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For so many of us, last Thanksgiving was a virtual holiday. We had dinner in our small pandemic bubble or perhaps alone. After the meal, or perhaps even during it, we powered up our laptops for a Zoom conference with friends or family.
We crowded in tight to fit everybody on the screen, and made somewhat awkward conversation, and waved into the camera, and maybe raised our glasses for a long-distance toast.
In short, we made do.
It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t the same. And so this year, many of us are looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday more than ever before.
We’re excited about making and sharing our favorite family recipes, the dishes that have appeared on our tables year after year. We’re excited about watching the parade, or the big game, or the dog show. We’re excited about turkey, and cranberry sauce, and tucking into that second slice of pumpkin pie.
But more than all that, we’re over the moon excited about being able to gather again. In fact, we’re more than excited, we’re grateful. So, so grateful.
If you’re looking for meaningful ways to express that gratitude, check out these eight ideas for activities and Family Thanksgiving Traditions to put some extra thanks into your Thanksgiving.
Creating a gratitude tree has been part of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions for years. Dinner guests write the things they’re grateful for on construction paper leaves and hang them by ribbons onto a branch.
It’s a fun activity the whole family can participate in. Check out my post from a couple of Thanksgivings past to see how you can make your own gratitude tree.
A wish tree is similar to a gratitude tree. However, instead of writing down what they’re grateful for this year, guests write down things they’re wishing for in the coming year.
Won’t it be fun to gather again next Thanksgiving and see how many of those wishes became causes for celebration and gratitude?
This is a fun way to teach little guests about the importance of gratitude and keep them busy while dinner is cooking.
Cut yellow, gold, orange, and red construction paper into one-inch by five-inch rectangles. After guests write down what they’re grateful for, glue the short ends of the rectangles together to create paper chains. When the chain is long enough, use these gratitude garlands to decorate the Thanksgiving table.
Gratitude Jar: Family Thanksgiving Traditions for the Whole Year
Gratitude jars are a wonderful way to nourish a grateful heart all year round. Leave a jar, slips of colored paper, and a pen out on the kitchen counter and write down little blessings and causes for thanks all year long. It’s fun to watch the jar fill up!
And it’s even more fun to empty that jar on Thanksgiving Day, read all those little notes aloud, and count your blessings!
Notes of Thanks
An example of how Family Thanksgiving Traditions can extend beyond the holiday, this note brings the feelings of gratitude at the event and appreciation after. Provide each guest with a pretty notecard, a pen, and an envelope when they arrive. While waiting for dinner to be served, guests can take a few minutes to write a note of thanks to someone they are grateful for. Gather up the notes after dinner and mail them the next day.
If you’re entertaining a crowd, a gratitude candle ceremony can be a memorable and meaningful way to end the meal and another of many Family Thanksgiving Traditions to bring in.
Distribute small, handheld candles with drip protectors (such as these) to all the guests and turn out the lights. The host lights her candle, expresses gratitude for something or someone, then uses her candle to light the candle of the person sitting next to her, and so on around the table.
By the time everyone is finished, the room will be glowing with gratitude and good memories.
Gratitude Tablecloth – Unique Family Thanksgiving Traditions
This is a fun and simple family tradition that gets better every year. Provide a selection of colorful fabric markers and ask guests to write their name, the year, and something they’re grateful for on the tablecloth that will be used only on Thanksgiving.
Bring it out year after year and see how gratitude keeps growing!
In addition to those packets of leftover turkey, give each departing guest an attractive notebook and a pen so they can begin keeping a gratitude journal. A simple spiral notebook does the trick, and craft stores often have cute, affordable notebooks on sale, or you can purchase some online. Here’s a set that I love!
Gratitude journals don’t have to be expensive, but helping someone make gratitude a habit might be the most priceless gift you could ever give!