Rumi’s Thanksgiving Poem | Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

Noosh jan B Persian illustration calligraphy digitalThis illustration is a digital calligraphy of the Persian word “noosheh jaan”, a word which you may have noticed I use to sign off on recipes, which literally means “may it be delightful to your being/soul”, a veritable florid mouthful in translation, but one that in common parlance simply expresses the sentiment of: “bon appetit” or “enjoy your meal.” Iranians pronounce this to the gathering at large before beginning to eat – be it an ordinary family meal or an elaborate dinner party, and I thought it might be an appropriate sentiment to anticipate the culinary feast of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in the U.S is a lovely national holiday centered around food, togetherness, and gratitude – celebrated on the last Thursday in November with a festive meal with one’s family and close friends. The roots of the holiday are traced to an event commonly called the “First Thanksgiving” when the Pilgrims threw a feast to give thanks for the bounty of their first harvest in the New World in 1621 — inviting 90 Wampanoag Native Americans to join them in celebratory festivities lasting 3 days. New settlers in a new world, grateful for surviving, grateful for the kindness of the native inhabitants, all breaking bread together. One can only conjecture about the exquisite, heightened emotional nature of such an event.

One can also rightly wonder about the delicious food the Pilgrims served. The menu is historically recorded to have included waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash and wild turkeys. A roasted turkey (the bigger the better it seems; the ceremonial carving of which is an integral part of the holiday ritual) remains the formidable centerpiece of a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner; with goose, duck, and the tofu-turkey vegetarian concoction as alternatives. Cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie are the basic, traditional side dishes – and let’s not overlook the stuffing, which is quite often the most delectable and sought-after delicacy at the table.

I wish I had a photo of our first Thanksgiving meal. When we first left Iran and moved to the U.S. my mom went through an intense period of ferocious homekeeping. She knitted, she sewed, she cooked. She clipped and collected recipes galore and made yogurt, feta cheese, jams, jellies, pickles, preserves, pizza dough, pie crusts, you name it, from scratch; and she embraced Thanksgiving and all its accoutrements with vim, vigor, zeal and zest. Which is not surprising really – come to think of it. Our first year in a new world felt like such a battery of emotions not unlike being shipwrecked at times — exile is a historical punishment for a good reason, it is extremely painful — and food and togetherness are anchors and safe harbors. Our first Thanksgiving was a gorgeous bountiful spread – my mother’s crusade of delicious soldiering-on. Of re-building a home. I took it for granted then and it is only in retrospect that I have the wisdom to admire her resilience and strength.

illustration vector home turkey pumpkin pie thanksgiving Fig Quince

At some point, I’d love to share some of my mom’s by now tried-and-true family classic Thanksgiving recipes as well as some of our new Persianized concoctions; but for now, let’s conclude with this feast of a poem about giving thanks and thanksgiving by the revered Persian poet and mystic, the one and only Rumi.

Rumi’s Thanksgiving Poem

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the hearth of the Beloved.

Abundance alone brings heedlessness,
 thanksgiving gives birth to alertness.
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging.

Jalal Ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

    Patch of New York sky the day after Hurricane Sandy

Patch of New York sky the day after Hurricane Sandy

Happy Thanksgiving!

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46 thoughts on “Rumi’s Thanksgiving Poem | Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

  1. Amazing sky picture..frightening. Thanksgiving fare is not in my remit as I’m English and living in France. I have a bad feeling that I would get as bored with it as I do with traditional Christmas fare. Roast turkey and the trimmings is just about as boring as food ever gets. I’m looking forward to reading some of your mother’s Persianised recipes:)

    • I hear you. Some elements of it, i.e the stuffing (which one never consumes otherwise the rest of the year) is pretty spectacular. I love the cranberry sauce as well, but the turkey: meh! can totally live without.

    • Happy Thanksgiving Stefano to you and Francesca and your family (including Her Majesty of course!)
      I am hoping Francesca will do a post about your Thanksgiving party which I’m sure will be fabulous.

  2. Thank you for sharing the beautiful poem. I enjoy hearing about your mother and your transition to Thanksgiving. I suppose turkey sounds bland to some, but all the traditions that have arisen around this centerpiece makes it very interesting indeed! Every region and culture brings new side dishes and main dishes to the party! (I’ve been a vegan for only two years, and I’m still working on building a new tradition.) Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    • I don’t care for the turkey as food but I agree that it wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving dinner without one with all the fuss of procuring one, preparing one,ooohing an aaahing over it, and then of course carving it. And what would stuffing be w/out turkey? Homeless! 😉 A vegan Thanksgiving sounds like a challenge … would be very interested in the recipes you’re using and traditions you’re building around it!

      Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Very well said Susan. Although the turkey is the table centerpiece, it sometimes doesn’t make it on my plate. Too many other good eats. Happy veggie hunting for your new tradition.

  3. Have a great Thanksgiving, Azita! I don’t celebrate it over here. And have only been to Thanksgiving once, in Houston. So odd to be outside in their (spotless) yard sipping drinks, it was that warm. And yes, post your Mothers recipes!

  4. OMG, Azita you brought some nostalgic memories back. I was in the US for quite some time when many Iranians emigrated to the USA. Because there were not many Iranian grocery stores or ingredients, all the ladies became super ‘kadbanous’ and they were (and still are) very good at it. Now the convenience is in abundance and we can get almost anything we need.
    As always, I enjoyed reading your post. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and I wish a lovely and delicious day, to you and yours! 😀

  5. Your mother sounds like a wonderful, resilient woman Azita! That first year or so in a new country can be emotionally tough, in so many different ways, particularly when your first priority is to make sure that your children are happy and settling in to their new way of life. I look forward to seeing some of her recipes when you get a chance! 🙂

  6. What a beautiful, beautiful poem. I’m going to echo everyone else’s comments in saying that your mother sounds like a beautiful, wise, strong woman. I’m glad that you’ve carried the food traditions of your family forward… a Persianised Thanksgiving menu must be incredible!! I always love reading every one of your posts Azita. You put so much thought and the richness of emotion into everything you write. I love it. Thanks and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! xxx

  7. Azita, thank you for sharing Rumi’s poetry. Very supportive to one’s being. Loved hearing about your mother’s energy and resolve. My mother, being Italian, sometimes served lasagna alongside the bird. It is the best holiday, centered around family and friends, and not gifts. Enjoy your family and feast! Thanks for the tip about noosheh jaan. I’ll listen for this at the next Persian meal.

    • We do, we really do. If only we could be aware of it during our daily lives. Reminds me of the first lines of a poem by e.e.cummings: “i thank You God for most this amazing
      day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
      and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
      which is natural which is infinite which is yes”

      But anyhow: thank you dear Sandra!

  8. As always so lovely and thoughtful. I can’t wait to hear about your Thanksgiving supper. Do you celebrate it in it’s tradition or would you modernize/persianize it I’m curious. How ever you do enjoy it and Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your family.
    cin cin.

    • We’re doing a potluck at my sister’s this year. Pretty much it’s always a traditional one with Persian touches (like serving mixed-rice) and some Persianizing touches too. I’ll try to at least post pix if possible.
      Happy Thanksgiving!!!

    • Tara, what a generous sentiment, I really appreciate it! Thank you! I’d love to publish (before I perish) but no one’s knocked at my door yet, but hmmm, guess I’d better start knocking on some doors.

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