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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year and there is nothing I love more than Thanksgiving traditions. You and your family likely have favorite Thanksgiving traditions that you make sure to incorporate into Thanksgiving every year. Those tried and true traditions are the backbone of many of our favorite holidays and rites of passage. They are touchstones in a world that often seems chaotic and unpredictable. They are as vital to the day as the turkey and the cranberry sauce.
But traditions should also be fluid and adaptable. As new family members enter our circle, as addresses change, and as family members grow up or grow old so too should the traditions. Keep the traditions that are working and bring joy and build memories this holiday. But also if some Thanksgiving traditions feel stale or inapplicable this year, try something new. Check out the list below for some great ideas to make this Thanksgiving into a holiday to remember.
Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.Randy Pausch
Thanksgiving Traditions at Home
- Invite someone who might be celebrating the holiday alone to the meal — If you know someone who is alone on Thanksgiving, give them a seat at your table. One more pair of hands doing dishes and putting away leftovers will make light work of the cleanup process.
- Make a gratitude tree — This idea can be as time-intensive and creative as you want or don’t want to be.
- Create a special Thanksgiving morning traditional breakfast — How about an Overnight French Toast Casserole? Or make it super simple and visit a diner that’s open on Thanksgiving morning.
- Play a gratitude game — Simply hand out squares of paper and give everyone a few minutes to write something that they are thankful for and then place all the papers in a jar. During dinner take turns picking one of the pieces of paper and reading it aloud. Let everyone try to guess who wrote it.
- Use a gratitude journal — Any notebook or journal will do. Just leave it out during the day’s festivities and give everyone the opportunity to add a grateful thought or two to the journal. You can choose to read journal entries after dinner from this year or years past and reminisce about old memories.
- Remember loved ones who have passed — This can take a few forms: leave an empty chair and place setting with a place card for a loved one who isn’t at the table this year. Make a toast to loved ones who have gone. Or just share favorite memories of Grandma and her famous pumpkin pie.
- Break the wishbone — You don’t need to wait days for the wishbone to dry, just pop it in the dishwasher and make it part of the Thanksgiving celebration. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can create a wishbone scavenger hunt.
- Celebrate everyone’s birthday on one day — If your family is spread out and only sees each other on special days (like Thanksgiving) you have likely missed celebrating multiple birthdays together. Bake a cake and have plenty of candles on hand and sing “Happy Birthday” to each member of the family and let them blow out their candles.
- Write thank you cards to someone who has touched your life this year — A stack of thank you cards, envelopes, pens, and stamps make it easy for everyone to spend just a few minutes writing a note expressing thanks.
Thanksgiving Traditions Out and About
- Have a Thanksgiving picnic — If you are looking to move Thanksgiving outdoors, and the weather is nice, how about a picnic?
- Volunteer — There are many opportunities to volunteer in your community during the holidays. This one may take planning ahead of time and maybe you could be of even more service volunteering the day AFTER Thanksgiving!
- Run in a turkey trot — If your group is feeling athletic, there are any number of Thanksgiving day “turkey trot” races to run in on Thanksgiving morning.
- Play football — We all know there is plenty of football to watch on TV on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening. But how about getting the crew off the couch and into the yard to play a friendly game of touch football? You’ll work off a few calories and maybe make some extra room for pie.
- Take an after-dinner walk — If you aren’t ready for anything too strenuous after a Thanksgiving feast, a quiet walk around the neighborhood may be the perfect time to reconnect with a distant cousin or a new in-law. Plus walking is good for digestion.
Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to reflect on the abundance of our lives, connect with family and friends near and far, and just take some time to enjoy being together with our loved ones. It’s not as commercialized as other holidays and it’s just the perfect time to slip in a tradition or two to celebrate a bounteous and prosperous year. So dust off an old Thanksgiving tradition that may have fallen by the wayside, re-commit to keeping up with a family favorite, or try something new and make Thanksgiving a holiday the family will be talking about all year long.
Share your favorite family Thanksgiving tradition in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!