I feel very blessed to be able to share my home with family & friends on Thanksgiving this year. In addition to filling their tummies with yummy food, I also hope that I can somehow create an atmosphere of gratitude so that the real meaning of the day isn’t lost. To that end I’ve been looking around for some ideas that will help put more Thankfulness into my Thanksgiving dinner.
Traditionally, families gather around the Thanksgiving table and share what they’re grateful for. While this is a great way to keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, here are some more creative ways to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday.
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After your guests have all arrived and settled in, have someone pass around pens and paper and a basket or bowl. Ask everyone to write down something they are grateful for and add it to the basket. Later in the evening, pass the basket around and have people randomly choose a paper to read out loud. It’s always more fun to read someone else’s than your own. :-)
OR you could turn the above activity into a “Guess Who” game. Ask each guest to write what they’re thankful for on a piece of paper, but encourage them to be specific and creative. This won’t work if everyone is “thankful for family.” Fold all of the responses and put them into a jar or bowl. One person draws the first slip and reads it aloud. Everyone guesses whom the gratitude belongs to. Whoever guesses correctly, reads the next one.
Annual Appreciation Awards
Start a tradition of an informal “awards ceremony” at the end of your Thanksgiving dinner. Buy (or make!) some fun, inexpensive turkey trophies and label them with an achievement accomplished by each guest, or give out awards based on why you’re thankful for each family member.
Make gratitude your secret ingredient. As your guests come in, have them write what they’re thankful for on small strips of parchment paper. Then lay each strip on top of store-bought crescent dough before rolling it up and baking. When dinner’s ready, your family and friends can read messages of gratitude out loud.
Dry Erase Gratitude Board
Put your gratitude on display! Have a dry-erase board on prominent display where people can write what they are thankful for and see what others have written as well.
Instead of having one person say grace or a blessing on the food while seated at the dinner table, have everyone stand in a circle and hold hands while prayer is said. You’ll be surprised how this one small change can increase your attitude of gratitude and bring people closer together.
Family Gratitude Journal
Create a Thanksgiving journal that can be added to each year. Pass a blank notebook around the Thanksgiving table each year and have your guests record what they are thankful for. You can then look back and see how your family has grown and changed throughout the years.
On small strips of paper write conversation starters that began with the phrase, “A time you were thankful for…” followed by a different prompt on each card such as, “home, Mom, Dad, being a sister, a pet, a good neighbor, etc.” Fill a jar or bowl with the prompts and place them on the dinner table. While you eat, have every one choose one and start the conversation!
Take your Gratitude Outdoors
End the day outside. Take a walk, play football or sit around an outdoor fire with a cup of hot chocolate. After all of that cooking and eating indoors, it feels lovely to step out into the crisp autumn air.
Share Thanksgiving Memories
A twist on the usual sharing what you’re grateful for….ask your guests to share their best Thanksgiving memories and family stories.
Read A Thanksgiving Story
Thanksgiving stories will remind everyone that this holiday is not only about eating good food and enjoying sports, but it’s also about human helpfulness and sympathy. You can take turns reading the story and allow even the younger children a chance to show off their developing reading skills.
Thanksgiving Show and Tell
Ask everyone to bring along something that reflects what they are thankful for that year. Then each person in turn can share it with the group and tell their story. It might be an item, a photo, a song, or any other item that illustrates their point.
Ask your guests to bring something to place on the table that is meaningful to them, whether it’s a beautiful plate bought on a special trip or Great-Grandma’s gravy boat. Your table will become a potluck of meaningful memories.
Tablecloth As Art
Pick up an inexpensive white tablecloth, cover your table with a plastic tablecloth, and put the white one on top. Encourage your guests to write or draw a picture of what they’re grateful for. This is a fun way to keep the kids occupied too. You can continue adding to it each Thanksgiving.
Have A Conversation
Put away the electronic devices, turn off the TV, and engage people in heartfelt conversation. Connect with people face-to-face and heart-to-heart and fill up on fellowship instead of only food.
Embrace The Day
On Thanksgiving Day don’t miss an opportunity to cuddle up to your kids, parents, in-laws and friends or give complements to your guests. Everybody, from a baby to an old person, loves and needs to be hugged. Hugging is a great way to express affection, respect, AND gratitude.
Do you have a tradition or an idea to help keep THANKS in Thanksgiving?