Thanksgiving Traditions

I love traditions, but I don’t really have any.

Now, with a little family of my own, I hope to start some.  Although life cycles through frequent changes and stages, family traditions can serve as sweet reminders of love’s constancy through time and across generations.

So I’m starting with Thanksgiving.  I’ve asked friends for ideas.  I’ve searched the internet for ideas.  I’ve been brainstorming while washing the dishes. 

The following are some great ideas I’d like to try out.   Maybe this year, maybe a few years down the line when the kids are older.  There may be some trial and error for some time.  The thing about tradition?  It can’t be forced.  The best traditions are the ones that are sincerely embraced and truly reflect your family, just as you are.    

Thanksgiving Family Tablecloth

Using a plain tablecloth, or even a bedsheet, have family and guests sign a section every year with fabric pens.  Include where Thanksgiving was spent that year, as well as quotes or handprints.  Or allow everyone to write a note of gratitude wherever they’d like.  Either way, wonderful memories will be captured through the years in the handwriting of those you cherish.  

Here is a lovely example of one woman’s thanksgiving tablecloth, which she embroiders afterwards to give it that extra loving touch!   I have no idea how to embroider, so I’ll be sticking to just fabric pens.  Maybe some puffy paint?

Thanksgiving Family Book

A simple journal can be used each year to record what each person is thankful for.  Share thanksgivings around the table before the meal.  Jot down answered prayers from the year in review.  You could also turn it into a bit of a family cookbook by including the favorite Thanksgiving recipes used year after year, as well as new ones that are added along the way.  If you use a large scrapbook album instead, you could include the kids’ drawings or other significant mementos from each Thanksgiving.

The Thankful Tree

The picture alone is inspirational.  My children would love the opportunity to gather sticks and actually keep them.  I doubt I’d make anything as lovely as this one by simply vintagegirl, but I love the idea of having this centerpiece around through the month of November.   The tags can then be saved in a scrapbook or in the thanksgiving family book. 

Thanksgiving Advent Calendar

I wanted to set up an advent calendar for Thanksgiving.  There are lots of inspiration out there in cyberspace.   The advent calendar can hold a special activity or small treat for each day leading up to Thanksgiving.  Or it can be used to write down a thanksgiving each day, much like the thankful tree. 

Or consider this… Use the advent calendar as a month-long letter of love to your children.  For each day on the advent calendar, tuck in a simple note that tells your child (or anyone in the family) something that you love about him or her.   This means you will need to set up the calendar in advance.  Then, for each day leading up to November, your child can open up a note.

It’d be fun to show my kids just how much I value and appreciate who they are, just as God has made them.  I so want them to know they are an incredible gift and blessing.  How often do I take the time to thank my children other than in passing for doing as I say?  I want to model the intentional act of thanking others for who they are, not just what they do.   We can be “taught” the motions and words of giving thanks, but I do believe the simple knowledge of just how loved you are can transform the heart to sincere gratitude.

Five Kernels of Corn

Place five kernels of corn on the plate before the Thanksgiving meal.  Share the pilgrims’ story of famine and drought in the early 1660’s.  Discuss what it means to have a little or a lot, and the challenges of being thankful in either context.  There are a lot of cliches during Thanksgiving .  We mindlessly think up a few things we’re thankful for and maybe make a little more effort to give or volunteer.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I do think we send a false message to our kids that a “thankful” heart comes easily.  Quite the contrary, I think my heart always tends to whine and complain, much like my children do.  I just hide it better than they do.  It is hard to be thankful, whether in riches or in want.  There is always some kernel of self-entitlement, discontent, and anxiety.  What I love about Thanksgiving is the opportunity and reminder to look honestly at the state of our heart and talk about it, not just cover it up with feel-good activities.  

Although I’m not certain about the accuracy of these accounts, I enjoyed reading this article’s explanation of the history behind the five kernels of corn.  The beauty of the message in the “Five Kernels of Corn” is the ability to adapt it to any audience, whether it’s my children or myself.  I have just as much to learn about giving thanks as my children do, irregardless of my mommy title.

 “Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year;

to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.”

– Edward Sandford Martin

What are your family’s Thanksgiving traditions?  I would love to hear your ideas!


5 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Traditions

  1. I just love the idea of Thanksgiving Family Book! I’ll buy a nice notebook and start to make it my family tradition from this year. Thanks, Yolanda!

    • Great! I’m going to do one too starting this year. I have a bunch of journals started. One records my daughter’s quotes, another records my son’s quotes. I have one where I jot down personal day-to-day blessings for myself. Now I’ll have this thanksgiving book too. 🙂 is there a point where there are just too many journals?

  2. I love these ideas. So much better than our traditions of burning the rolls, bickering with relatives, and fighting with kids over who ate enough real food to get dessert. We do always make some sort of centerpiece each year to take to Grandma’s house, last year was a pumpkin made into a turkey by glueing feathers on the back. The stem accidentally fell off, and we realized it was perfect for holding a candle! This year I think we’ll make a version of the Thankful tree.

    • You know, that’s why I don’t bake much! I lose track of time (even with the help of a timer) and inevitably something burns! 🙂 hope the thankful tree is fun for your family! I do love the pumpkin turned turkey idea. We still have an uncarved pumpkin on our doorstep – I may just borrow that idea too. Happy thanksgiving!

  3. Pingback: Four F’s for a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! « Small Town World . . .

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