When we think of Thanksgiving celebrations, we likely think of family, friends, amazing food, festive cocktails, and tunes. We also may think of that post-feast nap on the couch! You likely have already established your traditions over the years that might include specific menus, pre- or post-dinner activities, and even the guest list. Traditions are a wonderful way to bring family history and beloved memories with us throughout the generations. While it’s important (dare we say imperative?) to keep traditions going, it’s also fun to create new traditions to add to the mix as well.
Even a simple change in our menu or activities on Turkey Day can make this year’s Thanksgiving dinner that much more memorable. Here are a few ideas of new traditions to implement as you celebrate all there is to be grateful for.
Give a meal: Take the family out shopping for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and put together a special basket to share with a family in need, a loved one who may be ill, or a local food bank. Get the kids involved in the shopping and take the opportunity to talk about the many blessings in their lives. This is a great way to focus on giving and the joy that it brings to others, as well as to them for being able to bless others.
Kids set the table: Let the kids set up the table for the Thanksgiving feast. Give them guidance and direction as needed, but allow them to be involved. They will appreciate being included in preparing for guests to arrive. A family holiday calls for everyone to play a role in making the day special and memorable.
Write it down: Put pen to tablecloth! A light tablecloth or runner is ideal. Put a fabric marker at each place setting or pass one around the table. Then, go around the table and discuss what you are grateful for, pass the pen, and write it down! Add to the tablecloth each year as you also take time to reflect on all the blessings shared in prior gatherings. If you host the holiday at different homes, the tablecloth can be the family treasure that is passed from home to home.
Movie time: Our family has a favorite holiday movie that we turn on as soon as dinner is done every year, without fail. It gets us in the holiday spirit and fills the room with laughter and togetherness. Though we can quote the whole movie, we never tire of it. It’s one of our favorite traditions, and that is what memories are made of!
Group photo: Have fun with this! It can be as simple as everyone seated at the table, a family pyramid, or a color-coordinated photoshoot with a beautiful fall backdrop. Regardless of how many are present, it is fun to capture the memories for years to come. Get creative in how you display it each year, or consider creating a photo book of all the annual pics everyone can share each year around the table. Another idea is to get a pretty frame and update the photo every year to display on the table or mantle on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a great way to see how the family changes and grows over the years.
Game night: Roll the dice, name the tune, or act it out! Do it all! There’s no better way to work off that dinner than a bit of friendly competition. Choose games that everyone can enjoy together, such as charades, name that tune, or trivia. Throw in a trophy for the winner to take and display until the following year—you can make it a revolving trophy that the winner has to add something to (the uglier the better) and bring back to award to the new winner.
Update the menu: We all look forward to those treasured family recipes every year, right? Do you know what they all have in common? They all started somewhere! Try adding or substituting a new side dish each year to the menu—maybe a new twist on an old favorite or a dish that is traditional to others (but not you). You can even go completely off the rails and introduce something entirely unrelated!
Put up that tree: This was my favorite tradition growing up! The day after Thanksgiving, we would bundle up, jump in the car, and head to find that perfect tree. We had leftover turkey sandwiches for lunch and debated size, type, and girth—advantages and disadvantages—all the while. It was a magical experience and a way to extend the Thanksgiving holiday. When we got home, we would turn on the holiday music, make some cocoa, string the lights, and get decorating…ah…I love thinking about those memories every year. I can smell the pine and hot cocoa now!
Traditions are what make us human. They’re the bridge from our ancestry to future generations. Whether your traditions involve specific people, activities, music, or recipes, they’re important to keep that feeling of connection alive. New traditions are a way for the younger generations to be part of something special to pass along to their future. A new tradition will be something they think about and talk about for years to come, and they’ll be able to tell the story of how it started