“For most American households the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original significance. We can remediate the consumer holiday it has become by creating a Thanksgiving gathering and feast in kindergarten for the children and their families, where we give a living example of gratitude and joy for what we have and what we can share together.” – “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke
We begin sowing the seeds for Thanksgiving celebration by the observation of all the reverent moments that make up our very ordinary days throughout the entire year. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest being in, and this has been done in different varying festivals since ancient times. The American Thanksgiving is just one festival of many that exemplifies the manifestation of the harvest as a culmination of the gratitude and reverence we share throughout the year with our children.
Thanksgiving is one of America’s oldest festivals, and one of ten federal holidays declared by the United States Congress. Although schoolchildren often trace it back to the Pilgrims and a harvest gathering, the first national observation of Thanksgiving was actually proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789. Thanksgiving was celebrated erratically after this date by individual states and at different times, and Sarah Hale, editor of the Boston Ladies Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, championed the idea of having a national day of Thanksgiving for nearly 15 years before Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in the month of November in 1863. You can read Lincoln’s proclamation here. It actually took until 1941, when Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by the United States Congress, to arrive at its current date of the fourth Thursday of each November.
Simple tasks that we can undertake for this festival with small children include cleaning, cooking dishes such as cranberry sauce and pumpkin dishes, and telling simple stories about our First Americans without turning it into a history lesson. Stories of the First Americans have a flavor all of their own that American children are in tune with without ever having to state what cultural group this has come from and draw kindergarten aged children out of their archetypal consciousness.
Music is an integral part of any festival, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Traditional Thanksgiving songs we could sing together after dinner include:
“We Gather Together”
“Over The River and Through The Woods”
“Turkey in the Straw”
“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”
Some families also perform service on this day, ranging from working with their place of worship to prepare and serve a meal to those who would otherwise have none, to preparing Thanksgiving baskets to be donated to local food banks.
We can overcome the materialism that currently surrounds this day by focusing on the gratitude that overflows on this special day of the year and the family traditions (whether that is filling a cornucopia, playing family games outside, making crafts with the children or making music together!) that we create. Let us re-claim the American festivals!