A Thanksgiving Tradition

Story and photo by Madis Senner

Holidays speak to tradition. Each year we go through a ritual of sorts where we perform the same acts and in doing so reinforce the spirit of the holiday. For thanksgiving it may be seeing old friends that have returned home to their families, or watching the Macy’s Day Parade, or football; you know that the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving Day. And then of course there is the Thanksgiving feast.

Even our food speaks to Thanksgivings past. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries … when else do you eat cranberries? It is so Thanksgiving.

One Thanksgiving tradition I have embraced in recent years is to join in the Thanksgiving Circle of Peace on the shores of Onondaga Lake in Syracuse (Liverpool) in the morning. It is a community gathering where Native and non-Native people give thanks. All are welcome.

The Thanksgiving Circle of Peace is put on each year by the Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON.)  NOON is a program of the Syracuse Peace Council. It looks to educate about the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederacy and all Native American people. NOON advocates for Onondagans and the Haudenosaunee and their causes — such as environmental healing and a just resolution to their land claim among other things.

It can be cold and windy along the lakeshore; even snowy as it was in 2016.  The Willow Bay  Willow Bay section of Onondaga Lake Park where the Thanksgiving Circle of Peace is held is at western end of the Lake, so the wind can be quite brisk. You may also be standing for an hour.

I always layer up and dress warmly.

But it is the location and the people that will warm your heart. Onondaga Lake is where the great Haudenosaunee prophet the Peacemaker planted the Tree of Peace and gave his people the Great Law of Peace. America’s Constitution and Bill of Rights are modeled after the Great Law of Peace, as Congress recognized in 1988 with its “Concurrent Resolution to Acknowledge the contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations to the development of the United States Constitution” – which makes Onondaga Lake a one of a kind stage to celebrate this truly unique American holiday.

As for the people, NOON is a dedicated bunch that has been fiercely advocating for the Haudenosaunee for years. Who among us would not feel blessed to celebrate this American Holiday gifted to us by Native Americans with those that passionately advocate for them.

People start gathering before the circle begins forming at 10 AM; some with kids and dogs in tow. Someone from NOON will start the ceremony by giving their name and saying what they have been grateful for this past year. Then one by one people around the circle will give their name and their thanks. People are always late, so the circle is constantly opening up, expanding and embracing new members.

When everyone has given their thanks the circle dissolves. Many will stay afterwards for coffee and to chat. Everyone will go on with their day better for the sharing of thanks in the Spirit of Thanksgiving.



Where: Willow Bay Section of Onondaga Lake Park

When: Usually at 10 a.m.

Click here to learn more.


Madis Senner is an author who lives in Syracuse. His latest book is Sacred Sites in North Star Country: Places in Greater New York State (PA,OH,NJ,CT,MA,VT,ONT) That Changed the World You can read his musings at, http://motherearthprayers.blogspot.com


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