How Was Thanksgiving with Your Religious Relatives? Or Your Atheist Relatives?

Over the river and down the road, to Grandmother’s house we went — millions and millions of us all over the country. Thanksgiving can be a joyous occasion, but religious differences sometimes mar family festivities.

So what was yesterday like for you? Did theological matters come up, directly or indirectly? Were there subtle frictions about who offered a blessing for the meal or what was said during this prayer? Was attendance at religious services part of your holiday activities? How was that for you? Will you be going to a church, synagogue, or mosque with your extended family this weekend? Are you looking forward to this, or dreading it?

When family members sense that their religious (or non-religious) convictions have been criticized, they may feel as if their very being has been attacked. One way to ease these tensions is to emphasize that we love each other, we want the best for each other, and we’re all trying to understand life’s mysteries as well as we know how.

If we cannot say these things sincerely, there may be some very basic family issues that need to be resolved before we address religious differences.

A note to Christians, and atheists/agnostics with Christian relatives: Thanksgiving can serve as a dress rehearsal for the religious holiday which occurs one month from today. What can you learn from your recent Thanksgiving experience that will help you on December 25?

May your family gatherings be a blessing rather than a burden, a time of affection and forgiveness rather than resentment and hostility.


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2 thoughts on “How Was Thanksgiving with Your Religious Relatives? Or Your Atheist Relatives?

  1. I found it interesting that the fundamentalists in my husband’s family insisted on Black Friday shopping, and they kept pressuring me to come. As a UU Buddhist/humanist/atheist, I take very seriously my sacred holiday traditions which include NOT starting out the season with a buying frenzy. I explained that several times and finally said, “Your religion and my religion are very different. This is part of my religion. Please respect that.” End of discussion–they left for Target and I enjoyed the peace.

    • Thanks, Kathryn. An important part of mutual respect is becoming aware of what is of extreme — or even ultimate — importance to each person. When you said that observing No-Buy Day was part of your religion, this conveyed its core importance to you. Evidently that made a helpful difference.

      BTW, I enjoyed your post,, in which you said you treasure the Hummel figurines you inherited from your grandmother and aunt, “but I truly hope they don’t reproduce.”

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