Amazing Thanksgiving Traditions That Your Family Will LOVE!

“You’re going to miss the parade,” by dad reminded as he shook me awake from a deep sleep.  He knew how much I love the Macy’s Thanksgiving’s Day Parade. and although 8am is hardly early, for a teenager on vacation from school it felt impossible.

Finally the smell of my mother sautéing onions  in butter wafted thru the house and I opened my eyes realizing that it was indeed Thanksgiving morning.  I jumped out of bed. I planted myself in front of the tv for the next 3 hours, unwilling to miss a moment.  Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving’s Day parade was one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

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And as much as I love the annual parade, I still search for fun, but meaningful Thanksgiving traditions for my family.  I want them to love the things we do as a family so much that they want to continue them one day with their own families. I want the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to teach my children gratitude and what Thanksgiving is really about.

Finding Thanksgiving traditions that suit your family can seem harder than squeezing into your jeans post-turkey. Are you a family who wants to run a 5K on the only sleep in morning of the year? Do you dress up and take family portraits to celebrate being out of your pajamas at the same time, or do you sleep to noon & go out to your favorite restaurant for dinner? You want the day to be meaningful without falling asleep at the table you spent too long decorating. You want memories, not meltdowns.

Traditions Leading Up to Thanksgiving

Practice Gratitude

As Christians we know that practicing gratitude is not just something we should do one day per year!  So take the whole month of November and let the entire family take turns telling what they are thankful for!  There are so many unique ways to practice gratitude, but one of my favorite to do leading up to Thanksgiving day is to have a “Thanksgiving Tree”. We have photo ornaments on our tree as well as simple printable leaves where each one writes what we are thankful for!   

Here are some other simple ideas for practicing gratitude leading up to Thanksgiving (or all year long)!

  • Check out this printable Gratitude Activity Bundle. There are plenty of options that everyone in the family will find one they love!
  • Gratitude chain- Cut strips of construction paper and write things you are thankful for on each and loop them together and drape around a room).
  • Get a picture frame and place a piece of cute scrapbook paper inside (cut to the appropriate size). Take a dry erase marker and write something each day that you are thankful for. Display on your kitchen counter or another prominent location.
  • Take 100 popsicle sticks and place them in a jar.  Each night at dinner, write what you are thankful for on the sticks until you have written on each one (maybe even front and back)!
  • Thankfulness Journal- I really love this idea from the book Everyday Confetti:  Start a journal on Thanksgiving day detailing all the things that you are thankful for. Be sure to let each family member contribute. Continue adding to it throughout the year, and you’ll have a complete book by the next Thanksgiving to enjoy and look back and remember God’s blessings on your family!

Prayer Pumpkins

I REALLY love this idea from Coffee With Us 3, and it can be used all throughout the Fall!  Write the names of those you are praying for on a pumpkin as a sort of reminder to pray for them!  What a sweet tradition! 

Other fun Thanksgiving Traditions

Breakfast Treat

I really love having certain dished that you only enjoy on specific days, it makes them something extra special to anticipate!  Lisa  at Retro Housewife Goes Green makes this Quick Cinnamon Coffee Cake  for her family to eat on Thanksgiving morning while they are watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions!).

Beautiful Table Decor

I love to decorate our Thanksgiving table for the whole family!  Our 7 foot table won’t hold everyone, but I add in a folding table and T it to the end so everyone can be close.

I then add neutral tablecloths and fun place mats & crayons for the kids (and adults to write on)! Then we have greenery running thru the middle of the table with small votive candles. I usually find cute Thanksgiving paper plates, cups & napkins at Marshall’s or Hobby Lobby.  If you are a whiz at the Cricut, try these adorable Pie Favor boxes from Artsy Fartsy Mama to finish off your Thanksgiving table!

Our family has started having Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night which has actually been such a blessing (I used to be a real stickler about having to celebrate on the actual day) because we can take our tie & really enjoy the meal & time together.  And we don’t have to rush off to eat again when we aren’t even able to enjoy it! 

Keepsake Table Runner

I love this idea that I saw on Country Living.  Take a solid-colored  tablerunner and have your guests sign it in disappearing ink (or even pencil) and then embroider over the names in different (fall) colored embroidery floss to have a beautiful, one of a kind keepsake that you can use and add to year after year!

Theme Dinner

This idea comes from Glynnis in the book Everyday Confetti. She had visited coloniel Williamsburg and purchased a cookbook.  That year she and her family did a traditional Thanksgiving dinner like they had in coloniel times.  From then on, her family has celebrated Thanksgiving in different ways… sometimes it’s a Hawaiian feast, other times Mexican or African.  What a fun idea to change things up (as long as there is dressing!!????). 

Be Present

Make sure that you and your family cut down on any distractions during this one day!  I know that now that Black Friday starts online on Thanksgiving day, this can be challenging, but set some boundaries.  Have a basket for everyone to leave their phones in so that they won’t be tempted to scroll mindlessly instead of interacting. Have fun games set up around the house if people are having to wait a while before dinner. And plan for a few other activities that most everyone can do together  after you are done eating like charades, Pictionary or Apples to Apples.

Remember Single Friends 

In the busyness or the holidays, it can be easy to forget all about those who don’t have family to spend time with.  Make an effort to include friends that may be lonely either in your family gathering or even a small Friendsgiving feast where you invite other people to join. 

Carolyn from Party With Unicorns says,

Our tradition is to always invite any ‘thanksgiving orphans’ we know to join. Any friends that don’t have the option of being with family. It’s always fun to welcome someone new to the table to give thanks with us!

Simple Family Fun

My friend Lisa from Graceful Ambition has such a beautiful way of describing her Thanksgiving tradition of decorating Gingerbread men!  While she is making the dough, she talks to her children about how God molds us and shapes us like a potter with the clay.  Be sure to check out her post here

My friend Alison from Laugh Hope Thrive lets her children decorate Pilgrim hats and Indian headbands with feathers and then give them out to the adults who are “required” to wear them during dinner! (I LOVE IT!). 

Chelsea at Mae’s Menus says that her family takes turns saying what they are thankful for before their dinner, and after dinner they play games! 

Get The Kids Involved

Kids always want to be right in the middle of things, especially when it looks like fun!  And there is no time that cooking will look more appealing to the kiddos than when everyone is cooking together on Thanksgiving!  

Give your kids one recipe that they (with your help) are responsible for, maybe a simple dessert or the famous sweet potato casserole.  This will help them feel involved as well as knowing that they have helped out! 

Thanksgiving Playlist

This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving songs!

I really LOVE music!  So, I went on the hunt for some great Thanksgiving music, and I was pleasantly surprised at all that I found!  I created a Spotify playlist that you can access here!  It is a combo of fun, lighthearted Thanksgiving themed music and beautiful Christian song & hymns.  I hope that you will like it.  I have so much fun searching for all of this new music and turning it into a themed playlist!

Enjoying Thanksgiving Traditions

Like every other holiday, Thanksgiving will come and go quickly.  It’s our job to slow down and truly enjoy it!  We don’t have to do it all, but we can find one or two simple traditions that will help us infuse fun and meaning into our family time!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!



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