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Expressing Thanks at Thanksgiving: Traditions That Put Thanks Into Your Thanksgiving

Many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with a traditional holiday feast – turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and delicious cakes and pies. And after everyone is stuffed, the family gathers around the television for several hours of football. Is this the real spirit of Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving was originally set aside as a day to be thankful for the establishment of a new country and government known as America. Since that time, the true meaning has become secondary to other family and cultural traditions. This Thanksgiving, why not consider starting a few new traditions. The following ideas will help you and your family put the “thanks” back into your Thanksgiving.

1. Create a Thanksgiving Tree – Begin by drawing or using construction paper to create a bare tree. Now cut leaves from your construction paper, use yellows, oranges, greens and browns. As family members come in the door, give each of them one or more leaves and ask them to write on it what they are thankful for. Collect the leaves in a bag. At the end of the evening, a designated person(s) can read the leaves and then attach them to the tree with glue. Hang up your Thanksgiving Tree for all to see. Have the tree laminated or framed, and it can become a wonderful keepsake. It can also be used as part of the décor for next year’s Thanksgiving celebration.

2. Patriotism – Remembering that Thanksgiving originally celebrated the creation of a new government, Thanksgiving is a great time to express patriotism. Whether one agrees with war or not, one great tradition would be to come together to make “Thank You” cards for the troops serving overseas. To prepare, have lots of construction paper, rubber/craft stamps, glue, scissors, glitter, stencils and other artistic items on hand. Family members of all ages will enjoy this project.

3. Thoughts of Thanks – Put together a bag of thoughts or expressions. These might be something like – my family, my home, what I’m most thankful for, my favorite things, etc. Each family member pulls a thought or expression and expounds on that thought. For example, if someone pulls “my family”, they can then express what they are most thankful for about their family. This activity can make for a wonderful time of sentiment.

4. Charitable Act – Your family might begin a tradition of coming together and doing a charitable act on Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas:

  • Serve Thanksgiving dinner as a family at your local mission.
  • Coordinate your own food drive. Have everyone collect canned/non-perishable items and bring them to the Thanksgiving dinner. Deliver the box(es) of food items to a local food pantry.
  • Make Christmas ornaments, door decorations or centerpieces for a local nursing home, assisted living or adult foster care center. Be sure to get permission along with guidelines from the administrator(s) before beginning this project.
  • Adopt a Family Member – If you know of someone who might be alone on Thanksgiving, your family could adopt that person for Thanksgiving. Invite them to dinner, include them in all of the other activities and send them home with leftovers and a pie or two. In the next day or so, be sure to send them a card along with pictures of your time together.

Thanksgiving recipes and traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Add one of these ideas to your Thanksgiving plans and it just might just become a family tradition.

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