Thankful Family Traditions

My husband and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for our families since the year we got engaged (10 years ag0). It was always a fun day for me, full of work and play. We snacked on olives and appetizers, set the table together, ate a big meal, cleared the table, and played board games into the evening. It was great.

We did the same thing year after year. It was tradition.

And then my mom died from pancreatic cancer. Our traditions all got tossed in the air.

I can’t handle making Thanksgiving dinner without my mom coming over to make the gravy and bark orders about the bird and the potatoes.

I just can’t.

I think we have a new tradition now. We went out to eat last year with my husband’s family, and my kids thought that was a fine way to spend the holiday. It’s not my preference, but then, nothing seems to fit anymore.

Despite my feelings about the actual day of Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for. My husband and I have created several thankful traditions that remind our family of the spirit of the holiday (especially leading into the greediness that often rears its ugly head during the Christmas season). Your family could easily do these on Thanksgiving day or the week before or after.

1. Read about the first Thanksgiving.

I1400320399.jpgt wasn’t like you learned in elementary school. The pilgrims didn’t invite the Native Americans to join in a big feast to celebrate their hard work. Well, they sort of did, but there’s a lot more to the story. Check out Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving for the whole story. Long before the first Thanksgiving, God was at work orchestrating a miracle. This book tells an amazing story about our BIG God. Don’t miss it.

2. Make a thankful poster.

Take a piece of poster board or foam core, write THANKFUL or GRATEFUL in the middle in your fanciest handwriting, and hang a marker on it in a prominent space in your home. Encourage your family and your guests to get involved by writing what they’re thankful for and even by drawing little pictures or pasting pictures from magazines.  When you’re finished, take a photo of the poster to keep for posterity, and compare the posters over the years to see what changes and what stays the same.

3. Make a thankful tree.

Along the same lines as the above, get some pre-cut paper or felt leaves, write what you’re thankful for on them, and tape them to a paper or felt tree on a door, wall, or window.

4. Say 3 things you’re thankful for at dinner.

It doesn’t have to be a Thanksgiving dinner (although you can do it then, too), but share your blessings with your family on a regular basis.

5. Give back.

Make a point of sharing your blessings in November, whether you’re donating food to a food bank or giving your time to an elderly neighbor. Help your children to see that being blessed means sharing what you have!

Do you have any Thanksgiving family traditions? We’re always looking for new ways to celebrate all the ways God has blessed us, so we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Tara Ziegmont is a homeschooler, former high school astronomy teacher, Certified Writing Specialist, and software Project Manager. She has blogged at Feels Like Home since 2007, where she helps women to celebrate their beautiful, messy lives. Tara and her husband are raising two crazy daughters (ages 8 and 4 1/2) and live an old-school back-to-basics frugal lifestyle near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Website URL: