Planning Your Animist Thanksgiving

thanksgiving

Planning Your Animist Thanksgiving

For many Thanksgiving is a dreaded holiday. Maybe they aren’t on great terms with their family. Maybe Thanksgiving has negative connotations to it. It could be that past Thanksgivings were not pleasant affairs and there is no reason to believe that this year will be any different.

So, we resort to Friendsgiving or no holiday observance at all.

While Thanksgiving isn’t an official Pan Society holy day, the idea of setting aside a day for gratitude is most certainly within our values.

So, I’m going to share some ideas on how to plan your animist Thanksgiving. Feel free to take what you like, leave some behind, and add your own ideas to the mix until you come up with something that feels authentic to you.

Airing of Grievances

Airing of grievances is an idea that comes from the tv show Seinfeld. It’s part of the made up December 23rd holiday of Festivus, but it’s actually a great idea! It’s a way to come clean and keep things from being swept underneath the rug for a lifetime. It’s a way to clean house.

This might sound crazy, but in Peru, it’s a real tradition! On Christmas day in Takanakuy, locals duke it out to settle their grievances. The town was isolated from the mainland and didn’t have access to officials, so this is how they deal with issues from romantic problems to property issues. It starts and ends with a hug or handshake.

It might sound barbaric, but animism is real! Real people have real issues and getting them out is therapeutic. We’re not going to hurl insults or fight though. We do it with a talking circle.

Here are the talking circle rules:

  • One speaker at a time. No interruptions. It helps to use a stick or some other object so everyone knows whose turn it is.
  • No cross talk. You can’t explain, rebut, or deny what anyone else says. You can only speak your own truth.
  • Speak only about your own experience. Speak from the heart. Be vulnerable.
  • Take your time, and keep it pithy. Ah, see! We’re animists. We can live in that liminal space where opposites can be true at the same time. We want to respect everyone’s time while still giving ourselves the space to move at our own pace.
  • Listen with an open heart. Don’t think about what you want to say or be in your feelings.
  • Maintain respect.
  • Be open to hearing what you may not want to hear. Listen for how you can learn, grow, and connect.
  • What happens here stays here. You can’t use it later to bash someone over the head! And you certainly can’t speak about it to anyone else.

If you have not done a talking circle before, you should probably do a few before attempting to do this at Thanksgiving with your family.

Make sure everyone understands the sentiment behind it and will abide by the guidelines. You also want to be sure that everyone is in agreement to participate. Most of all, you want to be sure that this is a safe space for everyone. Having a few trial runs before Thanksgiving is probably a great idea.

All rituals begin with purification. Never forget that the The Airing of Grievances is really about purification. It gets things off your chest so that connection can happen on a deeper, more authentic level.

family hug

Forgiveness

Next comes a forgiveness ritual. It’s very simple. You can do it within the talking circle or afterward. This can also be done for someone who is dying.

The words are something like, “For __(fill in the blank, be specific)___ I forgive you. For all the things that I don’t know about, I forgive you. Throughout eternity, I forgive you.” Make it authentic and heartfelt for you.

You may want to also acknowledge what you’ve done aloud and forgive yourself. Something like, “For not speaking up, allowing this to happen, going along with something I didn’t want to do, not honoring boundaries, etc., I forgive myself. For the times that I unknowingly hurt others in ways I don’t yet see, I forgive myself.”

This might sound like a free pass for someone to abuse you or for you to abuse others. It’s not. It’s a continuation of that purification. You are releasing any strings, resentment, or hurt that binds YOU. It’s something you do for YOU. It helps to release blame and gives you your sovereignty back so you can move back into a space of connection or deepen it.

When your heart is hard, it restricts your joy and nothing gets in. This softens it again.

Gratitude

Now that the purification is complete, gratitude can happen. This is not the half hearted gratitude of “I am thankful that I have a home. Some people don’t.”

This is true, and if that’s where you are, it’s a great place to be! However, it’s focused on being comparatively okay. We want to focus on abundance! Abundance creates more abundance.

I suspect that once the forgiveness is done, you will see far more blessings than that. So go for it. Speak your beauty and bless the world with your words of gratitude.

You can do this with the people who are present in your celebration, tell it to the trees or the heavens, or write gratitude letters and give them away like presents.

Feasting

What’s a celebration without a feast? Share the bounty with seasonal, local foods or foods from your culture. Food is love.

Animism is a living, relational spiritual path. Everything you do has meaning and intention. Your life becomes a reflection of your heart. So when we reimagine our holidays to align with our values, they become joyous and meaningful. I hope that your animist Thankgiving is one of love.

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