Thanksgiving—Thursday, Nov. 22—is one of my favorite holidays. It’s an entire day to say “thank you” to our families, friends and even God. It’s a day to express gratitude for all the good people and wonderful blessings in our lives. While not part of the Jewish calendar, Thanksgiving sure feels like a Jewish holiday with all of the cooking and family time that surround it. All that’s missing, really, is some kind of ritual. Fortunately, Rabbi Ron Wolfson (author of “The Art of Jewish Living” series) and his friends created a wonderful website, “Freedom’s Feast,” that offers many ideas for creating a memorable Thanksgiving.
This year I plan to create “gratitude plates” as outlined on the site, plus I’m going to incorporate a Thanksgiving prayer and family sing-along. In the meantime, my husband and kids already started reminding me of their required favorite foods for the day—macaroni and cheese, monkey bread and fruit tsimmes top their list. As I prepare my to-do and shopping lists, you might consider adding a trip to the library or bookstore with your kids to your list. The following books have inspiring messages of gratitude and share beautiful ways to say thanks.
“Adam & Eve’s First Sunset: God’s New Day” by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Ages 6-10. On their first day in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve notice that the sun is moving down in the sky. Try as they might, nothing they can do will stop the sun from setting and disappearing. Even though God teaches them to create fire, they spend the night cold, afraid and restless. When the sun comes up the next morning, they realize that day and night are part of God’s creation, for which they are very thankful.
“All of Me!: A Book of Thanks” by Molly Bang
Ages 3-7. This is the perfect book to introduce young children to thanking God for the miracle of the human body and all its functions. Using charming, bright illustrations and simple text, it celebrates the head to toe and inside and outside marvel that is each and every one of us.
“Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” by Chief Jake Swamp
All ages. Native Americans were an important part of the first Thanksgiving story. This beautifully illustrated book allows us all to share in their understanding of and respect for the earth and all its creatures through a meaningful and timely prayer of thanksgiving.
“One is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale” by Judy Cox
Ages 4-8. After Thanksgiving dinner, when everyone is resting after the feast, Mouse sneaks out to find a little something. He spies a pea, a perfect dinner for a little mouse, but then he sees a cranberry, an olive, a carrot, mashed potatoes…sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomach and can lead us into big trouble!
“Rivka’s First Thanksgiving” by Elsa Okon Rael
Ages 4-8. This is my all-time favorite Jewish Thanksgiving story. Unfortunately, it’s currently out of print and only available in synagogue and public libraries. Nevertheless, it’s worth finding and reading with your children so they can learn that the Jewish people have much to be thankful for, and that there was a time when Thanksgiving was not celebrated by every family in America. They will learn that when children speak up, their voices are heard.
“Splat Says Thank You!” by Rob Scotton
Ages 3-8. Splat the Cat’s friend, Seymour the Mouse, is very sick with spots all over his body. To make Seymour smile, Splat creates a friendship book filled with pictures and memories of all the times Seymour has helped Splat. It’s Splat’s way of saying “thank you” to Seymour for being “my smallest friend and my biggest.”