A moment of appreciation before a meal.
I’ve struggled to find a term that adequately describes for me the moment taken before a meal to reflect, express gratitude, and acknowledge the work that went into preparing the meal. Blessing and Grace don’t feel quite right because they are so specifically related to religion, but the words blessing and grace feel culturally familiar to me, so I’ll use those terms to describe secular meal blessings.
Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub?
I grew up in a nominally Christian family. My father never went to church. My mom, my sister and I went sporadically to a Methodist church for Sunday school and youth group, but not much more than that. Yet we said the blessing every night before dinner. My sister and I took turns saying it and I can still hear my own child’s voice in my head, reciting the sing-songy rhyme:
/God is great.
/God is good.
/Let us thank him for this food.
We stopped doing the dinner blessing at some point as Sis and I got older and after that, saying grace really only came up at family gatherings on holidays. I don’t think we said the blessing before meals when my first two kids were little.
But last year I enrolled the twins in preschool. And the first time I visited at lunchtime, I heard the children singing a little blessing while doing hand motions. It was a sweet, simple way to center and focus as they were preparing to eat together.
My 4-year-old twins singing the meal blessing they learned at preschool
/Now we start
/Earth who gives us all this food,
/Sun who makes it ripe and good,
/Dearest earth and dearest sun
/We will remember what you have done.
/Blessings on our lunch.
The first time I heard the class singing this little tune I laughed and thought, “Hoo boy! I really have signed them up for a hippie preschool!” I’m no more into earth-based religious blessings than I am Christian ones, but this Waldorf meal blessing is mild and simple and designed to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and thoughtfulness. And I’m all for that.
Expanding our secular mealtime blessings repertoire
While I like the Waldorf meal blessing, I’ve been looking for some options that can work in various situations, among various groups, and that will transition well as the children grow out of the little-kid versions of secular meal blessings.
I like that this next blessing is very simple and acknowledges the effort that went into getting the food to the table, rather than making it a mysterious gift from the sun and earth. I’ve heard Christians saying it with the addition of the word “God” or “Lord” at the beginning and an “In Jesus’ name we pray, amen” at the end. As is, though, it’s a nice secular meal blessing for nearly any situation. Repetition works well for children, and the repetition of the phrase “we are thankful” here encourages a sense of gratitude.
/We are thankful for the food before us
/We are thankful for the friends beside us
/We are thankful for the love among us
/We are thankful.
Thankful to whom?
A certain someone in my life challenged me on calling it a non religious blessing. “To whom are you thankful?” he queried. Each person will have to speak for him/herself on that subject, but I am thankful to the farmers who tended the land, and the crops and the animals that are now on our table. I am thankful to workers who harvested it. I am thankful to those who got it to the grocery store. I am thankful to those who prepared the food.
Kenna Covington, a humanist from Wake Forest, NC and mom of eight year old Jack, answers the question this way: To whom are we thankful? To the parents who work, the employers who employ, the growers, the animals who give their lives, the people who prepare our food, to the people who made the plates and utensils we use, to the people running the water treatment centers…we are thankful to everyone involved in nourishing or bodies.
Following are several more non religious meal blessings I’ve gleaned. I’ve not been able to attribute any of them to a particular person or book, and each has endless variations. Use these as a jumping off point for meal blessings for your own family.
/For the meal we are about to eat,
/For those who made it possible,
/And for those with whom we are about to share it,
/We are thankful.
/In this home all are one
/As are the earth, the stars and sun
/With head and heart and hands be blessed
/That each of us may do our best
/As we prepare to eat,
/Let us remember the plants and animals,
/The labor of those who harvested the food
/And the effort of the cook who prepared it for us.
Very simple meal blessings
Some families opt for an even simpler way to reflect before eating. Quakers traditionally share a moment of silence before meals, but total silence makes me super anxious, so I can’t manage that! If you want to keep it light but not silly, you can opt for a toast to the chef or even a “bon appétit!”
Do any of these secular meal blessings resonate with you? Do you have suggestions for other non religious meal blessings? I’d love to hear them!5 secular meal blessings every family can love Click To Tweet