On Hosting Thanksgiving in an Atheist Home

This year will be a big first for me–we will be hosting Thanksgiving in our home this year. We have plenty of space, and we have some time since my husband and I both decided to take vacation on the week after Skepticon. So, for that and for a few other reasons we decided we would go ahead and host the meal here. This will be generally for my family, since my husband’s family lives in Texas.

After getting the OK from my parents, I started going though my head of the things we would need to prepare and come up with a general timeline in which things need to be done. And then I thought, what about the Thanksgiving grace?

Odd, you may think, that an atheist is worrying about the “blessing” but it is actually a big deal to me. Every Thanksgiving meal I have ever attended has involved a prayer of thanks over the food, and even if I have not completely participated in the praying for the last ten years or so I still think it is good to pause for a moment of reflection before digging into the turkey on Thanksgiving. And I want to be courteous to my more religious guest who are probably be wondering what to do as well when we sit at the table.

I hate sermonizing and grandstanding, and I sure did not invite my parents over so that I could push atheism on them. I am thinking of a few options for what could be done for a few moments of grateful reflection before digging in. I just want to have a statement that directs the thanks to people who deserve it, and not to a mythical figure.

  • Saying a few words myself before starting the meal, something along the lines of “I would like to take a few moments on this day devoted to giving thanks to remember that we have all been affected positively by events we could not control, and people we do not know and will never meet. Before we dig in today let’s remember that none of us can take sole credit for where we are in life, and remember that the actions that we take in life will affect others around us in ways we may never know.” Or something like that…I’m still thinking this though.
  • Allow everyone at the table a moment to say what they are thankful for.
  • Have a moment of reflective silence?

If anyone else has ideas of what we could do or say feel free to post in the comments. Especially if you will actually be coming over tomorrow :)

EDIT: As it turned out, I need not have worried. The only formality we followed in the meal was waiting for everyone to sit before digging in, and conversations already in progress blended right into the start of the meal. It would have been akward to inject any kind of a ritual. So it was all good :)

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2 thoughts on “On Hosting Thanksgiving in an Atheist Home

  1. Yes Mikel, Without an outward presence of oppression from either side, we can be conservative Christian, you and Scott can be what you are, and we can love and respect each other as family and humans. Lets keep our relationships strong and loving.
    Also, the dinner was extemely good and I really liked being a part of the preparation and clean up. As for the reference to the mythical person, God is mystical and holy, and is the provider of my life. I have worked as you have, many hours and become very tired, but my strength comes from God. I can be a lover of those who do not respect God, since God does also. Let us continue to be friendly in spite of our differences. Mom

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