are there by your graces.  As above,

  • Focus on the positives with your Christian relatives.  Compliment new clothes, a tasty dish they brought, or a new style.  It’s hard to be negative toward someone who is complimenting you.
  • If someone brings us your Heathenry in a negative way, tell them gently that this is not the time to discuss it, and that you’ll be happy to talk to them about it later.

If they don’t know you’re Heathen, keep a low profile and just go with the flow. You don’t have to say their prayers or talk religion, just keep the conversation at Thanksgiving and get profoundly interested on what is going on in their lives.  You’ll find that people — even your relatives — like to talk about themselves, so ask some questions, sit back, and listen.

If your relatives know you’re Heathen and are open minded — awesome.   You might even have an interesting discussion about faiths.  But again, you’re there for each other company and not a debating match.  Often if some other relatives who follow other faiths are there, it can be a very positive experience.

Observe Your Own Heathen Rituals

Before the guests arrive, or before you leave to attend a Thanksgiving dinner, take time to thank the gods, ancestors, and wights for their aid and support.  Offer them a prayer you wrote and meditate on how fortunate you’ve been over the year.  Even if you’ve had a difficult year, the fact that you’re alive and breathing may be enough to say thanks.  Let the gods help clear your thoughts and help you do what is right.  When the dinner has ended and you’re home and the guests (if any) are gone, offer a blot to the gods as a thanks.  Mead or wine works well.

A Few Words About Dogmatic or Fundamentalist Families

If you have staunchly Christian family, or a family that is dogmatic when it comes to their faith, and you don’t have something more important to do (like make ice), you can go to Thanksgiving dinner with them, but I don’t recommend it.  You can expect some sort of abuse if they’re the types who have taken exception to your choice in religion. No matter how hard you try to explain your side, they will not be enlightened enough to believe anything other than you are going to the Christian hell (or insert your relative’s religion’s version of fire and brimstone here). Unless there are ground rules in place, i.e., no talk of religion and no attempts at “intervention” or conversion, you will have a miserable time and feel like a prisoner trapped with a bunch of raving manics.

Okay, maybe that’s a little strong.  But you get my point.  I grew up in such a family where if you didn’t tow the line (whatever line that was), they used holidays to gang up on you and hammer away.  I wasn’t the only one brow beaten, either.  Oddly enough, it was not over religion, although my family has since been worried for “my eternal soul.”  Hels bells, kids, you can have a peaceful dinner at a restaurant for a lot less than the psychiatric counseling you’ll probably need after undergoing one of those holidays.  To this day, the memory of Easter where my family was mad at me for something (fuck if I can remember) and took it out on me and my husband, and then after we beat feet, took it out on my mother-in-law.  I stopped going to Easter dinners because of that (sorry, mom, I’ve got to wash my hair).

I know I’ve probably given you no hope when it comes to families, religion, and being a Heathen. But I want to point out that having really negative experiences over holidays make the holidays even more stressful than they should be. Maybe you’ve had better luck with your family than I have, but if you do have a family that is insistent on you converting to their religion, it’s an uphill battle to get them to accept you.

My Thanksgiving will be mostly not stressful because other than my husband, my relatives think I’m agnostic or atheist.  Which is fine by me. The gods know where I stand, and that’s fine by me.

You can have a fairly stress-free holiday, and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.