Seven or eight years ago I started the tradition of offering a free class at my yoga center on Thanksgiving Day morning. I saw this as an opportunity to give tangible thanks to the people who attended classes regularly (and even not-so-regularly), and this practice grew to include similar classes at other major holidays.
This year, I do not have the usual signals of cold weather, bare trees, and lengthy menu discussion sessions to jump start the planning of this annual class, but I have been thinking about it a lot. These thoughts are tinged with melancholy, as it is also the first year in decades that I have been away from the majority of my family and offspring. My oldest son chides me; while I am in Mexico, I am denying him his usual double-dinner (one meal at home, one meal at the in-laws). I feel some pangs of guilt about this…
I have a small hope that the people who came to my special holiday classes all those years will remember what it is like to stop on this day and read a poem, have a practice, and meditate on what lies below the surface of our holiday habits. I saw those classes as an opportunity to re-think and re-claim certain aspects of the holidays. They became a time to actively and deliberately connect to others in a way that allowed us to express our gratitude: to each other, to the meals we were about to sit down to, to the travels we would embark upon in our desire to be with families and friends. It was also a time to sit with some of the discomforts of the holidays and allow emotions tinged with poignancy, or anger, or sadness to sit at the table with us, too.
So to any and all, I wish you the opportunity to count your blessings and share your bounty. Draw an extra chair up to your table, for the distant friend or relative, and dine with them in spirit. I will be supping with friends new and old, and one son out of four, grateful for all the flavors and textures of life represented by the feast spread before us.