Thanksgiving the Grand Harvest Ritual
Thanksgiving marks the begining of the holiday season. With it our thoughts turn to the coming feasts and parties
and the collecting of recipes and gifts begins as we hunt to find the perfect holiday treats and treasures to shower
upon our cherished friends and loved ones. Gratitude and joy are the themes for November. Ancient agricultural
societies marked this month by giving thanks for the bounties of the earth. For these communities this was the time
when the last stores for the winter months were gathered before the cold and the time of hunger set in. Harvest
festivals were days of feasts as the fruits of the field were gathered and all were thankful for the abundance.
Today our lives overfill with plenty yet many of us refuse to see it. I know in this year of a slipping economy many of
us don’t have the spending money we once did and sometimes it is difficult to stick to our new budgets but our lives
are still rich. We have food to eat. We live in a country where clean water, electricity and a comfortable bed are the
norm. Our lives are filled with rich relationships and people that we love. When you notice yourself grumbling about,
take a moment to open your eyes to the blessings around you and realize how rich you really are. Cultivating a spirit
of gratitude is one way to fill up your inner well of peace. Having a spirit of gratitude is good for your soul. The
simple act of being grateful will make you a happier person, and it will make others happy to be around you.
Here are a few ways to open your heart to gratitude:
Count your blessings instead of wishing for more and moping about what you don't have. Your glass isn’t half empty,
it’s half full. Don’t be discouraged by the things you have lost. Be happy and appreciate all that remains in your life.
Be thankful for your job. Yes I know, sometimes we all hate our job but look at the positive benefits you reap from
it. Give thanks for your abilities and your chance to improve upon them. Face challenges with a positive attitude and
see how much quicker you conquer new projects. Marvel at how wonderful you feel in your accomplishments.
This month give thanks for all of your positive relationships. Be thankful for the people that love you and all those
you love in return. Be thankful for your friends. Good company makes your life rich. We are a social bunch and live in
community. Recognize the random acts of kindness others show you and reciprocate the favor. Make a point of
showing kindness to your neighbors and those you come in contact with and say Thank you. Hold feasts and
celebrate the season. Bake up gifts of food and take them to those less fortunate. Gather with your family and
honor your relationships. The power of ritual comes from heritage, tradition and most of all something being
emblazoned in your brain over time. Taking part in family rituals protect the individual against a sense of loneliness
and uncertainty in daily living as it transmits shared beliefs of the family group across generations. Through ritual
we connect to generations, past and future. Not only does participation in these traditional gatherings anchor
relationships, partaking in holiday celebrations helps us feel connected to our place in society and gives one a
stronger sense of self. A major portion of an individual's memories are based around their holiday experiences. Who
isn't transported back to dinners with their loved ones by the smell of pumpkin pie or baking gingerbread? So bake
up some holiday magick and let your heart fill with gratitued as you gather with those you love.
Your physical body is a miracle. Be thankful for it and all the things it can do. Be thankful for your health. An easy
way to give back to your community is to donate your services to a neighbor who can no longer do the things you
can. The benefits of letting your heart swell with gratitude are many. When you are thankful your troubles fade and
your blessings will seem to multiply. Your positive attitude will draw additional positive things into your life. You
will succeed and accomplish more of the tasks you take on. The people you encounter will be drawn to you and will
respond to you with positive reactions. Your relationships will be strengthened all because you have decided to
adopted an attitude of gratitude.
November begins with All Souls' Day and Día de los Muertos
Autumn has always been associated with death as the natural world goes into hibernation until its rebirth in the spring.
As the leaves turned and fell, the nights cooled and lengthened, and the earth shifted from fertile to dormant, ancient
societies around the world turned their thoughts to those who had died. The ancient people who inhabited France and the
British Isles observed a calendar that began on November 1st marking the death of the old year and the beginning of the
new. The ancient Celts celebrated October 31st as the day when the normally strict boundaries between the worlds of the
living and the dead became mutable, and the ghosts of those who had passed away came back to earth. Some of these
customs have persisted. In South Korea there is a havest festival in which thanks is given to the ancestors during a three-
day celebration known as Chuseok. In Nepal we find a festival of cows, or Gaijatra, commemorating those who had died
during the year. In Belgium, it is still comon practice to light candles in memory of family members who have died. In
Czechoslovakia, chairs are placed by the fireside for the dead to warm themselves. In Italy bakers make cookies called
bones of the dead or ‘Ossi di Morto’ to celebrate the dead. In the Americas a belief originating with the Aztecs that the
souls of the dead returned to Mexico with the migration of the monarch butterfly each fall, spawned today’s popular Día
de los Muertos during which sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto or ‘bread of the dead’ an anise flavored brioche is baked to
honor the dead at graveside feasts. Taque Santun Arupa is held in Bolivia, a celebration that dates back to pre-Hispanic
times in which families prepare loafs shaped like men, ladders and lamas made from quinoa flour to coax the dead into
visiting the living.
In the past, ancestor veneration was an important part of life as it was believed by ancient cultures all over the world
that the dead lived on and were able to influence the lives of the living. Ancestor spirits were sought for wisdom and
guidance and remembered through offerings and sacrifice. Burial mounds, tombs, and gravesites were more than just a
repository of bones as it was believed that the bones themselves held an energetic link with the soul of the deceased.
Burial sites were cared for and honored as they provided an important link with the unseen realms.
The same holds true today. Though celebrating those who lived before us, we understand that we are not alone. That we
are not just a single person but a member of a tribe, a filament in the web of life, a power cell in the fabric of the
cosmos. The DNA in our bodies is hundreds of thousands of years old. It walked the earth long ago in our ancestor's
bones as he learned the secrets of the Earth. He passed down the gift of life. Each of us are part of a long linage and it is
important to remember. When we pay homage to the dead, we teach and understand that we are a part of something
much larger than the here and now. Let us pay homage to endings and transformations as the seasons shift. Our
ancestors are waiting. Recognizing their presence and speaking with them allows them to live on. Through this simple
acknowledgment, we give life back to those who gave life to us, allowing for a relationship that continues on through
death. It allows us to understand that we are a part of the natural world and that death and rebirth are all part of one
Host a Dinner and Tell a Story
This year, give new life to the old ways by remembering those who have passed on. Create a ritual. Get your friends and
family to participate. When we pay homage to the dead, we teach and understand that we are a part of something much
larger than the here and now. Holding a dinner in honor of a loved is a wonderful way to assemble friends and family
members and renew our bonds with the person who is gone. Simply draw up a guest list comprised of those who would
benefit from remembering. Set a plate at the table for your loved one as the guest of honor and prepare the food with
their favorite dishes in mind. When everyone is present, encourage them to tell their favorite story…and remember.
Plant a tree
Planting a tree is also another wonderful way to honor a loved one in a gesture that heals as it provides solace and
beautifies space. By planting a tree you are tapping into the ancient customs of honoring nature and the earth. To do
this, choose a tree keeping in mind the maintenance your tree will require and where it will grow best. Next dig a hole
three times wider than the tree's root ball. Invite those who would benefit and ask each person present to bless the tree
or offer up a prayer as you cover the roots with dirt. Remember you want to plant the tree the same depth as it was
planted in the pot. If you bury the trunk deeper, the tree will rot. You can form a berm around the hole with the excess
soil. This will help hold water and direct it toward the roots.
Visit a Grave
Take an afternoon to make a pilgrimage. Enlist a close family member to visit a loved one’s burial place. Take flowers and
spruce up the grave. Let your thoughts return to the past and share the stories that come to mind. If you have never
visited the site before, a stop at the office will help you find the plot. Active cemeteries keep Sexton’s records and can
often furnish you with a map.
Make a Record
Another way to connect with your ancestors is by learning their stories and keeping family records. Get your entire family
involved as you track down your great-great grandfather and uncover the story of his life. Genealogy websites have made
it easier to track your family’s past. Obituaries, funeral cards and other death record will list the cemetery where your
relative was buried. When you discover the location of the family member’s grave, a research visit to the cemetery might
provide other valuable information. Photograph the headstone or do an etching to record the information. Besides birth
and death dates you may find other valuable facts such as a maiden name, family relationships, town of origin, and
possibly a religious affiliation. Keep a printed record of your findings and share it with your family. Not only will you
uncover family stories, you will strengthen the bonds of your extended family group.
If you are not into research behind a computer, you can tap into your family’s stored knowledge by asking each household
to bring a photograph of a family member who has passed on to your next holiday gathering. Pass around the photos one
by one as you encourage everyone to voice a memory. You will be surprised by the stories that come forward. The telling
of family stories provides a link to the past as it breathes new life into someone who has been forgotten by the others
creating a feeling of connectedness that goes beyond the grave.
As cultures across the world take time this month to remember their ancestors, let us also honor our dead. Give new life
to an old tradition and let the magic swell within your heart as you bake some bread or sweets for the ancestors who
have gone before you. Create a new family ritual to connect the generations past and present. Host a dinner in honor of a
loved one. Set a place at the table for them and prepare the food with their favorite dishes in mind. Invite those who
would benefit most and encourage them to tell their favorite stories…and remember.
When we pay homage to the dead we teach and understand that we are a part of something much larger than the here
and now. Let us pay homage to endings and transformations as the seasons shift. Our ancestors are waiting. Recognizing
their presence and speaking with them allows them to live on. Through this simple acknowledgment, we give life back to
those who gave life to us, allowing for a relationship that continues on through death. It allows us to understand that we
are a part of the natural world and that death and rebirth are all part of one continuous cycle.
Join the Seasonal Dance
It's autumn time. The dog days of summer are behinds us as the
sun slips down faster now and darkness creeps back to rule the
season. The nip in the morning air and the cooling nights carry the
promise of winter's return. Corn and potatoes, apples, pumpkins
and squash find their way to our tables as summer's lighter fare is
replaced with warmer, heartier dishes. Venders join the dance of
the season as they fill their windows with festive decorations
featuring fall colors reminding us that now is a time of bounty and
we are a nation blessed.
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