Celebrating Thanksgiving and creating family traditions


Thanksgiving is one of the most beautiful occasions to share a special time with friends and family and to be grateful for all the good in our lives including each other. It was my mom's absolute favorite and she always made sure to make it special so that we would always treasure those memories. Now that my parents are no longer physically present, I am so grateful for those special times that live forever in my mind and in my heart.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to appreciate each one of us and express an attitude of gratitude for the abundance and the blessings, celebrating our old or new traditions as we share a delicious meal together.

As we go about preparing for the Thanksgiving holidays, let us pause to truly be grateful for the most important things in our lives, (which usually are not things), and maybe create some new traditions this year that we can continue to share over the years and generations to come. Let us go beyond the dinner and the meal preparation and focus more on the love and the sharing of the blessings with our loved ones and why not, extend beyond and reach out to others as well.

Pay it forward and deposit some good deeds in your bank account of blessings.

Here are some ideas for "new or old" traditions:

The Family dinner:

Avoid having distractions such as TV's, tablets or cell phones.

Have everyone share some stories of something interesting  they read or heard recently, or say something for which they are grateful for.

For religious families prayer is an important part of the dinner celebration.



Creating a Tree of Thanks – Take advantage of the fall leaves to build a Tree of Thanks. Send the kids to the back yard for a tree branch and some fallen leaves. Plant the branch in a pot filled with craft sand. As family members arrive for Thanksgiving dinner, let the kids give each person either a real leaf or a cut out leaf from paper and ask the guests to write something on the leaf for which they are thankful. Use either paperclips or Christmas tree ornament hangers to hand the leaves on the branch.



Giving to Those Less Fortunate:

Make a donation at the supermarket for the food bank.

Donate a Thanksgiving dinner for those in need. Check with your local social organizations, hospitals, hospices, senior citizen homes, places of worship or community centers for names of families in need.

Invite a neighbor who lives alone, or a friend away from home, to join your family for dinner.

Volunteering – Nothing will remind us more of how much we have to be thankful for than spending your day at your local homeless shelter serving Thanksgiving dinner.

Starting a Gratitude Book – Start a gratitude book by buying a simple journal, maybe decorating it with Autumn leaves or other Thanksgiving themes (another activity for children to enjoy) and have each family member write down one blessing from the past year. Keep the journal from year to year and have family members add new blessings or pictures every year.


Creating a Family Cookbook– Create a family cookbook by asking family members to bring a favorite recipe to Thanksgiving dinner. After the family cookbooks have been completed, give them as gifts at Christmas.

Sharing  Inspiration –Add some inspirational quotes , poems, prayers, or songs by everyone's plate.


Making Thanksgiving Dinner Together – Give everyone small jobs like cleaning , setting the table or helping with the decorations. Kids love to be involved, and this is a chance for them to participate in the celebrations. Remember that no matter how busy you are, it's all about making memories and having quality time with loved ones, so have fun!

 Sharing and Reading Stories – Read books or inspirational stories together that inspire and reinforce the idea of thankfulness and giving to those less fortunate.


Creating a Tablecloth of Thanks – Create a family tradition by having everyone sign the dinner table cloth with their name and something for which they are thankful. Use the same table cloth every year and have family members add something new every year. Be sure to use fabric markers, so that the ink doesn’t come off in the wash. Another idea is to use paper place mats and give each guest a chalk or different colored pens. For the kids have some crayons.



Taking Family Pictures – Take a family photo and have it made into a jigsaw puzzle, cards or mugs. Mail the puzzle or cards as gifts to family members who couldn’t attend, elderly family members confined to a nursing home, or to family members overseas. Or use the photos , cards or mugs  as Christmas gifts.


Making a Gratitude Box. As they hang out before dinner begins, family members are encouraged to take time to anonymously write down a few things they are grateful for on slips of paper, which are then placed in a decorated shoe box , Kleenex box or a large gratitude jar. Later on as the family eats dessert, the box is passed around the table and each person draws a slip and reads it aloud until the box is empty. The fun comes when guessing who wrote what.



Sharing the gift of music or poetry:

If anyone in the family plays an instrument or can sing some songs or read poetry, encourage them to bring their instruments or poetry to enjoy after dinner.

Planning some games or activities:

Have some table games available or depending on the weather, you may want to to have a fire or a few candles and sit outside in the evening.


Make it a memorable day and above all have fun!




The art of Manliness, Brett & Kate McKay. 2013. 60+Family traditions ideas. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/10/16/60-family-tradition-ideas/. [Accessed 10 September 2016].

Families with Purpose. 2016. Family Activities and Traditions for Celebrating Thanksgiving. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.familieswithpurpose.com/family-activities-and-traditions-for-celebrating-thanksgiving/. [Accessed 10 September 2016].

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Published by Amira Carluccio