Thanksgiving 2021: Finding Gratitude

How to have a meaningful and fun Thanksgiving celebration!


Thanksgiving will be here in a few weeks. This is the gratitude holiday. In times of challenge especially, reflecting on the things that ground us: our essential relationships, stories, values, and purpose fills us with resolve and genuine gratitude.

Thanksgiving also strikes a deeply ingrained impulse in us. Although most of us no longer grow our food, this harvest holiday, like Sukkot, represents the gratitude and joy our ancestors felt at the end of the growing season despite the real uncertainty they faced in the months ahead. Their survival response became ours when we engage in a familiar form of thanksgiving. We recite the Shehechiynau prayer during many holidays—the supreme Jewish prayer of praise and gratitude. Embedded in our recitation is the hope that we will be able to recite the same prayer when the holiday returns again.

We will not be the same individuals but, hopefully, we will be granted the joy of celebrating the moment again. Perhaps that is why we are so attached to the familiar Thanksgiving markers of beloved recipes, family traditions, and places we gather? Reaching them signals that we have safely completed the year. We are “home” again—not the same people we were a year ago—but gathering in the same way.

Once again this year, some of us will gather differently. Our markers might differ too, but our desire to express our gratitude remains.  Freedom’s Feast offers original resources to help you and your family explore and express gratitude at your gathering in ways that are meaningful, memorable, and fun.

Try one or more of these Freedom’s Feast resources to express your gratitude for:

Our founders’ vision: Ten Minute Version: Ceremonies to Get the Most Out of Your Thanksgiving Celebration. An engaging ten-minute ceremony that reminds participants of the purpose of our nation through key texts from our founding documents. It also includes a number of interesting facts, discussion questions, songs, and the reason why Thanksgiving was created (not what you think).

Gifts received from those we love: A Memory Harvest—a  unique Thanksgiving storytelling experience that encourages 3-5 participants to share stories about family members unable to join your gathering. Most often these stories are about those who have passed but can also be about members who are unable to be with you.  (See all three steps in the middle of the Ceremonies to Choose page).

The stories that make us who we are: Our American Journey: Telling Our Family Stories. No matter how we got here, we all have an American story. Use our interview questions and many other suggestions to find ways to explore and tell your family story before, during, or after your Thanksgiving holiday celebration.

The lives we live: The Gratitude Plate Keepsake. Make one of these plates—a simple but exceptionally meaningful way to creatively express and share the experiences, relationships and/or values you are grateful for in your life.

A number of other on-line resources are available from Freedom’s Feast. First developed nineteen years ago in the aftermath of 9/11, the initial project was conceived as a way for Americans to gather at Thanksgiving and to have a sustaining conversation around the table about more than turkey, football, and shopping.

Subsequently expanded through institutional partnerships to include more activities and five holidays in the national calendar, Freedom’s Feast aspires to help raise the next generation of citizens through the celebration of our national holidays.

We hope you have a meaningful and memorable Thanksgiving wherever and however you gather!

Be kind. Be curious. Be civil. Be safe—
Your friends and fellow citizens at Freedom’s Feast


Lee M. Hendler is the Co-Founder and President of the Jewish Grandparents Network and Co-Founder and Project Director of Freedom’s Feast