Though events like football, the Macy’s parade, and breaking the turkey’s wishbone for good luck are beloved American traditions when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, there are other creative ways that could make Thanksgiving traditions a little more meaningful this year. With the help of vaccines and boosters for COVID-19, this season we’re making up for last year’s missed opportunities for bonding with our loved ones. We’ve compiled a bucket list of ways that make this holiday even more special and add even more joy to the occasion. The best part? None of these ideas break the bank.
Start a gratitude tree.
Who says that you need to wait until you have a Christmas to break out the ornaments? Ask your guests to write down something they’re most thankful for on an ornament and hang it on a tree outside to display (or save ‘em for your Christmas tree, if you celebrate). You can also cut out paper leaves and paint branches on a large roll of craft paper to make it extra family friendly for younger kids.
Create a thank you card station.
In our digital age, getting a handwritten card always feels like they’ve gone the extra mile. Set up a small table with a mish-mosh of blank thank you cards in various styles (whatever you have leftover from over the years is totally fine!) along with pens, markers, stickers, envelopes and postage so that guests can write a thank you note to someone special in their lives.
Decorate paper food containers.
One of the best parts about Thanksgiving dinner? The leftovers, of course. Plan ahead by getting some disposable paper or kraft food containers in bulk. Before your guests fill them up with food, write the names of each guest on each container and people can decorate each box with messages of gratitude, a favorite memory, or something they love about them.
Collect non-perishable food.
Many times community food banks get overwhelmed with volunteers for the actual holiday, but then experience a lull afterward. Ask your loved ones to bring a few items of non-perishable food that you can gather and donate after the holiday rush.
Set up a craft station.
Got some little ones in the house? Get them off their devices and away from the TV with Thanksgiving-themed activities that keep them busy when the meal is still cooking or when the adults are preoccupied. Instagram account @busytoddler has great ideas including a turkey mural, a thankful turkey, and a turkey-shaped wreath.
Ask guests to bring their favorite Thanksgiving recipe with them and provide stationary for them to write it down. Whether it’s grandma’s secret to the best pumpkin pie or mashed sweet potato dish that’s been passed down for decades, you’ll have a special way to potentially incorporate their favorites for future Thanksgiving get-togethers.
Support Indigenous authors.
November is also National Native American Heritage Month. During downtime when the turkey is in the oven or when everyone is in a post-dinner food coma, read up on a book by a Native American author like Tommy Orange, Joy Harjo, or Melissa Febos. Invite kids to partake in this tradition with books like Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard that shows the diversity in Native American food.
Donate a serving of Thanksgiving dinner.
You might not have time to volunteer at a community shelter or food bank the day of Thanksgiving, but many places (think: your neighborhood church or religious center) will likely be collecting dinner boxes. Dropping off a meal for those who are food insecure will inspire the whole family to count their blessings.
Make a thankful jar.
Have everyone write down something that they’re thankful for on a piece of paper and place it in a jar. Everyone can take turns guessing who wrote down what — it’ll be sure to elicit everything from laughs to happy tears.
Get active together.
If the words “Turkey Trot” sends shivers down your spine, don’t worry. You don’t need to do a traditional 5K in order to get moving. Go for a casual family walk around the neighborhood before dinner to build up an appetite or go for a hike together after the main meal to make room for dessert.
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