As we head into the holiday season, many of us are reflecting on a year that has pushed our limits in so many ways. The lessons have been abundant. The growth has been abundant. The grief has been abundant. And, let’s be honest, the wine has been very abundant. And now, this strange year is all the more punctuated by the holidays and our limited ability to gather with community and family.
Every season, I look forward to creating these tablescapes – especially during the holidays. And, I will fully admit that it was hard for me to decide if it felt appropriate this year. But if there is one thing I’ve heard from many of you, it’s that we need beauty in our lives right now. And, selfishly, I needed this creative outlet, too. These tabletops are my love language. They speak to my values of gathering, sharing stories and food, and creating connected memories.
So its with those values in mind, that we created this Thanksgiving table … with an abundance of messages woven into its story.
The inspiration for this setting came from two places. When I sat down to think about what this year’s Thanksgiving tabletop would look like, I asked myself… what is it that I’m incredibly grateful for this year? The first thing that popped into my head was … wine.
Yes, I joke – sort of – but as I mentioned earlier, it certainly has been in abundance this year. Which got me thinking about the classic depictions of Bacchus, the God of Wine . I started hunting for inspiration and landed on Caravaggio’s painting of the young man. I immediately pictured a table, filled to the brim with nature’s natural abundance… and of course, overflowing goblets.
My lovely friend Carey, of Bleedfoot Florals, captured the vision perfectly with her wild centerpieces that look like they could have been freshly foraged (and indeed, much of it was!). We placed bowls of persimmons, grapes, walnuts, and other seasonal fruits like a runner, down the table. Carey wove in strands of dried thistle, and I added a simple pear at each place setting to complete the look.
We also partnered with several local small businesses to make this vision come to fruition! Wine was provided by Left Bank, and, because I wanted a moody vibe, we chose the beautiful interior of Samara to create in. (Sidenote, the dishes created by chef Eric Anderson are even more beautiful than the interior, so if you’re local, please look them up!)
But Thanksgiving is one of the rare holidays that is about so much more than putting together a beautiful table. Therefore, the second element of inspiration for this setting goes much deeper, acting as a message more than an aesthetic.
In the beautiful book “Braiding Sweetgrass” author Robin Wall Kimmerer dedicates a chapter to the Thanksgiving Address. As she explains the significance of this prayer which belongs to the Haudenosaunee people, she offers this phrase that struck me to the core: “While expressing gratitude seems innocent enough, it is a revolutionary idea. In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Recognizing abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires… The Thanksgiving Address reminds you that you already have everything you need.”
The idea of gratitude being a radical act just feels so… good! And needed. While it may sound privileged or idealistic, I do believe that each of us – no matter where were are in life – can find spaces and moments to sit in gratitude. Sure, we still enjoy the material things in life, but it needs to balanced, and this is how we find that balance.
As for the Thanksgiving Address, it’s important to note that it has nothing to do with the Thanksgiving holiday, but rather it is a prayer used by the Haudenosaunee people to acknowledge and thank Mother Earth for her gifts. It is sacred, and not to be co-opted – especially on this day of all days – but if you read it, I hope that it gives you a sense of all that we have to be grateful for and the responsibility of care that goes along with it. That includes taking care of the Indigenous people who were here before us. Whose land we still occupy, and whom this holiday has exploited for years. In that spirit, we as a family have chosen this month to begin paying ‘rent’ to to the Duwamish people, whose longhouse I drive by weekly, and whose land we are grateful to be able to live on, plant on, and care for alongside them.
If you – like me – are wondering how we can decolonize this holiday, while keeping some of the traditions, I have a few small suggestions, and I’m sure I will be adding to them over the next week.
- You can find the land on which you live on using this app to join in on paying ‘rent’ if you feel called and are able to do so. You can also start using land acknowledgement statements. This article offers guidance on where to start, and what to do and not do when writing your acknowledgement.
- Check out this article written by Sean Sherman, founder of the Sioux Chef where he speaks to using the holiday to learn about and honor Indigenous foods as well as the message of gratitude.
- The Cut did a short series of videos a few years back interviewing Native Americans with quick word association. The whole series should be watched, but this one is specifically about Thanksgiving. I actually found the others even more impactful, and think they’re great conversation and thought starters.
Most importantly, it’s up to us to educate ourselves on the real history of this country so that we can better acknowledge it, teach our children about it, and do better for not only our Indigenous communities, but the land that we live on as well.
I hope that wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, you can find gratitude, and celebrate with your people – even if it’s virtually.
As for me, I’ve never been so appreciative for my family and friends, for the basic things like food on the table, my health, and my home. I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving.