Now that I’ve escaped the cult of Christianity and am becoming more aware of my freedom and my choices in life, I have to make a decision about Thanksgiving and what it means to me. I want to picture this Thanksgiving 2007 as separate from all the others. I want to ask myself, “What does Thanksgiving mean to me?” Maybe if I put all the other Thanksgiving’s in a big pile and set them aside in my mind, I’ll be able to focus on this one as an Ex-Christian.
All the other ones were about being thankful to God. They were about sitting around the table with loved ones and saying grace with hands clasped around the table. The person who offered the prayer would always call God “Heavenly Father.” Now I cringe at the thought of it. “Heavenly Father,” ugh! “Heavenly Father, we bow to you and humbly thank you for all the things you provide for us, because we’re afraid you might take them all away in a terrible natural disaster if we don’t!” That’s really what was meant. That’s not humility, that’s humiliation. “We are so tiny and weak, and you have every right to crush us!”
So, prayer was an important part of the day, even the night before if I went to a Thanksgiving Eve prayer service. Oh how holier-than-thou I felt on the years I did that! Now I hate prayer. Admittedly, there’s something about prayer that seemed healthy. It slowed my breathing, it sometimes even took away physical pain and soothed anxiety. But mindfulness and breathing exercises do those things just as well. What about prayer as a tool for helping me to focus on something outside of myself? Well, I can focus on something outside of myself without prayer, too. I can focus on nature. I can focus on the universe, regardless of whether it was created by some great being or not. What about the holding of hands? That was nice. We didn’t reach out and touch each other at all any other time in my family. Maybe this Thanksgiving I will hold hands with my partner and have a moment of silence, just to experience the balming effect of touch and feel the sensation of the connection between two human souls.
What about the giving of thanks? To whom would I give it, or does that matter? In summertime, I’m fond of tossing pennies in the fountain in the park and silently giving thanks to whomever or expressing an intention or a wish to whomever. The fountain in the park has become my new altar post-Christianity. I give thanks to whomever (or whatever, for that matter) year-round, even when the water’s not running. But I only give thanks when I feel like it, not because of a feeling of constraint to give thanks every day because “the Lord” loves it when we give thanks.
So, I’m glad for my newfound freedom this Thanksgiving. My freedom from the humiliation of the ritual of the dinner prayer. My freedom from the compulsion to attend the Thanksgiving Eve worship service for the especially righteous. My freedom from the expectation of holding hands with people who never hold my hand any other time of year, except maybe around the table at Christmas. My freedom from the expectation of giving thanks to God instead of giving thanks in my own way, whenever I want, however I want, and to whomever or whatever I want. And I will put all the other Thanksgiving’s in a great big pile to the side, and celebrate this Thanksgiving just for me, just for myself, focusing on what Thanksgiving means to me.