You often run into people who have such great stories of what their families do at Thanksgiving, and you think, “Ours does nothing.” Or children or grandchildren have come into the family mix ,and you need to make accommodations for them. Maybe the children are now grown and you need some more adult activities. Sometimes you are just ready to do something new or different. Here are some more Thanksgiving traditions you might want to consider:
Grateful Tree or Container Centerpiece―Gather a few sturdy branches from your backyard and place them in a weighted container so it won’t tip over. Attach a few paper, silk or real leaves to the branches so they will not be bare. Place this “tree” near the entry to your home. Have more leaves and clips to attach them for guests to write their thanksgivings for the year on them as they arrive. This is a way to set a meaningful tone to your gathering. A variation of this activity is to have your guests remove leaves, not their own, and read the messages on them aloud.
You can also have people try to guess to whom the grateful messages belong. You can also print your thanksgiving messages on seasonal paper on your computer printer, roll them up and tie with ribbon to present to your guests in a container like a basket. You can ask them to share the different messages at your meal.Kids Kraft Korner―While the adults are busy getting ready for the big meal, if the children are not able to play outside, it is wise to have activities ready which will keep them busy and incorporate them into the reason for the season. It’s a good idea to have an adult or two assigned to help the children. Cover a work table for them with brown kraft paper which they can also decorate with their artwork.Turkey or Leaf Template―Have turkey or leaf stencils and fabric paints for the kids to use to make something fun like aprons, t- shirts, or on pillow cases to create cover to put over your dinner chairs.
Turkey Placemats―Have 11×17 sheets of construction paper for the children to make new Thanksgiving-themed placemat. They might make turkeys out of hand prints. Encourage the children to draw pictures of what they are thankful for on their mats.Sweet Turkeys―Make turkeys out of Fudge Stripe cookies, chocolate bon-bons or Whoppers malted balls, and candy corns—stick the parts together with ready-made cake frosting.
Pilgrim Hat and Indian Headband Napkin Rings—Make construction paper rings for the dinner napkins. Use glue sticks to attach the pieces.
Candy Canoes―Fold brown kraft paper or construction paper and cut strips two inches tall and 6 inches long. Cut the ends in curves like a canoe and glue them closed. Decorate with Native American symbols or seasonal stickers, and fill with candy corn and seasonal-shaped candy. These can be put at each guest’s place at the table.
Pilgrim Hat Cookies―Make hats out of Fudge Stripe cookies, peanut butter cup candies, and a Chicklet buckle stuck together with ready-made frosting. A variation is to use a chocolate dipped marshmallow for the top of the hat
Gratitude Glasses―This is an easy seasonal touch for your Thanksgiving dinner table. On strips of paper, write inspirational or holiday quotes and phrases. Fasten each strip at each end with double-sided tape, slightly smaller than glass’s circumference, on the drink glass. If you have pedestal glasses, you could wrap the strip of paper over the stem of the glass and staple or tape it. Invite your guests, when seated, to read their quotes aloud.
Thanks by Candlelight―Set your Thanksgiving dinner table so that every person has a thin taper candle at his/her place setting. Before dinner begins, dim the light and the family patriarch lights the first candle. That person says those things for which what he/she is thankful and then lights the candle of the person to the right. That person follows, and this process continues around the table until everyone has had a chance to share and all candles are lit.
Thanksgiving Questions―To make dinner conversation more interesting and to ensure that everyone participates (and no one monopolizes), have some simple questions to get everyone talking. Questions can be almost anything―What are you most thankful for this year? What was the most memorable event of the year so far? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory? Tell us about the last book you read. Depending on the ages of your group and how well they know each other, you can vary the questions accordingly.Annual Active Action―After a huge Thanksgiving meal, most people need to get up to move around. Sponsor a leisurely group walk in the neighborhood or local park, or organize a more strenuous relay races or a competition of football, soccer or volleyball. Walking and talking time can be great bonding time and working together in team competitions can be very beneficial in strengthening trust among family members.
Thanksgiving Game Night―Thanksgiving with everyone together can be the best time for a family game night. You can have several competitions going on throughout the day and night—for example, cards, Uno, Scrabble, and Monopoly could all be in tourneys at the same time. After the dinner dishes are cleared, everyone may want to play charades, Scattergories, Pictionary, Cranium or another popular game. The whole family plays, and the winning team gets bragging rights until the next year.Share Thanksgiving Stories―At a special time each year or whenever the children need to settle down after great excitement, sit down with them to read a Thanksgiving story. There are many wonderful picture books about the first Thanksgiving or the harvest season available at the public library or bookstore; reading these aloud will help everyone learn a little more about the holiday and set an example about the value of reading.Thanksgiving Bonfire―After the Thanksgiving meal is eaten and cleaned up, a bonfire in a fire-pit outside is a toasty tradition. Family members can roast marshmallows and tell family stories. This can be a very warm ending to a family day together.
For other Thanksgiving traditions to try, check this post.