5 Ways to Make Family Traditions for Thanksgiving

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Think back on all the Thanksgivings of your past. What do you remember most? It’s not whether the gravy separated, the turkey was dry, or the pecan pie got a little too crispy. You remember the time spent with family, the joy of coming together to cook all of the delicious dishes in the kitchen, and all the traditions that made those holidays so special. This year, don’t let Thanksgiving turn into just a mad dash to get the turkey prepared in time – spend time building the family traditions that your children will remember for years to come.

Tip #1: Get everyone involved.

Thanksgiving lineups often include family members of all ages, but whether you have grandparents or toddlers in attendance, everyone can bring something “to the table.” Try out some of these creative ways to get the entire group involved.

Everyone

If you divide and conquer, you’re much more likely to get everything done on time. Before the big day arrives, ask each family member to pick a can’t-live-without side dish, and then have him or her bring along the recipe and ingredients, and help you make it! Or, if the family member wants to make it at home, he or she can bring it along, potluck style. 

Young and Elder Guests

Ahead of the meal, keep the children busy setting the table. They might have fun rolling the napkins or writing place cards for each guest’s spot. You can even get creative and give them a (not-too-messy) craft idea to complete at the kids’ table. For the elderly guests, ask them to offer a prayer or read scripture for the group. At the end of the meal, they also could serve the dessert. 

Anyone who isn’t cooking

Task the not-so-culinary-inclined family members with facilitating outdoor game ideas to entertain the children. Who doesn’t love to throw a football around in the crisp air and fall sunshine? 

Cleanup Crew

Anyone who isn’t busy looking after the children, setting the table, or whipping up his or her famous dish in the kitchen is on the clean-up crew. Offer a prize to the fastest to volunteer to wash and dry dishes. Tell guests to pair up into teams of two, and the team that can wash and dry the most dishes in a predetermined amount of time wins – each team alternating until the dishes are completed. The winner gets a nap, or maybe the first serving of dessert!

Tip #2: Express your thanks.

This is the tradition with the most impact. Find the one that fits your family best. Most Christian families join hands and pray together to give thanks on this day. It’s the season for gratitude, and sharing what we are thankful for connects us all.

Scripture

Before the meal, ask your guests to bring their favorite scripture that reminds them of the season. Go around the table, and let everyone read their chosen scripture and explain what it means to them. 

Blessings Tablecloth or Book

Purchase a paper tablecloth or designate a blank book in which everyone can write down what they are the most thankful for that year. The tablecloth can be brought out and added to every year, and every Thanksgiving, the family can reflect on the messages from past years and appreciate the new year’s blessings. Alternatively, if there’s no time to pull together everyone’s favorite scriptures for a tablecloth or book, everyone can go around the table and take turns reflecting on the blessings in their lives and what they are the most thankful for. 

Tip #3: Get everyone moving.

After everyone has eaten their fill of turkey and sides, suggest a few of these options to get some much-needed exercise and fresh air.

Head Outdoors

Play touch football, whiffle ball baseball, or enjoy a hike or walk (take the family pups, if applicable!). An outside-of-the-box option is “turkey tag.” Attach decorated clothespins to the children’s shirts, and have them play a game of tag in which the objective of the first one to grab all the pins wins. 

Play Games

If the weather keeps you indoors, try a “turkey shoot.” You’ll need toy Nerf guns and four helium balloons with strings and weights. On each balloon, have the best artist draw a turkey with a permanent marker and a 5, 10, 15, or 25 on it (one balloon for each number). Mark off a starting point about 10 feet away from the balloons. Designate someone to keep score, and take turns trying to rack up the most points with each Nerf shot. Or if everyone is too stuffed to move, turn the TV off, grab a board game and sit down with your family. A little friendly competition makes for a wonderful holiday tradition!

Tip #4: Remember others.

Thanksgiving means both thanks and giving. Don’t forget about the people you may know who may not be able to spend time with their loved ones over the holidays. Even a small gesture could mean everything to them on Thanksgiving. 

Invite a friend

For those who don’t have family around or cannot travel home to see theirs, an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner could mean the world. Think about who in your life this might be. It could be a college student, a widow, a coworker, or even a young couple who’s new to town – invite him or her over to be a part of your family’s celebration.  

Drop off a treat

Package up remaining slices of pie or cookies and head out for a “hot chocolate walk.” Deliver the goodies to neighbors and friends while sipping on some hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. Dropping off treats will put smiles on everyone’s faces while sharing joy and gratitude with your community. You could also deliver tasty leftovers to the hardworking civil servants at the local firehouse or police station. 

Embrace the season for giving

Have your kids donate a box of toys to a local charity for children spending Thanksgiving in the hospital or a shelter. Leading up to Thanksgiving, there are also ways to donate canned goods to families in need.

Tip #5: Make it memorable.

Thanksgiving revolves around family. And your family is unique – this year, start making your own unique traditions. 

Capture the moments

Take a family photo each year (and better yet, designate a family member to serve as photographer for the day). Whether of the kiddie table, the frenzied prep in the kitchen, or the games going on outside, capture the memorable traditions on film to look back on year after year. You could even create a photo book with recipes from each year.  

Award Prizes

Does each family member bring a dessert or side? Vote on the best, and award a prize! 

Include Family Members Who Couldn’t Make It

Thanks to Facetime and Skype, it’s easy to contact the relatives we love that couldn’t make the trip for Thanksgiving. (Consider synchronizing meals using Facetime; this way the entire family can pray together online.) 

Comments for 5 Ways to Make Family Traditions for Thanksgiving

M.G.:
January 28, 2022

Sadly, we live in a broken world with many broken families. I homeschooled my 3 children from preschool, kindergarten , to 12th-grade graduation. Because of the distance in age between them, it was 22 years of homeschooling. Now, with a broken and divided family and broken hearts, and extended family all passed away, ideas for Thanksgiving traditions often don't fit. I'm sure there are far too many Christian families facing a hard time during the holidays with brokenness as well. Starting new traditions is important , that don't revolve around memories of those years that are gone with the members that choose to be sperate now.

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