Saying Grace

From the my earliest memory, we have said grace at the table before our family dinners. It’s a simple blessing, our Catholic grace. I think growing up we kids didn’t think much about it, just that it was one of those things we had to do before we could eat. But ritual has a way of embedding ideas into one’s consciousness over time, and now when I say grace, either with my family, with friends, or even alone, I am reminded of how lucky I am, we are, to be alive, thinking and breathing, and how blessed we are to have this food before us.

Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, for which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen.

That’s our grace. Simple isn’t it? Yet whenever I hear it or say it, it means so much more. I feel my family, alive or long passed, with me at the table or in a city far away. For this one simple prayer ties us together through time and distance.

I’m curious to learn of other traditions for saying a mealtime blessing. It wasn’t until I left home for college that I discovered that depending on one’s background, people say different prayers at mealtime, and some (maybe most?) none at all. A meal blessing doesn’t have to be tied to a religion. People in Japan say an expression of gratitude before every meal. Itadakimasu, which means “I humbly accept” is said, head bowed, before every meal, not just dinner.

My friends Suzanne and David, and their children Clara, Danny, and Audrey, hold hands and either say “Blessings on the meal” or they sing “Evening is here, the board is spread, thanks be to God, who gives us bread.” I get the feeling that the kids are sometimes embarrassed to sing their blessing, especially with guests, but personally I love it.

Do you have a tradition of saying a blessing before a meal? If so, would you please share it with us? Do you hold hands (we don’t)? Does one person lead grace, or do people take turns? Do you recite a standard blessing, or do you improvise?

Today, as I write this, it is Thanksgiving, our one day of the year dedicated to appreciation for all we have. Thank you for reading this site, for trying out the recipes we post, for all of your feedback and suggestions. You are the reason I do this. Happy Thanksgiving! ~Elise

97 Comments

  1. Helen

    I was a girl guide (british girl scout!) and we always used to have grace before every meal on guide camp. On brownie camp (junior girl guide) the activity on the first evening was always to make a placemat with all our graces written on so we could all join in. The one that stuck in my head the most was the song “Johnny Appleseed”

    The Lord is good to me
    And so I thank the Lord
    For giving me the things I need
    For the sun and the rain and the appleseed
    The Lord is Good to me

    Funniest Grace I ever heard was when a friend came out with “Bless us as we eat this food and each other, Amen”

  2. Gayatri.Gurjar

    Hi Elise,

    I regularly go through your site ‘Simply Recipes’. It is very well presented.

    I am posting this message as response to your post on Grace. I hail from the state of Maharashtra in India. We also say a couple of prayers before we begin all our meals. They are usually recited together but without holding hands. In some families these prayers are even said in the mind by each member seperately.
    The gist of all prayers is expressing gratitude to the Almighty of course. You must be aware of the Indian philosophy of ‘Brahman’. We regard food as the manifestation of the Brahman principle that transcends all the universe. It is a verse in my mother tongue- Marathi.The literal wording says, “As you eat each morsel of your food chant the name of the Almighty. You shall receive nourishment by doing this simple exercise. Food is the wholesome Brahman that gives life to all. The act of eating is not just to fill ones stomach but is a divine ritual.”

  3. Oh Lighten Up

    There’s the ever-popular Bart Simpson version of grace — offered, I assure you, with no disrespect intended:

    Dear God,
    We payed for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing. Amen.

    While we’re appreciating the fortune of sharing a good meal with friends and family, the joy of a meal prepared with love, it is important to remember that God is not vengeful, that (hopefully) He has a sense of humor, that He wants us all to be happy and prosper.

    Very happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Mary Ann

    Your posting regarding Thanksgiving was a wonderful way to start today. We personalize our prayer, thanking God for not only the food we are about to eat but for friends, family, news of a new baby, etc. It is especially nice when the 5 year old in our family says grace and remembers to be thankful for a sunny day or rain for the garden. Thank you for sharing the true meaning of this day.

  5. John Gilbert

    A wonderful comment. So much of what you have said rings true to me. Thank you for your blog, which I always enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving.

  6. Laurel

    Hi Elise. Happy Thanksgiving. When I grew up we always said grace before meals. We would all take turns, alternating who said it every day, and we each had our own favourite grace we would say. Mine was:

    God is great, God is good
    Let us thank Him for our food.
    Amen.

  7. Traci

    We always say a blessing before every meal and in the evenings, when my husband is home, he leads the blessing. When the children and I are home, I will lead – or often, the children will start the prayer.

    We do say more or less a standard prayer, “Father God, thank you for this food and bless it to the nourishment of our bodies. In Jesus name. Amen.” but we will improvise on occasion, especially if the children decide to lead the prayer. ;)

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving celebrating with family and friends.

  8. Pearl

    Dearest Elise,

    I just loved your page on Grace. That’s so lovely. Thanks for sharing. We say thank you to God for every meal. Sometimes hubby or myself do a version from the heart and sometimes it’s just a quick “Thank You Lord for this lovely food. Amen.” But our favorite grace is one sung by our 3 year old son who came back with it one day from his nursery school. It goes to the Superman song. Want to hear it? Here it goes.. “Thank You Lord.. for giving us food.. Thank You Lord.. for giving us food.. We are so grate-ful.. for every plate-ful.. Thank You for giving us food.. For giving us food.. AMEN!”
    It’s good to be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving. ;)

  9. Deb

    Yes, we thank the Lord each meal for our food and blessings He gives. If we are alone eating at lunchtime, we bow our heads and pray. If we are together as a family for dinner, Dad calls on someone different each evening to pray and to ask the Lord’s blessing on our food.

    I’ve visited families that do sing at a mealtime. I have to admit I’ve felt a bit awkward because to them it’s a song they feel everyone knows while our family sits there and can’t participate.

    We are especially thankful today for life, our family, and all the many blessings God gives. Thank you, Elise, for your wonderful food blog; I’ve enjoyed it!

  10. Dan

    We say grace before dinner as we gather as a family. Our grace is frequently the same as your – but it varies. One of my favorites is this:
    Most Holy and Gracious Lord God, Giver of all good graces; we thank Thee for the manifold comforts and blessings we enjoy; “AT THIS POINT ANY SPECIFIC SUPPLICATIONS CAN BE MADE BY ANYONE”.
    Amen.
    Grace is very important in our household and through generations of our family. True enough I like you recall the generations with who I have shared meals and thanks. From my great-grandmother and on to the generations beyond me (my grand kids now) it is a family (and extended) moment that has been shared at meals.

    Finally, an additional note. While I served wth the Air Force in Southeast Asia grace was a private and quiet affair – BUT – on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, grace (your version) was said aloud while we held hands around the table. To this day it warms my heart to know that in the face of trouble we came together with a fundamental tenet that transcended the tribulations of any particular day.

    Happy Thanksgiving and many more!!

    PS – I use the recipes here all the time and thank you for all the hard and dedicated work!

  11. Ellen

    Elise, you’re right. Thanksgiving is a special holiday – it crosses all faiths and other boundaries, allowing us all to celebrate the blessings we have been given.

    Although we grew up saying the standard Lutheran “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let these gifts to us be blessed,” we had a “special occasion” blessing that was the table prayer of my great-grandfather. I sometimes have to think for a moment before I remember it, but it is worthy of more frequent use. “Lord Jesus be our holy guest, our morning joy and evening rest. And with this daily bread impart thy peace and love to every heart. Amen.”

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Tony Longe

    I was touched by your article this Thanksgiving morning. How refreshing to see a positive comment on saying a prayer of thanks before a meal. Our family says a prayer before every meal. We always hold hands whether at home or in public and say a simple prayer of thanks to our heavenly Father in Jesus Name. Thank you for making my day.

  13. dksbook

    I offer this ancient Celtic Christian Grace, which is our Thanksgiving grace:

    (St. Bridget’s Table Grace)

    I should like a great lake of the finest ale

    For the King of Kings.

    I should like a table of the choicest food

    For the family of heaven.

    Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith,

    And the food be forgiving love.

    I should welcome the poor to my feast,

    For they are God’s joy.

    Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,

    And the sick dance with the angels.

    God bless the poor,

    God bless the sick,

    And God bless our human race.

    God bless our food,

    God bless our drink;

    All homes, Oh, God, embrace.

  14. Julie

    First let me say that I am thankful that you provide all these recipes to us. I have made a few and enjoyed every one.

    At meal time growing up we rarely said grace. When we did it was a Swedish grace that was solely known by phonetics. I understand the basic meaning but it truly meant nothing to me.

    I later married a man who was much more religious than me. We say grace every night. It changes for what our needs and the needs of others are. Then we had kids and it changed yet again. They bring their graces that they learn in preschool home with them and we say those.

    Each new step is as meaningful as the last. It is a joy to see the progression of our lives through our meal time rituals.

  15. Liz

    We say grace before our meals too at home or away. Either the English Catholic one you mentioned or a German one that we said when our son was little and we still say it now – Kom lieber Jesu, sei unser Gast, gesegne was uns beschaeren hast. Translation- Come dear Jesus and be our guest and bless the food that you have given us.
    I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings! In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday of October but we are with you in spirit today.

  16. Hanne

    My family always did the standard Lutheran prayer, like Ellen’s, complete with holding hands. The holding hands thing always made guests feel a bit awkward.

    I agree that it’s a good practice, a good reminder that food is precious (I’m quoting Alice Waters, I guess), and that we should always be grateful and treat it with respect.

  17. Susan

    Our Catholic family also uses the same blessing. Each Thanksgiving, we all hold hands around the table and one of the little ones leads the prayer. Then, each of us takes a turn sharing something that we are thankful for. It is really nice.

    Many years ago, a good friend taught me the Blessing Song. As a professional singer, I loved the idea and started incorporating it at my table too. As St. Augustine said, “He who sings, prays twice.”

    I would just like to say that this year, one of the things that I am thankful for is you and your wonderful blog. You have given me so much knowledge and inspiration. Thank you.

  18. Jeanne

    We would always say a blessing before each meal. It was, “Our Father give us thankful hearts for what we are about to receive. Amen”
    Our Mother would mostly say it and we would just look around if she asked someone else too.

    My Father would just say, “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub” and my Mother would be so mad.

    One of my brothers gets more formal with his blessing, but I feel very comfortable with our traditional one. I still use it today, but usually when I eat at a table. If I eat a meal in the living room I tend to forget it.

  19. jonathan

    The happiest of Thanksgivings to you and your family and friends, as well.

    I give thanks for a lot of things, not least of which is your wonderful site and recipes.

    (Right now, I’m giving thanks for not running from the house screaming in fear of the impending onslaught of hungry relatives with their 2,847 children in tow.)

  20. Jerry

    Ours was a traditional Southern Baptist table, and the prayers, when said were generally fairly long winded, especially on Thanksgiving and at the Christmas table.

    My Nan would usually lead the prayer. As I look back now I realize how precious those times were, but my Grandbother was a true Arkansas Lady and tended to superimpose “just” into her prayers on a very regular basis, which for a seven year old made it seem like it took an eternity.

    Lord, we just wanted to give our thanks for this meal we share today. We are just so blessed by your spirit and just so blessed with our family…

    I wish I could hear them now, but neither my mother or Nan is still with us.

    I’m a bit more infomal, I’m afraid, and just offer up a “Father, thank you for this meal.”

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  21. Amanda

    We didn’t say grace. My father had a strict Catholic upbringing which he rebelled against. He’s still rebelling now!

    Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your wonderful writing and recipes.

  22. Carolie

    Our traditional grace was:

    “Oh Lord, bless this food to our use and us to thy service, and make us ever mindful of the needs of others, we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.” My husband now asks grace at dinner, and his family’s grace is “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, let this food to us be blessed.”

    At special holidays, we join hands and sing the Doxology:

    “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
    Praise Him all creatures here below,
    Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
    Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen”

    I love singing the Doxology (to a tune called “The Old 100″) as it makes me think of my grandparents and great grandparents.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  23. Ann

    Thank you so much — your comments on table graces brought me closer to my family (here and away) as I remembered that same simple blessing we shared growing up — it DOES link us to all with whom we’ve ever broken bread preceded by that grace. My current favorite Grace Before Meals was learned from an Irish Dominican priest:

    Lord, bless this food for our use and us for Your service.
    May the food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thought to weary minds.
    May the wine restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts.
    And once refreshed, we offer again our minds and bodies, our hearts and spirits to proclaim your glory. Amen

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  24. Lydia Sugarman

    As I was reading all of these wonderful posts, I began to wonder about the expression “saying grace” and what it means. So, at reference.com I found this under Theology.

    a. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
    b. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
    c. a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces.
    d. Also called state of grace. the condition of being in God’s favor or one of the elect.

    For me, this has made “saying grace” even more special.

    I don’t know why, but, once in a while when she was feeling silly or mischievous, my mother would replace the traditional Catholic prayer with “Bless us and bind us, tie our hands behind us, and throw us in the bushes where the Devil won’t find us.”

    In memoriam -Margaret Blandford Kidwll who left us behind on March 30, 2007.

  25. bethness

    I’m a theology student, and at group meals where fellow students aside from one’s own roommates are present, singing the doxology tends to be the most common grace. There’s something very satisfying about singing the grace, and sometimes we change it up if it’s a holiday, i.e. the first verse & chorus of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” at a big group breakfast near Christmas.

    At house dinners (for the six people in this community house), the grace tends to be spoken and a bit more free-form.

    I do love that Celtic grace posted above. This whole discussion reminds me of the chapter in David James Duncan’s The Brothers K where the children in the family start giving the dinner prayer–hilarious and heartbreaking.

  26. April

    We like this because of all the different faiths in my family:

    Sing praise to the Mother Gaia
    Sing praise to the Father Sun
    Sing praise to the plants in the garden
    Where the Mother and the Father are one.

  27. April

    I learned this one at my Jesuit university:

    Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
    Who eats the fastest gets the most.
    Yea God!

    Let me add my thanks to you Elise, for your site. I’ve made so many of the recipes you’ve posted and look to you for inspiration!

  28. Dave

    Since I was in nursery school I’ve used the grace we were taught there:
    “God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.”

    I’ve been complimented on it’s brevity before and I’ve learned some shorter ones that also happen to be humorous. Some would say they border on bad taste but if sincere, I believe God would have a sense of humor about it. They are:

    “Good food, good meat, good Lord, Let’s eat.”
    “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Yay God”

  29. Carol

    Wishing you and yours a very grateful Thanksgiving. I live in Israel, am originally from Canada and have a young man from the States attached to our family….and he has a family of 4 young children. We just finished celebrating Thanksgiving at his home (I made the pumpkin pie from the recipe in your blog and it really was delicious!) The 4 children, with another 3 youngsters (and parents) who joined with us, showed us by playing out a simple play of pilgrims and Indians (natives) what would be the essence of Thanksgiving. Although we are Jewish and in Israel, we too appreciate the land and its harvest and its goodness. We too are thankful. In Israel, we celebrate Sukkot for the harvest, but Thanksgiving can show us a way to unifying peoples and lands and the greatness of it all. And when I came home, I phoned my daughter who lives in the States to wish her and my granddaughters a wonderful Thanksgiving. (She’s still in the throes of preparation!)
    There really is a unity if we can just find it!

  30. Steve

    My folks never said grace at meals – I never knew anyone did until I went to summer camp!

    My folks were religious, but they strongly believed that your faith was personal and things like public prayer (outside of church, of course) were a sin.

    It is still awkward for me when grace is said at a meal that I am a part of. I sort of mumble my way through and then hope know one notices that I don’t know the words.

    Reflecting on your thoughts about it, though, I can see how it is a healing and joining act. Thank you for opening this discussion – it may help me get over my grace-phobia! Happy Thanksgiving.

  31. Michael

    I grew up praying the same Catholic grace as you, Elise.
    Now as an adult, I regularly eat dinner with friends and their kids, and there’s an ongoing discussion as to the wording. I know it the same way you have it posted above: “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts…” but the father of the family in question contends it’s “for these Thy gifts…” Doesn’t quite make sense, does it?
    Many, many thanks to you for this blog, and for sharing yourself so graciously with your readers.

  32. Julie

    The hostess at our family gatherings always asks someone to say the blessing before we eat. My favorite is: Thank you, Lord, for the food that nourishes our bodies, and the love that nourishes our spirits.

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone – and blessing to nourish you!

  33. Jan

    There were 5 of us kids. We each had our “own” prayer and recited them from oldest to youngest at every meal. I was probably in jr. high before I knew it was called grace; we simply called them prayers. I’m 57 and just learned while reading here that a couple of those prayers are claimed by Catholics and Lutherans. How interesting; we were raised Mennonite!

  34. Josh

    I think what it comes down to is showing respect for the Creator for providing us with the blessings of life. It doesn’t matter what religion or creed one may adhere to.

    I just said grace 2 hours ago for our dinner, and all I wanted to say was “Thank you” to the Creator for providing me with my friends, my family, and the ability to enjoy each others company over a good meal.

    BTW, I enjoy Simply Recipes a lot; I copy/paste/save a lot of recipes from here for personal use. This is one site I’m thankful for. :-) Keep up the good work and Happy Thanksgiving!

  35. Emily

    Thanks for writing this, Elise. It’s good to remember that we should not only feel thankful, we should express that thanks out loud – to whomever and however we choose. In my family, we say a very simple grace:

    “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let this food to us be blessed. Amen.”

    If we’re feeling particularly grateful for something, we’ll add that at the end – today we were thankful for my parents, who are visiting from several thousand miles away.

    We don’t hold hands, and generally we all speak the words of the grace together.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  36. Phyllis Pearson

    We have always asked the Lord to bless the food He has provided, to our body so that we have the physical enabling to fulfill all He has for us.

    I have been on chemo, and I ask for the Lords blessing on all that too. That the medication fulfills His plans for my life.

    Happy Thanksgiving from a Welsh woman who lives in New Zealand. We do pray God’s blessing on your country.

  37. Greatal Sharma

    We sing a couplet in our native language Hindi before meals and another couplet after the meals. All members sing it together. i am translating it in english…….
    BEFORE MEALS……… O Lord, you are owner of all the food, this food that we eat now is your gift to us.We accept it with Absolute Gratitide.
    O Kind and loving Lord, give us good food so that we may get satisfaction and strength which leads us to do good noble deeds.

    AFTER MEALS………thank you lord, you are giver of satisfying foods. you yourself are the underlying principal reason for all tasty food.
    All great recipies and Menus are provided by you and food and merriment are all your blessing only.

  38. Randi

    We have three that we seem to alternate between. More often than not, we hold hands.

    1. Bless us, oh Lord, and these they gifts…

    2. For what we are about to receive,
    may the Lord make us truly thankful.

    3. God we thank you for this food,
    for rest and home and all things good,
    for wind and rain and sun above,
    but most of all for those we love.

  39. Sheila

    Elise and everyone,
    This is one version of the Buddhist “Five Contemplations before Meals”:

    We contemplate how precious this meal is. This food is the gift of the whole universe; each morsel is a sacrifice of life.
    As we receive this offering, we consider whether our virtue and practice deserve it.
    We contemplate our hearts, cautiously guarding them from wrongdoing, greed, and other defilements.
    We receive this food as nourishment to keep our bodies and minds in good health.
    We accept this food so we may realize the path of understanding and love for the sake of all beings.

  40. Bookwoman

    Since setting up a Google homepage I have discovered your website and check it EVERY day! I have accessed soooo many recipes from you. Thank you for sharing… you can’t imagine how grateful I am for the tips and new ways to prepare old favorites.

  41. BipolarLawyerCook

    We said grace growing up aloud, a variety of graces other people have already posted. I tend to say mine silently when I am at dinner with others, since my in-laws are all atheists. When I am hosting, I say a nonreligious grace along the lines of being thankful for friends and family. I paused yesterday to say a silent grace when I was at dinner at someone else’s house yesterday, and someone actually interrupted me while my head was bowed to ask me what I was doing. I couldn’t help but snap “trying to say grace,” which sort of ruined the attempt. It made me sad, that someone didn’t even know what I was doing.

  42. Andy

    This is what we use in Dutch.
    “Thank You Lord for Your blessing. Bless this meal to strengthen our body and soul. Thank You Lord, Amen”

  43. Gary in Massena

    It is the morning after Thanksgiving here in Massena. After a breakfast of hot coffee and leftover pumpkin pie I am catching up from staying off of the web for the holiday.

    Last night at dinner my youngest led us in our Catholic grace. Whenever we get a chance in our busy lives to sit down for a meal together we are always thankful for what we have.

    Growing up in the ideal 50′s inspired household we alays sat down together for dinner (promptly when Dad came home from work) and it as my job as the youngest to say grace.

    As I grew older, left for college, and then lived on my own I found that I soon stopped offering thanks, perhaps thinking that this was a silliness for children and also in a little bit of rebellion from my upbringing.

    I have to admit that it was after I was married and had kids that I started to really appreciate all that I have and grace again became a part of our dinner time routine.

    I am thankful for many things, the warmth and love of my family, the smiles on my childrens faces, the roof over my head, the food that we eat, and (most importantly now that winter has hit here) the heat from the radiators!

    Thanks to all and a happy holiday season!

    Gary in Massena.

  44. Dotty in NJ

    We say the same prayer your family does, except usually I would lead the prayer. But now we have grandchildren and the youngest says the blessing. Hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as ours.

  45. Robin

    As a child, we would always say, “God is great, God is good, Let us thank you for our food.” We didn’t hold hands, simply bowed our heads or folded our hands together. Or we would say “Itadakimasu” (my mother is Japanese). Now, my husband and I are raising our children in a Jewish home, so we often say a traditional blessing AFTER the meal.

  46. Shirley in Greenbrier, Ar

    As the family gathers around the table, we all bow our heads as Grace is said. Sometimes I say it. Once in a while, someone else will. Then we each get a turn to express what we are thankful for. Thanksgiving is a day of reflection. What are you the most thankful for?

  47. Mollie

    A quick thank you to everyone involved with this site. My husband and I consider it a daily resource.

    Prayer was a major part of my life growing up so it continues to be as well. Growing up we prayed before every meal and many other occasions. We typically prayed the Doxology and the “Come, Lord Jesus . . .” prayer mentioned by other Lutherans already.

    My husband typically prays the table blessing out of the Lutheran catechism:

    The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord; and Thou givest them their meat in due season; Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

    Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these Thy gifts, which we receive from Thy bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

  48. Gary Lloyd

    We said grace at all dinners growing up, all the family said it in unison. As we got older, and at special occasions, my Dad or grandfather, if he was there, would always say a blessing especially for that occasion. Since I have been an adult, I do not say grace regularly because most of my friends don’t. When given the chance, I like to say something like this: Dear Lord, we ask Thy blessings upon the food placed before us and those of us gathered around this table. Please guide and protect us all and look after all our family and friends wherever they may be… In God’s name we pray… Amen.

  49. John J. Brugaletta

    While I am pleased to see such affection for grace before meals, I feel compelled to note two discrepancies in your transcript of the traditional Catholic grace. First, the prayer begins “Bless us, O Lord,” not “oh Lord.” The “O” is part of the address, not an exclamation. And secondly, we ask the Lord to bless us and “these Thy gifts which we are about to receive,” not “for which we are about to receive.” The “for” in this context is unnecessary and irrational.

    Note from Elise: Thanks for the correction on the “O”. As for the “which” versus “for which”, my research has found that there are several subtle differences in the wording of this blessing that are widely in practice.

  50. Annie

    Our favorite blessing is actually the refrain from Tom Chapin’s Thanksgiving Day song. I’m a music teacher and we sing it in school, but it is just as nicely spoken, which our family does every Thanksgiving.

    Thanks for our health, thanks for our hearth,
    And the bounty that grows from the ground.
    With our loved ones near, we bless the year,
    That’s brought us safely ’round.

    It’s perfect for Thanksgiving.
    The entire song is wonderful and so meaningful; you should check it out when you get a chance,
    Thank you Tom Chapin!

  51. Joan Boudreaux

    Usually, my husband prays a long prayer including everything from world peace to a family problem. However, our 4-year-old grand-
    daughter, Hannah, sang a little blessing–God is great, . . . . Another wanted to say a prayer. After that, realizing the impact of these little ones offering their thanks, my husband said a short prayer of thanksgiving. I rather like this as a new tradition for all 6 grandchildren as we hold hands in prayer.

  52. Karima

    Like you,I grew up Catholic, and every evening, with bowed heads, we recited the traditional Catholic grace, as I learned it:
    Bless us Oh Lord, and these thy gifts,which we are about to receive,from thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
    Here’s the twist:
    My father’s name is John Bondi. For years, as a child, my youngest brother Joseph thought we were saying:
    Bless us Oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from John Bondi, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
    If my father was aware of this error, he sure nuff WASN’T going to correct it.

  53. Suze

    We have adopted this has our family grace after many horrible events with extended family. It is simple and includes all. “For family, food and friends we thank you Lord, Amen.” My children always add, “and God bless the cook.” We sometimes join hands and if needed we bring forward a special request but have decided that grace is grace and other needs should be prayed for at other times.

  54. Judy B.

    I am thankful to you Elise for your blog and the subject of saying “grace”. Growing up in the South, it was a given for my family to say grace at dinner. It warms my heart to read so many responses of people who practice this wonderful offering – a lot of people I know do not and when I am a dinner guest in their house, I feel something is missing (so I just say a silent prayer in my head). May we all continue to be humble and be blessed.

  55. Laurabelle

    When I was growing up, my family held hands silently for a few seconds in lieu of verbal grace. This was our way of expressing thanks that we were together for a meal. I still do this with my husband now.

    At my grandparents’ house, my grandfather would say grace, but he never used the same blessing twice. He would generally make up some little rhyme using the names of the family members who were there, and we always looked forward to hearing what he came up with this time.

  56. Michele M.

    What lovely responses to your simple post on “saying grace”. When I was growing up, and to this day with my family, we say the grace in unison:

    “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food.
    By His hands (or “hand” as my husband says!) we all are fed,
    Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen”

    My husband was raised Mormon, and prayers at family gatherings are slightly more free form, with one person chosen to lead the prayer at each meal – from about the time the children are able to put full sentences together! I love to be part of this when we visit.

  57. Deborah Dowd

    Elise, first how wonderful that you do not shy from making your faith known on your blog, and what a wonderful way to mark the national day of Thanksgiving. I learned so many beautiful and heartfelt graces through the comments of your readers. Taking a moment to be thankful every day at the evening meal is so important no matter how it is done. We usually say the grace you mentioned, sometimes we take a moment and let our family each say their own grace, or sometimes we ask someone at the table to volunteer to say grace.

    Of course, there is always the hilarious grace said at the table in the movie Home for the Holidays (one of my favorite holiday movies)after a lot of Thanksgiving family drama;

    “That was absurd
    Now let’s eat dead bird!”

    May you always have bountiful and good food, and many loved ones to share it with!

  58. Lesley

    I always ask any children present to lead us in Grace – my grandchildren say the same Grace that I and my children all said as children. it is…
    “Thank you for the world so sweet,
    Thank you for the food we eat,
    Thank you for the birds that sing,
    Thank you God for everything. -Amen”
    The adults say -
    “For what we are about to receive
    May the Lord make us truly thankful- Amen”
    Growing up and attending church teas and meals we always sang grace – which was….
    “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
    Praise Him in heaven and here below,
    These mercies bless and grant that we,
    May feast in paradise with Thee.Amen”

    The only time we say a different grace is at Christmas, when I say a personal grace which is significant to our family and friends both present and absent… this is also the only time when we hold hands.

  59. Tonie

    The grace my sister and I learned in preschool was the one we used for our whole childhoods…somewhere a long the line we stopped saying it though. I started babysitting for a family whose sons are going to the same preschool, and they got such a kick out of it when I knew their grace.

    Thank you God for food and care.
    Teach us how to love and share.
    Amen.

  60. irish

    Elise, my dear, how I enjoy your blog. You have a “grace” about you and it is reflected here in this wonderful essay on prayer before meals. Our family has always said the prayer you and your family say and we hold hands around the table … a “tradition”(of holding hands) our smaller family started years ago. I don’t think it has been passed on……but so it goes. Thank you, friend, for this Thanksgiving gift.

  61. Katherine

    I grew up Catholic in Connecticut & we always prayed the prayer you said – my father would pick one of us kids to say the prayer and it was kind of a rite of passage to be considered old enough to memorize the prayer. Now my Dad is gone & Mom usually leads us all in the prayer herself. I don’t know if everyone else remembers Dad at this time, but I always do. On holidays he would also propose a toast to the family.

    One other dinner tradition was that after every meal, he would thank my Mom for the good food (no matter how bad).

    I like the idea of singing grace as I love to sing. I will have to look for some music.

    Thanks for this post – it was a lovely Thanksgiving gift.

  62. Greg

    I just got back from my in-laws. They are devout Catholics, and generally use the same prayer that Elise wrote about. I was brought up Episcopalian, and my wife and I are now Lutheran, and we use this grace:

    “Bless this food to our use, and us to your service, and make us ever mindful and responsive to the needs of others, in Jesus’ name we pray.”

  63. MasPinaSarap

    I enjoyed this post!
    Too much today you find that people are so intimidated or embarrased or basically scared to express their religious beliefs because of the p.c. police, but there’s no reason why a person can’t express their own faith and tradition while acknowledging that of others; it’s being respectful while preserving one’s own identity.

    We also keep it simple. We thank God for the food, and good health, the hands that prepared it, and for all our family and friends and those without. Top it all off with the Sign of the Cross and it’s time to dig in.
    God Bless!

  64. Kristi

    Thank you, Elise, for this wonderful post and for sharing the gift of this web site with us. I agree that you have a grace-filled spirit about you which shines through your writing and which makes your posts a joy to read!

    Growing up in a Lutheran household and steeped in the influences of Sunday School and church summer camp, we prayed many of the same graces mentioned above (“Johnny Appleseed” was a particular favorite, and still is, especially when kids are around). Likewise, my family’s special occasion grace is the Doxology, sung while holding hands – most recently at my wedding a few weeks ago.

    My husband and his family are Catholic, and with them we generally pray your grace. But when it’s just the two of us, we simply grab hands and pray in whatever way the spirit moves us.

  65. Roxanne

    Even though my inlaws are not religious, they say a Norwegian prayer that the grandfather always recited every Easter and Christmas. The grandfather has passed away, but the prayer is still said by one of the grandchildren. They say it in Norwegian language and probably don’t understand one word that is said, but I (being a Christian) appreciate it because I researched it and found out the English version.
    The prayer is:
    In Jesus Name we sit to dine,
    To eat and drink at Your word,
    To God the honor and our gain,
    The food we eat in Jesus name.
    So even though they do not understand what they are saying, I silently say the English version and give God all the Glory.

  66. Theresa

    Hi Elise, what a great article. And what a response!! Thanks to all who left these wonderful comments about how you say Thanksgiving Grace. I had been so busy this week that I didn’t get a chance to get on the computer til this evening. Even though Thanksgiving is well over and everyone is looking on to Christmas, Thank you all for the wonderful comments you posted. What a BLESSING! You will never know how uplifting is was to read such positive feedback. HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2 All!

  67. Anna

    What a wonderful post! Like Emily posted above, we also say a traditional blessing before each meal:

    Come Lord Jesus, be our guest,
    Let these gifts to us be blessed.
    Amen.

    My husband and I both grew up in Lutheran families who both used this simple prayer at dinner time. We use it in our own family, now!

  68. Barbs

    I can remember two chants.

    God Is Great, God Is Good ,
    Let Us Thank Him For Our Food,
    By His Hand We Must Be Fed,
    Give Us Lord Our Daily Bread.

    Good Bread, Good Meat
    Good Gosh , Let’s Eat

  69. anita

    My family also says the Catholic grace you mention, but we add this as well:

    “God bless our loved ones,
    Wherever they may be,
    And may the souls of the faithful departed,
    Through the mercy of God,
    Rest in peace.
    Amen”

    It was always just something we rattled off before eating, something that tripped up visitors who expected that the first Amen was the end. But since my Dad died earlier this year, it’s been almost impossible for us to get through without someone at the table choking up.

  70. Alanna

    When I left home for the first time, it was grace that I missed most, the single moment in each day when we truly joined together, in thought as well as body. My father often concludes, “Bless this food and the hands of its preparation.” It means much.

  71. Beth

    I am just reading this post now, but have thoroughly enjoyed it. We grew up holding hands while saying the Blessing. My brother and I would alternate nights, saying,
    “Before we eat this food Dear Lord
    We bow our heads to pray,
    For Your Love and all Thy gifts
    Our grateful thanks to Say,
    Amen.”

    I just had dinner at my apartment with friends last night, and still say it aloud.
    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Elise, and thank you for all your wonderful recipes and posts!

  72. Bernice

    Hi Elise, here’s my grace my friend taught me when I was a little girl.

    “God is good and God is great, so let us thank for the food He gave. Amen”

    However, as I grow up, my grace becomes shorter, “Thanks for the food, Amen.” Somehow it’s no longer the words that matter but the gratitude I guess.

  73. Rachel

    Growing up we took turns & always said:
    “Heavenly Father Bless this food, to thy glory & thine good. Amen”

    Now we alternate between “Heavenly Father…”, “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Amen” & a free form prayer depending on the time of year, circumstances & mood.

  74. Kylene

    Growing up we would say together, “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. or Come Lord Jesus be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.” My Dad or Grandpa would say a personal prayer on holidays or family get togethers. Growing up I always felt a little awkward when eating with friends if I didn’t know their family prayer. Now my husband or I say a short free form prayer aloud before dinner.

  75. A Sarah

    To bethness, a commenter upthread: I’m a theology student too. What a coincidence!

    About the actual topic: there’s a Mennonite hymn called “God, Whose Farm is All Creation” which compares the work of a farmer to God’s creating work, with lots of harvest images. It’s very nice, but in light of more general (ahem) gender issues in Christianity it really bugged me that “men’s” work in harvesting was compared to God’s work in creation, but not “women’s” work of actually preparing the food. (Yes, I realize that there are women who farm and men who cook, but in the subculture out of which this was written, there’s a clear division of labor.) So I wrote something to the same tune. My mom and I sang it as the blessing for Thanksgiving this year, and my husband and I sing it sometimes with our kids. I’ve always thought about submitting it for publication somewhere, and so not been very public about it, but it seems right to share here. Begging your pardon for posting original work, here it is:

    God, whose kitchen is creation,we prepare our drink and meat.
    How much more you wash, prepare us. Then you bid us take and eat.

    God, whose hands have set the table, and who calls us to the feast,
    Seats together enemies, gives place of honor to the least.

    God whose guests are all your creatures, stop the hands of those who hoard.
    Lift their eyes to see your other guests, and so see You, O Lord.

    God who measures every portion, those whose shares have been denied
    You shall fill with all good things, that your name, Lord, be glorified.

    God, each day you bring us closer to the feast that has no end.
    For that feast help us to labor, hunger, thirst, prepare and tend.

  76. Mimi

    We always say the bread blessing in Hebrew and translate for guests. This prayer is always said over the Challah on Friday night–the Sabbath. There is a prayer in Hebrew to bless all kinds of foods but, the bread blessing has always stuck with us.

    “Praised are You, Ya-way, our G-d, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Amen.”

  77. Talia

    Thanks so much for this wonderful blog. I have been reading for over two years and I frequently check the updates and enjoy the recipes. This blog helped guide me through making my first Thanksgiving turkey ever.

    I don’t usually say grace before meals, unless I am with people who do, because I am an atheist. But when I gather with friends or family for a meal I like to have a toast (even if it is just with water – which I know you’re not supposed to do) to acknowledge the specialness of our gathering. I think it can lend a somehow sacramental, if secular, element to what are indeed very special occasions.

  78. Linda

    HI Elise,

    My family is Lutheran now but before we became Lutheran we created a family prayer/vesper we say together. We hold hands and say

    Dear Lord

    Thank for this day and our time together
    Be with our friends and family near and far
    Be with the people around the world.
    Take this food to nourish our bodies to do your
    will.

    In Jesus’ name we pray

    AMEN

    Elise I know its late but Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to you and your family.
    In a world that is becoming dark and negative your blog is a light of postive to shine on the darkness and definitely an interesting read!

    Peace be with you
    Linda

  79. Daneen

    Thanks for a lovely post–I always enjoy this blog. My family always said grace before every meal, but, as good Protestants, we didn’t say any of the ritual prayers of the “high church folks.” This meant we often had lengthy prayers–we timed my grandmother at just under 20 minutes once!

    However, as an adult, I’m starting to come round to the idea of saying a ritualistic prayer. I find that the older I get the more I love tradition as a way to deepen my roots.

    This post reminds me of a book I just finished that I bet readers of this site would love, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver–it gave me a new appreciation for shared kitchen and dining table rituals.

  80. carmen

    Elise,

    Thank you for sharing your delicious and healthy recipes. The stories of your family and the interesting recipes are such a delight. As I type the basil curry chicken with coconut rice is marinating. Who is the precious little boy saying Grace in your photo? We say the Catholic prayer before every meal. I was deeply touched that you included a prayer for Thanksgiving. The New Testament miracle of Jesus curing the 10 lepers and only one of the cured comes back to thank him is quite a lesson in gratitude or lack thereof. We can never thank our Lord enough.

    Very gratefully,
    carmen

  81. Kerry

    I recently married a lieutenant in the Army who hails from Iowa. As an Irish Catholic from New York, I grew up saying the Catholic grace you mentioned. My first few times visiting Ben’s family (he’s the second oldest of 7 children!), Ben’s parents would ask the older children to say grace. It wasn’t scripted and we all held hands and focused on what the individual was thankful for – whether it be the food we were about to eat or the safety of our flights across the country. With Ben currently deployed, I look back on those graces we shared and smile knowing we are all thankful for the amazing family we have become.

    Cheers to your great entry! Thank you so much!

  82. Katherine

    For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter my grandfather would say The Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns:
    SOME HAE MEAT AN’ CANNA EAT
    AND SOME WAD EAT THAT WANT IT
    BUT WE HAE MEAT AN’ WE CAN EAT
    AND SAE THE LORD BE THANKIT.

  83. Faerylandmom

    I love the blessing you say over your meals…it is beautiful. And so simple. It’s wonderful to touch the heart of God isn’t it?

    My husband and I are Christians – we don’t belong to any particular denomination – and we have 4 children, ranging from four to 4 months.

    We say a prayer before our evening meal. We always express gratitude for the food God has provided us, but we also try to include a unique prayer request or two in order to keep it from becoming merely ritual. We are trying to show the kids that God wants us to talk to Him as a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

    Thank you for sharing yours, and for opening up your comments to hear others’ traditions. :-)

  84. Amanda

    We say something my husband’s (American) family brought back from their time living in the German-speaking area of Switzerland: Ein Geute mit ein andere. Online, I only find “Ein Geute” as a standard, and it’s roughly “a good one with another” or bon appetit. It has a nice ring, and is secular. We even said it at our wedding…
    And my husband and I say it when we sit down to our own dinner table, and kind of do the thing where we all gather hands. It’s nice to feel a bit like the rest of the day is done, now we are with family…

  85. Zoe

    I’m Mormon, and it’s pretty customary to pray over every dinner. Some families do it over lunch and breakfast too, and at Mormon gatherings we always pray over the refreshments. People take turns, including the littlest kids. Everyone folds their arms, closes their eyes and bows their heads. There’s no set script, so the person praying picks the words him or herself, but the basic components are:
    - An invocation to God (“Dear Heavenly Father” or something similar)
    - Thanking God for the food
    - Asking God for a blessing on the food
    - “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen”
    And then everyone else says “Amen” afterward. You can put more in the prayer too, if you want, such as a blessing on the cook, gratitude for being together as a family, etc. Some Mormons, if they are eating in a restaurant or by themselves, will still pray over their food, just silently.

  86. Anonymous

    Great comments from everyone! Our tradition (in keeping with Matthew 6:7,8 -the verses right before the model prayer known as the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ or ‘Our Father’) is for the head of the family to say a spontaneous, though respectful and well-thought-out prayer or grace before each meal, addressing it in God’s name (Psalm 83:18). Usually keeps everyone’s focus on gratefulness, but… to share a family story: Once, when my sister and I made a casserole out of the week’s leftovers [a hideous rectangular thing with burnt mushrooms on top], Dad got about half-way thru grace, and… he tried to use the phrase ‘thank you for the fine food’ but he kept cracking up! After 3 or 4 attempts he said that if we survived dinner, he’d pray afterwards! Well, that casserole should have lasted us two days, but it was so good we gobbled it all up! To this day, we laugh every time we think of the “Oh, God” casserole!

  87. Noreen

    Re grace in SWEDISH: if anyone has this prayer in Swedish or English, please post it. (My father learned it from his mother but his recitation was by rote, as he did not speak Swedish.)

    Tak & a good Thanksgiving to you all, now and always.

  88. Neal Anderson

    I grew up in Brockton Mass. Our swedish baptist prayer sounded something like this:

    sehr a gud a signamonen namen tack

    anyone know what the correct spelling and what it means? All the ancestors are gone now.

  89. Joel W

    (Sung, hands held)

    We thank thee Lord, for Jesus Christ,
    and for the blood He shed,
    we thank thee for, His risen life,
    and for our daily bread. Amen.

  90. Anthony Deane

    My Godfather (who was a Priest) always had a great blessing:

    “Bless us Lord, and bless the food,
    Keep us in a cheerful mood.
    Bless the cook,
    And all who serve us.
    From sin and indigestion,
    Lord, preserve us!”

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  91. Arsie

    I remember saying that grace a lot as a child. Now, we have a different one that was taught to us by my aunt and uncle and their family, it was so nice that we co-opted it. ;)

    We hold* our hands and softly say, thank you for our food today. Amen.

    *We hold our hands, alternately you can say (and do!) fold our hands. I remember quite a few graces though, learned mostly at Guides. Like the Johnny Appleseed referenced above, as well as the Brown Cow grace which is also sung.

    We thank the brown cow for the chocolate milk,
    we thank the pig oink oink for the bacon on the grill,
    we thank the egg for the chicken and the chicken for the egg,
    we thank the Lord for our daily bread,
    Amen.

    And numerous others that I’m sure to be forgetting. :)

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