Songs of Thanksgiving

Nov 23, 2014 | 8:10 PM



I was at a dinner party last night at which everyone was reminiscing about the Thanksgivings of their childhoods.


Stuffing with apricots and chestnuts was longed for by one raconteur as if he were Proust; turkeys dressed with white doilies on their ankles were applauded; one woman recalled the Spode china on which her grandmother served the majestic meal, while the gentleman to my left regaled us with descriptions of candied yams and sweet potato soufflé topped with marshmallow.


Thanksgiving Spode serving dish

When I mentioned that I loved singing Thanksgiving songs most of all, I was met with a set of stares the likes of which may have damaged a more tender soul.


“Didn’t you all sing?” I asked.

“Sing what?” asked the gentleman of the candied yam and sweet potato-filled youth.

“Who could sing with so much food in their mouths!” joked a woman who’s aunt was famous in three counties for her pecan pie.

“Didn’t any of you sing ‘We Gather Together’?” I asked.

I was met with vacant stares.

“How about ‘Over The River and Through the Woods’?”

“Isn’t that a Christmas tune?” asked Mr. Apricot and Chestnut stuffing.

“What about ‘This Land Is Your Land’ or ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’?” I persisted, though I ascertained by then that I would be on my own. “‘God Bless America’?” I tried. “‘America the Beautiful’??”


It was then that I realized how musical my upbringing was, and how deeply grateful I will always be for the emphasis my clan put on celebrating with song.


Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and kids reenacting the story of the von Trapp family singers in “The Sound of Music”

I’ve always felt happiest singing. And singing for no other reason than to express gratitude– what could be better?

Last Thanksgiving, my nephew even introduced me to a new Thanksgiving song called This Pretty Planet. I had all my guest singing a round before any of them new what was happening. Once they realized the beauty of their own voices, they carried on singing long into the night.

A holiday doesn’t actually feel like a holiday for me unless there’s singing involved. Singing is so celebratory, I find myself depressed when surrounded by folks who, for whatever reason, don’t, or worse, won’t.

One particular bleak year in my own life, way back when I was a teacher at an inner city school, I wrote this song for my kindergarden students. As far as I know, they still sing it every Thanksgiving at PS 64! It was recorded as a favor (just for my archives and not for any professional purposes) by my good friend, Dana Parish. . Maybe you know some kids this would speak to? Maybe it will inspire you to write your own!

Here are some of my favorites. What are yours? Do you sing around your thanksgiving tables?

And to my companions at last nights dinner, well… I have one word to suggest to you all: SING!



Much love as always,



10 thoughts on “Songs of Thanksgiving”

  1. Bruce Thomas     Reply

    Cute song! We deal with Thanksgiving with prayer over the meal. Family togetherness kicking soccer ball, tossing football or passing volleyball plus a little NFL and cocktail action before the meal. I save singing for Advent and Christmas season.

    • Isabel Rose     Reply

      I left out the touch football game we always play. I love a good prayer. I’m really just for ceremony and “occasion.” Thanks, as always, for being party of the conversation.

  2. Robert     Reply

    Didn’t any of the other people at dinner ever watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”? They sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” as they leave to go to his grandmother’s condo for dinner!

    • Isabel Rose     Reply

      Seriously! What was wrong with them!!!!????

  3. jcmmanuel     Reply

    You are funny. I heard a couple of your songs today on YouTube for the first time – at first sight I thought “oh gosh, old style pop?” but the funny thing is that it was… well, funny, you know? Made me feel kind of happy. And it isn’t “old style”, it’s just music with some more roots in decennia that seem long gone in our fast-lived societies. Add to this a rational mind (yeah, it’s popular today and I’m an easy target for this) and it may be clear that when I say you are “funny” I’m not referring to entertainment but to some kind of real inner joy – like the laughter in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. There is a lot of hard music that I love (everyone needs catharsis sometime) and then I may want some more elevated things (if necessary, I’d even rummage around to find my Hildegard von Bingen CD) but your songs are somewhere in the middle of all of this – I suddenly felt like normal again today (which is pretty abnormal for me). So thanks for the twitter invite and the songs. You made my day today.

    • Isabel Rose     Reply

      Hildegard! Now there’s a name you don’t come across much! Of course I know her because I lapped up every word of Intimate Nights, by James Gavin, which chronicles the world of cabaret from its origins through about the 1980s. Lovely to know I’ve touched you in some way. Glad, always, to meet a kindred soul.

  4. Paul     Reply

    Johnny Cash’s, Thanksgiving Prayer, is a great one, too. My third graders wouldn’t listen to any of these songs unless they added a hip hop beat, or were sung by a bunch of adolescent boys, no matter how I try and get them to listen to other genres.

  5. Bruce Thomas     Reply

    I often think that Thanksgiving gets short shrift due to over commercialism (and secularism (yes, I know Christian viewpoint)) of Christmas. By October 25th, it seems all the Halloween stuff is down and Christmas stuff is up. Where is the opportunity to recognize and have a day of thanks? As to the lack of singing, who knows. Maybe it is raps fault. 🙂

  6. Robert Burrows     Reply

    there was a thanksgiving song we sang in school and I just can’t find it anywhere on the web it was my favorite and went like below – ever here of it?
    We give thanks this thanksgiving
    for the life we are living
    for this bountiful harvest of ours we pray
    will be shared by everyone, everywhere some day
    We’re thankful for rain that falls to earth, the earth that’s ours to sow,
    …. that needs to grow – wants to grow

  7. Matt Forrest     Reply

    I agree. If I couldn’t sing, my head would probably explode! And there are so many songs to sing for Thanksgiving – including one you didn’t mention, “Jingle Bells!” (originally titled, “One Horse Open Sleigh”) Most folks don’t realize it was never intended to be a Christmas tune.

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