One way to find a daily pause is to introduce some kind of spoken ‘grace’ before a meal. If you’re not religious, don’t immediately write a meal grace off, as it doesn’t have to have religious overtones (though of course many do). It is basically a time when a family comes together to give thanks – to their chosen god or goddess, to the earth, the sun, the moon, to those they share their lives with – for all their blessings. The focus is usually on the food, remembering that some have none, while in the western world we are blessed to (in most cases) have plenty or enough to fill our bellies. Saying grace is a way of making our children aware of the world around them: of the animals and people that facilitate our good health. It’s a way of recognising that our tasty meals don’t arrive out of nowhere; the ingredients are grown and nurtured, then chosen and cooked for us.
Some families choose to hold hands around the table when saying grace. Some take time to remark upon what they enjoyed most about the day, or to thank other family members for whatever comes to mind. This helps younger folk realise that their meal was lovingly prepared for them and is a gentle reminder of how in a family we work cohesively (most of the time) for the common good. People who were brought up with some kind of grace before a meal often remember it as a time of reflection and calm, a moment to savour and celebrate. Hopefully it is something our children will want to share with their own children and so the cycle of awareness lives on. As many spiritual gurus throughout the ages have reminded us, cultivating an attitude of gratitude enhances our lives in a multitude of ways. Rather than focus on what we don’t have, it helps us to take stock of what we do and celebrate that.
Some religions and spiritual belief systems also advocate grace because you are essentially blessing the food. They believe that this enhances its health-giving properties and makes it more nourishing and sustaining. In some traditional cultures, thanking the animal that sacrificed its life is considered an important ritual before eating, so as not to forget our place in the cycle of life but to also practise humility. Pagans remember the blessings of god and goddess, the sustaining power of Mother Earth, the sun and water that raised the food. Christians thank God for the blessings of food and family. Humanists take time to thank the people and industry that come together to provide our meals.
However you choose to say grace, consider it a moment of pause for your family. A chance to reconnect after busy days, a time of ritual, gratitude and stillness in the great charge of life. There are many different ways to say grace, and we’ve gathered together some here for you to peruse and adapt to your family’s needs. Perhaps you will choose one from the selection below, or perhaps you will craft your own – children especially love something that is unique to them and their family. Whether it’s an elaborate poem of gratitude or a simple thank you to each member of your family, enjoy finding something that resonates for you all.
A Steiner table grace
Blessings on the blossom
Blessings on the fruit
Blessings on the leaves and stems
and blessings on the root.
Blessings to our friends and family and have a happy (insert day of the week)!
Simple Thank You Grace
Thank you for all the hands that helped make this food, for the sky and earth that helped it grow, and the family we have to share it.
A Quaker Grace
Us and this: God bless.
Grace by Ralph Waldo Emerson
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends,
We offer thanks. Amen.
Round the table, peace and joy prevail.
May all who share this season’s delight
Enjoy countless more.
A sweet and simple grace
Now my plate is full, but soon it will be gone.
Thank you for my food and please help those with none.
Ancient Hindu Blessing
This ritual is One.
The food is One.
We who offer the food are One.
The fire of hunger is also One.
All action is One.
We who understand this are One.
Serving Food by Thich Nhat Hanh
In this food, I see clearly
The presence of the universe
Supporting my existence.
A blessing on the meal and peace on earth.
Pagan Blessing 1
Earth who gives to us our food
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Dearest earth and dearest sun
Joy and love for all you’ve done
Pagan Blessing 2
Give thanks to the Mother Earth.
Give thanks to the Father Sun.
Give thanks to the plants in the garden,
Where the Mother and Father are One.
Pagan Blessing 3
Blessed be the Earth for giving birth to this food
Blessed be the Sun for nourishing it
Blessed be the Wind for carrying its seed
Blessed be the Rain for quenching its thirst.
Blessed be the hands that helped to grow this food,
To bring it to our tables
To nourish our minds, bodies, and spirits.
Blessed be our friends, our families, and our loved ones.
From A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book by Cesiwr Serith – 1
Blessings and thanks to the Earth from which this food comes.
Blessings and thanks to the plants and animals from which it is formed.
Blessings and thanks to the people who brought it forth and prepared it for us today.
And blessings and thanks to that One, Infinite, Mysterious, lying behind it all and giving us our being.
From A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book by Cesiwr Serith – 2
For what we are about to receive let us be truly thankful …to those who planted the crops …to those who cultivated the fields …to those who gathered the harvest.
*Buddhist Grace *
We receive this food in gratitude to all beings
Who have helped to bring it to our table,
And vow to respond in turn to those in need
With wisdom and compassion.
A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles, edited by M.J. Ryan
Bless This Food : Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World, by Adrian Butash
Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox