How my family says grace without bringing capital R Religion into it #It worked for me#family tradition#food#religion November 18 2010 | Guest post by Helen Jane Hearn By: Zechariah Judy – CC BY 2.0 I've always struggled with whether to pray before dinner. I wanted a way to say thanks for the food and acknowledge Ms. Earth's contribution to our meal without bringing capital R Religion into it. Something a little more than, "Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub." And something a little less than, "And these thy gifts from thy bounty…" As these things happen, we found our groove naturally. Every night before dinner, we hold hands around the table, the oldest, the youngest (well, sometimes the youngest, James and I. We list the people we're thankful for. The oldest usually adds herself a few times. (I'd add her a few times too.) Related Post The Santa Fiasco (and owning our Unbelief) Amy and her husband are atheists, and have also opted out of raising their daughter to believe in Santa Claus. Sometimes, especially in groups of... Read more I've been on the lookout though, for non-religious-pre-dinner thank you's that bring in the food, the animals, the vegetables and the community we're going to share and I'm coming up short. All the pre-meal graces seem to be very religious. And that doesn't quite meet my needs. It doesn't make it any easier that to help all our guests feel more comfortable, I replaced "grace" with "toasts." Toasts keep folks of all faiths at ease. But they're not exactly the sentiment I'm looking for, you dig? So I've written my own non-religious pre-meal thank you graces. They're not toasts, they're not prayers (exactly) they're just a way to experience gratitude for the meal, the community and the nourishment you're about to share… We end our grace with a hearty "AMEN." It feels right to our family. But I'd also recommend a hearty, "THANK YOU" or "YO HO HO." Actually, kicking off the meal with a "YO HO HO," sounds kind of awesome. ———————– We are so grateful for this food, it restores our strength, it heals our bodies, it fuels our brains. We are so grateful for this time, to renew our spirit, to share our trials, to find new strength. ———————– All that we have is a gift. May we be thankful. May we celebrate. May we share. ———————– For our friends, for our families, for our meal, we are thankful. For life, for healing, for joy, we are thankful. ———————– Thanks to the earth for the soil. Thanks to the sky for the rains. Thanks to the farmers for the harvest. Thanks to our friends for the love. ———————– May this meal we're about to share help our spirits shine brighter. May this brightness send darkness away and warm the hearts of strangers. YO HO HO! Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Guest post written by Helen Jane Hearn My favorite thing in the whole wide world is to throw a good party Mostly, potlucks. Sometimes it’s a party of one, sometimes, a party for a few hundred. Always, it gets talked about. I like celebrating, every day. http://helenjane.com PREVIOUS A guide for friends and family of parents with a Preemie NEXT Thoughts on the 0% abuse rate in American lesbian families Show/Hide comments [ 42 ] English is a bit limited in that it doesn't have a traditional non-religious meal time "thank you" or "enjoy your meal" phrase like "bon apetit!" But I guess that leaves space for everyone to make their own traditions. 1 agrees Reply Love this! I'm UU, and raising my daughter (who's only 4 months atm, so what does she care?) in the UU community. I struggle with finding sentiments for many occasions that are spiritual without being religious. Thanks for the great ideas! 2 agree Reply What's UU? 5 agree Reply Unitarian Universalist! it's how I'm hoping to raise my son too (once he's born). Sort of an all encompassing, choose-your-own-adventure religious community, which is perfect for us since we come from Jewish and Catholic backgrounds, respectively, and we don't fully ascribe to either but want to include traditions from both. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism 1 agrees Reply We are too, and I love hearing it describe as "choose your own adventure" religion! That's perfect. I usually describe it as "believe what you want and celebrate it," since that's kind of the focus of our church. I don't consider myself "religious" or even "spiritual," really, but UU gives me a place to "worship," whatever that means. 1 agrees Reply Interesting! Thanks 🙂 Reply I'm Unitarian Universalist too and these "thanks yous" struck me as being perfect for meals with the youth group. 1 agrees Reply I absolutely love a tiny verse from the Persian poet, Omar Khayyam: "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thee" 17 agree Reply Love this post and I think your graces are awesome. My little family (the 3 of us) do follow a spiritual practice but the blessing we use before meals is so simple and non-denominational-ish my non-religious family has adopted it. It is in the call and response style, and translated is this: We sit and eat together (we sit and eat together) We sit and eat together (we sit and eat together) We sit and eat in peace (we sit and eat in peace) In the original Yoruba: Onje ajepe onje ajepe Onje alafia My spelling may be wrong 🙂 Phonetically it is: Ahn-jay Aw-jep-way Ahn-jay Awl-awf-ee-uh 1 agrees Reply oops. I messed up. It is like this: We sit and eat together (we sit and eat with nature) We sit and eat together (we sit and eat with nature) We sit and eat in together(we sit and eat in peace) In the original Yoruba: Onje ajepe (onje orisa) onje ajepe (onje orisa) Onje ajepe (onje alafia) 'orisa' is pronounced oh-ree-sha 1 agrees Reply I love these! I'm the chaplain of our local Grange, and I'm always looking for ways to express thanks before a meal that don't feel exclusionary to any of our diverse members. Currently, we use this one: For the bounty here before us, The hands that brought it to our table, And the company in which we share it, We give thanks. (All: We give thanks.) 5 agree Reply I really love these! I'm agnostic, so I always feel a bit awkward when it's time to say grace at the dinner table. But I think I might try a couple of these out during the holidays this year. 1 agrees Reply One we like to use is: For food and friendship always good, we are truly thankful! 1 agrees Reply Did the title of this post remind anyone of praying at camp? 5 agree Reply I love this post! I am always looking for resources to incorporate a non-religious spiritual teaching into my son's life. This is a mealtime prayer that I found somewhere: We receive this food in gratitude to all beings who have helped bring it to our table, and vow to respond in turn to those in need with wisdom and compassion. 1 agrees Reply Emily, i LOVE that. mind if i steal it? :p Reply The one I have to suggest is religious, but it is great when we are really hungry: Good Veggies, Good Meat, Good God, Let's Eat! Plus it doesn't work for vegetarians lol! However, whenever this one gets chosen it gets a giggle around the table. 1 agrees Reply For the Food Before Us For the Friends Around Us For the Love Between Us We give thanks. It embarrasses the snot out of my teenage daughter when she friends eating with us. But I like the ritual, better than just diving into the grub. 4 agree Reply This is really interesting to me as I was raised in a very open, honest, and accepting family. But as Evangelical Christians We always pray at ever meal… but they are not "religious" prayers. I guess I'm kinda wondering what makes something big R Religious? 1 agrees Reply I'm thinking what makes it "big R religious" is who you're thanking. 1 agrees Reply very nice helen jane! Reply What a great discussion! (And Emily, love your thanks too.) And other Emily, Amy says it better than I could, keeping it out of specific deities was my goal — but acknowledging the efforts that resulted in the meal. Reply I guess this one is a bit religious as well, but my Grandmother has gotten all of her grandchildren over the years to sing this song before big family meals. I'm not capital R Religious but it still resonates with me. "Oh, the Lord's been good to me, and so I thank the Lord For giving me the things I need The sun and the rain and the apple seed The Lord's been good to me" 5 agree Reply i work for a preschool and we say a very long winded prayer but i like the end the best and could work (i'm replacing the word God with earth) Thank you for the world so sweet Thank you for the food we eat Thank you for the birds that sing Thank you, Earth, for everything Amen 3 agree Reply We sing a version of this at our preschool in a UU church: We're thankful for the food we eat, Thankful for the world so sweet, Thankful for the birds that sing, We're glad we're part of everything. Followed by a hearty "Bon appetite!" which is the part my 3-year-old likes best. 🙂 Reply Itadaki-masu is the traditional Japanese meal "grace". It doesn't refer to a specific god/goddess as far as I know, and is more about expressing gratitude. http://gojapan.about.com/cs/tablemanners/a/tablemanner.htm 1 agrees Reply My friend's family has a tradition that we've adopted. As we're all deaf, bowing our heads/holding hands is out of the question. We knock twice on the table before eating. Simple, quick, but conveys everything. 2 agree Reply We were raised saying grace in Dutch, we weren't religious, but it was my mom's only connection to her country. It ends in "om jesus will.." (sounds like Ohm Yayzusville). When I was 4, my mom caught me telling my brother it meant "Uncle Jesus town" !! ps: I really love this gatha: "We receive this food in gratitude to all Who have helped to bring it to our table, And vow to respond in turn to those in need With wisdom and compassion. 2 agree Reply My parents taught this one to my son when he was visiting and now he enjoys leading grace at home. We usually hold hands and he says: Earth, air, sun, rain the work of many bring this food to our table so we are blessed, nourished, strengthened to do good work in this world for the good of all creation AMEN! I like it 3 agree Reply Thank you for this post. I don't have children yet, but I have put thought behind this before. My husband and I were brought up catholic/christian but we are currently… well… nothing. We believe in science, with a light at the end of the tunnel 🙂 1 agrees Reply Caitlin, this is what we use too. In our multifaith family, singing the Johnny Appleseed song has become our inclusive way of honoring the divine with music, recognizing the earth, and still be 'churchy' enough for those who see the world that way too. It's a win-win for us all 😉 Reply Dallas Clayton just released a new children's book called An Awesome Book of Thanks. There are tons of verses that could be used (together or individually) for a 'thanks' without religion. You can read the whole book online here (as well as his equally awesome first book, An Awesome Book):http://veryawesomeworld.com/ 1 agrees Reply I am an atheist and have always detested being forced to say religious graces at events with my extended family. However, my mother had us say this short and sweet grace when it was just us: "We're thankful for our food and family, I love you, amen." I'm still not keen on the amen, but have yet to find something better to replace it with. 1 agrees Reply Instead of Amen (which literally means "I believe."), how about "So say we all"? (It's from Battlestar Galactica.) Another option (more religious) is "Blessed be." Reply Another option I've come up with in the time period since I wrote my last response is "Indeed." Reply I am henceforth beginning all family meals with "YO HO HO!" :-p Reply Thank you for this! I will be using this at my wedding, and hopefully around my table for many years to come with my little family. 1 agrees Reply For food….and friends…..and family…..we give thee thanks Oh Lord. Amen There's a few more verses to the Johnny Appleseed prayer/song – do a google search – ….excellent to use at a banquet if a lot of people know the words. Reply I've always loved and used the grace from the cartoon Madeline: We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all, we love each other 🙂 Reply There is a wonderful book of daily (non-religious) blessings called A Grateful Heart: 365 Ways to Give Thanks at Mealtime http://a.co/2T1CcG4 Reply Call me confused, religious, or what you will, but this is confusing and disturbing to me. How is it that people who refuse to acknowledge a higher entity feel the spiritual need to offer thanks to a non-existent benefactor? Reply Hi Bob, Long answer: Society, community, and family are hardly nonexistent. They are right there in front of us, to see, to support/be supported by, and to care about. Thanks are an expression – not just of gratitude – but of affirmation of the value of what has been received or benefitted from. A spirit of thankfulness – even if there is no benefactor to thank – helps develop a sense of humility and appreciation of good things and people in our lives. Treasures should not be taken for granted because life can take them away so easily. It's all part of leading an ethical, examined life. Also, keep in mind that spirituality doesn't need a house of worship. It lives in the human heart. ***** Short answer: Because even if you're a nonbeliever, you don't want to act like an entitled twit. I can understand being confused. But disturbed? Really? 2 agree Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Subscribe me to your mailing list No-drama comment policy Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.