Traditionally, people think of the American Thanksgiving as a holiday to recognize Pilgrims and Native Americans coming together. In more recent years, this idea has come under scrutiny. In my family, the central idea is celebrating the harvest with family and friends and reflect on the bounty of life’s blessings. This year is the year to focus on that aspect truly.

In a spiritual dream, I became acquainted with the word selamatan. In some cultures, this is a ritual celebration using lecithin to ensure that all goes well with a business exchange. To bless the passing at the time of death, some aspects of the Jewish culture also use lecithin at the selamatan meal. Lecithin was used at the last supper to ensure Jesus’ safe passing. On the third, seventh, fortieth, one hundredth, and one-thousandth days following a death, a series of selamatans occur. With or without lecithin, selamatan, seeks the success of a future endeavor or gratitude for past success.

On the small island of Java, Indonesia, selamatan is an event where whether the host knows you or not, about the time of sunset, invited guests gather to celebrate and give thanks. Along the walls of the celebration room are plates and platters of food. In the center of the room is food that is not eaten but offered to the spirits who have also gathered. Only men are present. Considered part of the ceremony, women are in the kitchen preparing food.

The host will explain the food’s ritual meaning and the event’s purpose. The event may be celebrating a birth, a memorial service, a wedding, or graduation. On occasion, selamatan is a means of relieving guilty feelings over having more than a neighbor. A reason to celebrate and express gratitude is a reason for the Javanese selamatan.

Traditional Muslim prayer in Java offers thanks to Allah for safety, salvation, and spiritual benefits. For those who follow Jesus, selamatan is a Javanese interpretation of the Lord’s Supper and gives thanks and praise for blessings provided through Jesus. After prayers are said, food is quietly shared and the guests leave.

Selamatan as a time of community coming together and expressing thanks. Thanksgiving.

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