Most of us would agree that Thanksgiving is a season when we give a bit more time and attention to counting our blessings. We reflect more on things that matter. Even when it gets busy, the nature of the holiday makes it so that we are willing to prioritize time together, serving others, and making memories. It is the perfect time to start a new tradition!
Traditions are meant to be fun, but more than that, I want to encourage you to start traditions with a purpose. From serving others, to building healthy habits, to strengthening family bonds, I tried to come up with some less common ideas for starting new traditions. don't get me wrong, there is plenty of room for fun with these ideas! However, I also wanted to put together a list of Thanksgiving traditions that may inspire you and your family to use the time together to go a bit deeper into building things of lasting value. My heart is especially hoping that these ideas will become an opportunity for our children to learn the importance of serving and encouraging others and the joy they will experience in doing so.
Ways to Bless Others:
Open Your Home To A Guest
This might sound like something that isn't a big deal, but it can make a huge difference in the life of even one person. For a variety of reasons, not everyone gets to enjoy a Thanksgiving with family. Whether it's a college student who can't make the trip home to be with family, or the widow who no longer cooks since it's just her, why not invite someone to be a part of your family gathering?
Put Together "Thanksgiving In A Box"
In addition to inviting someone to your dinner, perhaps you have the means to purchase all the 'fixins for a family in need to have their own Thanksgiving. Do you know a single mom and her kids from down the road who might not be able to afford a traditional dinner? What about a young couple who might decide not to pull from a tight budget? Think about how much each and every holiday matters to you... The memories made while cooking and the stories told over dinner. If you have the ability to gift that to someone, consider doing so! Remember that you are building into something that is so much more precious than just one meal. By cultivating positive family experience and traditions, you are making an investment in their family root system, and the deeper it goes, the stronger they grow. Every memory matters.
Pack A Plate
If you have a lot of leftovers, you could pack a plate to share with someone who might be working on Thanksgiving and doesn't get to attend a meal gathering. Volunteer to bring it to them on their meal break at work, or to drop it off at their house when they get home.
Note: Start looking for opportunities now so that you have plenty of time to invite guests, purchase extra supplies, and allow them to plan. Ask your church for suggestions if you don't know someone in need.
Food For The Soul:
How many times to we say "I need that recipe!" only to leave without ever getting it? With multiple generations in one place, it is the perfect opportunity to have a recipe exchange and cookbook building event. Have each member of the family bring a recipe or two to contribute. Decide ahead of time how you plan to organize them. You could do typed and printed on letterhead and place them in page protectors that fit into 3 ring binders. You could get note cards and and note card boxes from the dollar store. You could make copies of a handwritten recipe—as long as it is legible! Just make sure that everyone comes prepared with the right format to copy, or enough pre-made copies of their recipes to pass to everyone. With simple materials, you can quickly, easily, and affordably build a family cookbook! Once you have it started, you can add to it each year.
Bread of Thanks
I never thought about the idea of hiding notes in food other than fortune cookies until recently... Did you know you could write on parchment paper* and tuck it inside your dinner rolls before baking!? Imagine how fun it would be for your guests find the little surprise when they pull apart their roll! (Note: Parchment paper will work best. You can use regular paper, but it will need to be wrapped in aluminum foil so that it doesn't stick to the rolls).
You could do several things with this idea:
1. Bible verses and/or quotes about gratitude and thanksgiving that each person reads to the group.
2. Conversation starters for the meal. Each person get an opportunity to share their answer to finish a statement. Things like: "I'm thankful for..." or My favorite part of Thanksgiving time is..." or "One important thing I learned this year was..."
3. Thanksgiving jokes.
4. "Would you rather" questions.
Encouraging Healthy Habits:
Go for a walk after the meal as a family. If you have a neighborhood that you can walk in, or even somewhere within driving distance, make plans to go for a walk. Designate the time so everyone knows when to be ready. My suggestion is to shoot for right after you are done with post meal clean up. This is the time when people start to think about going back for a little extra nibbling (without truly being hungry), so getting out of the house at that time is a good idea!
Back Yard Games
It can often be a challenge to keep everyone occupied until the meal comes together and all the final touches are in place. The last thing the host wants is to have people in and out of the kitchen and dining area—unless they are helping of course! So why not have a few things set up to encourage activity and keep people occupied.
Here are a few ideas:
-A game of 'Around the World' or 'HORSE' (if you have a basketball hoop)
Healthy Recipe Redo
Go through the list of holiday recipes on Dashing Dish and find a few of the healthier versions of Holiday foods and treats to make with your kids and share with your family. Lead by example that healthy food can also be delicious!
Gratitude Guessing Game
Have everyone anonymously write down something they are thankful for when they arrive on a small piece of paper and place it in a jar. Later in the day, you'll pass the jar around and let everyone pull a slip of paper from the jar. One at a time, have each person read the gratitude expression they pulled aloud to the rest of the group. Everyone (besides the reader) tries to guess who wrote it. The reader doesn't guess for a couple of reasons. First, they may recognize the handwriting, so they would have an unfair advantage. Second, if they aren't guessing, the game still works even if someone pulls their own paper from the jar.
This is a twist on having a sign-in journal. Instead of simply recording who attended, you'll have the opportunity to pay thanks to your family members! Lay a blank notebook out on a table with instructions explaining that, over the course of the day, each person will take time to write their name and a thank you letter to someone in the family (or as many people as they would like if they have more than one). The thank you letter can be as long or short as they want telling them about something they appreciated that was done for them by that person over the last year. You can then keep the journal so that they can be added to and re-read at future Thanksgivings.
Find someone with a Polaroid camera and have them bring it. Set up a place for photos with a nice background, cute props, dress up clothes, etc. Make sure that each family gets a nice group photo, but then let the random silliness ensue! Start a photo album that you can add to each year. You could even have people recreate their photos each year. Just think how fun it would be to see the photos from all the prior years with the people changing, but still posing with the same props!
Hand-print Turkey Tablecloth
No doubt you've seen the arts and craft project for kids that uses their hand-print and some finger paints to make a turkey. Use the same concept, only have all the kiddos add their turkey hand-print and their name to a plain table cloth. You could draw names to see who gets to keep it, or let the host save it and reuse each year at the kiddie table. Each year as new little members of the family go from baby seats to seats at the kid's table, they could add their print to the table cloth.
Have someone with a video camera and (some editing skills!) in charge of recording each person on their own over the course of the day. No rules apply. You could do funny interviews, serious Q&A about family memories, or whatever other ideas the group decides on. By the time Christmas rolls around, the recording can be edited and ready to give as gifts to each family member! Also, make sure to save a copy to watch next year!
What meaningful Thanksgiving traditions do you practice each year? Let us know below!