My family has a lot of Thanksgiving traditions: My mom will take out her ancient list of what to serve, she will polish silver platters, she will work extra hard, my dad will take the gross stuff out of the turkey, someone will tell a story that makes no sense at the dinner table, everyone will break out into laughter, there will be turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and kugel and crescent rolls and 10 other things my mom has added over the years to ensure that every person has their favorite requested dish. There will be kids, there will be adults, there will be that awkward age when older kids don’t quite want to be there but still manage to have fun because of the turkey hat we all pass around and wear. There will be the same chocolate truffles we’ve made for 31 years now, and they will be called “stupid chocolate balls” by my uncle as he secretly sneaks them from the fridge before dessert is served. But one thing there won’t be: us going around the table and stating, one by one, what we’re thankful for. It’s not that we’re not thankful . . . we just don’t really state it, assuming instead that it’s reflected in our laughter and our togetherness.
My kids are, of course, learning the history of Thanksgiving at school. I want them to realize it’s more than a big meal and lots of desserts at Grammy & Boppa’s house. Here are two simple traditions I’ve started with my sons to capture their mindset each year and to get them thinking about things to be thankful for.
Turkey Traced Hand:
It’s a simple as tracing the child’s hand, turning it into a turkey, and writing on the paper what they’re thankful for. We do this every year, hang them up during November, and then save them to look at in future years. It’s fun to see how the answers vary over time, from being thankful for candy and Cheerios to being thankful for family.
The year my first son was born, I gathered some smooth rocks (or you can buy some like this) and a Sharpie marker to bring to the Thanksgiving feast. I asked everyone to write down the year and what they were thankful for, and then I filled a glass vase with the rocks. We’ve kept up the tradition — another way to see how the answers change over time, and a nice, always-present reminder on the shelf that we are thankful for so many things.
What are your favorite simple Thanksgiving traditions?