October 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Traditions – Ideas to instill gratitude

Still trying to decide what new tradition to implement this Thanksgiving season?
Don’t be overwhelmed. Just find one thing – you can do it.
Remember, traditions are the “We all” of family.
We always do this on Thanksgiving day…
It’s something simple, yet meaningful that will be remembered for years to come.

This month I have began by contemplating what was in our family “jumping pile.” I then suggested sharing your family’s story, letting the kids go crazy as they become reporters for Thanksgiving day, as well as some last minute crafty ideas.

I shared about my family’s Blessings Journal a few weeks ago. That journal carries the idea of gratefulness through the whole year, but one of our November Gratitude traditions is physically placing our Leaves of Thanks in a place where we are reminded of our blessings specifically throughout the month of November.Below is my wrought iron tree which allows me to hang my Leaves of Thanks for Thanksgiving, but I use it each month for our different tradition ideas. This has become a central centerpiece of establishing our “once a month memory moments”. We hang our trees for the “12 days of Christmas challenge” in December, New Year’s dedications in January, Hearts of Loving kindness in February, and my character keys mixed in throughout the whole year. I will share more about that in a future post, but we focus one particular tradition idea combined with a character building emphasis every month.

Each month we focus on one character quality and then look for ways throughout the month that the kids are demonstrating that virtue. At night, we light the candle of honor and present them with their character key, and then we….oh, I am getting carried away – that’s another post.
For November, it’s….yes, Gratitude.

The Leaves of Thanks are a wonderful Thanksgiving Day tradition and also makes a treasured keepsake for future generations. Set harvest colored leaves in a basket or on the dinner table. Ask each guest to write down what they are thankful for and take turns reading them during dessert. You can collage them into the Thanksgiving Album along with one great photo of the family around the dinner table, holding their leaves. It’s the making of a tradition your family will revere for so many years to come.
If this is a tradition that you already do, are you saving those slips of paper? If not, start now. Can you imagine how powerful it is to pull those Gratitude slips out and revisit them over the years? I am beginning to add those into the Thanksgiving album that I started. I can handle that – one page a year, and the whole album is dedicated to Thanksgiving.

Live, Laugh, Love Club's October Workshop & Key of Gratitude

Make your own “Golden Lists.”
It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the frustrations and disappointments that are part of normal daily life. Sometimes we need a little reminder to help us stay focused on all of the wonderful things we are blessed to have. Ask each family member to write 10 things they are grateful for on their own personal “Golden List.” You can help the little ones by writing it for them or having them draw symbolic pictures. Hang these “Golden Lists” in places where you are sure to see them everyday, such as the bathroom wall, the bedroom doorknob or the kitchen bulletin board. This simple tradition will make being grateful a daily habit for everyone in your family.

A more “crafty” take on this tradition is the Tree of Thanks.

Every year my sister in love does a huge one. She cuts out a full size tree (it covers their whole sliding glass deck door), and they write people’s names that they are thankful for along the trunk and branches, and then they add specific items on their cut out leaves.
The key to this is thinking outside the box….try and engage the older children into thinking further than “I am thankful for food, my family, my house.”
How about modeling specific things such as, ” I am thankful for the farmers who work tirelessly with no guarantees of a successful crop.”

I didn’t take a picture of my s-i-l’s last year because I hadn’t started blogging.
That’s why I was so excited to find out that my sweet new blogging friend, Jessica, has a picture of her thankful tree, and she has a template for the leaves on her site as well.
Go see her tree in person, but
PLEASE ignore her MN Viking part….I almost didn’t link to her because of it…it was a tough decision…hee hee πŸ™‚ GO PACKERS!

Down below is another version of my s-i-l’s tree. This one is a smaller one taken from my November traditions newsletter. I don’t know how to format it, but I’ll give it a shot. Be gracious if it looks funny. Remember I am working my holiday market and just have this to post at midnight without a chance to view it first. πŸ™‚

Turkey Placemats This year have your kids help you assign seating for Thanksgiving with homemade, personalized turkey placements. Select a color of textured construction paper that goes with your Thanksgiving dΓ©cor (tan, olive green, gold, burnt orange) and buy enough to cut placemats for every guest. Have the children place their hand on the placemats and outline their hand with a pen or pencil to make a turkey shape. Dress up each turkey with paper feathers in harvest colors and add the name of the person who will be using that placemat for dinner. If you want to make these placemats really special, ask the children to write what they are grateful for about each person on that person’s placemat.  Make it a surprise for the adults. Not only will everyone know where to sit, but they will have a memorable Thanksgiving keepsake to take home. Keys of Happiness. What better way to start conversations in your home then when you present a family member with one of our Keys  of Happiness. Dad gets the Responsibility Key for all he does at work. Timmy gets the Honesty Key and Suzie gets the Courage Key. Conversations will be plentiful and everyone will want to be a part of it. Includes: Love, Joy, Dream, Compassion, Responsibility, Courage, Family, Faith, Honesty, Gratitude, Patience, Perseverance. No substitutions

A Thanksgiving Album is the perfect place to preserve your Thanksgiving photos but, even more importantly, the family tradition you enjoy every year that is based on gratitude. This foldout-style book makes it easy to place one photo per year of your family engaged in your favorite Thanksgiving activity. Bring it out two weeks before the holiday for everyone to enjoy as they anticipate the upcoming event.
I have loved beginning holiday albums. I live in guilt for the used scrapbook “store” that I have in my hall closet. Now I have let the guilt go, and I focus on one page a year for the different holidays. I have an Thanksgiving, Christmas, V-Day, Easter, and a 4th of July one….the list actually goes on for each holiday.
The day after Thanksgiving we always take a picture of our family in the mountains at the same Christmas tree farm in Boone, NC. That is one of our Thanksgiving traditions.
It has been so fun to see the same picture each year, and compare how the kids have grown (or I should say how we added a child to the picture for four straight years . πŸ™‚


  1. Kim @ My Journey says:

    I love these ideas to keep a great focus during Thanksgiving. And, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your monthly character trees.


  2. wowwwwww, these are truly teriffic ideas!! I’m gonna incorporate a few of them- thank you very much for sharing these!! LA


  3. Those are beautiful ideas….thanks so much for sharing them.


  4. Lysa TerKeurst says:

    These are great ideas! Did I miss where you got the character keys from?

    Very cool.


  5. More great ideas.
    We will add some into our holiday celebrations this year.


  6. I love those ideas. I want to make a thankful tree this year.


  7. I love the little hand tree! And that key is awesome!


  8. Stacey @ The Blessed Nest says:

    What great ideas!! I love the little tree you use — is that an ornament tree? Great idea — I might have to copy you on this :)!! And the tree using your hand from the newsletter is wonderful for my kids to do!



  9. Musings of a Homeschooling Mom says:

    What great ideas! I am going to incorporate a few of them this year. Thanks for sharing!


  10. Gombojav Tribe says:

    Your blog is very lovely! I’ll be stopping by again!!


  11. Beth@Pages of Our Life says:


    I always love your posts on family well other stuff too! Thanks for all the info. I am wanting to add new traditions this year. This will help.


  12. Sandy Toes says:

    I love things like this..love the tree and the key for gratitude…what a great thing to do with our families!Thanks for sharing!
    -sandy toes


  13. Jamie @ Purposeful Pursuit says:

    I love these ideas!


  14. Wonderful post…
    I started a thanksgiving tree three yrs ago, but the way I did it was having each member of our large (mostly hubby’s) extended family write their names on a leaf and what they were thankful for this year and then place it on the tree.
    I love some of your other ideas as well…and focusing on a character quality each month!
    Thank you for sharing all these!


  15. Pretty Organizer says:

    I saw your comment on Nesters blog and wanted to pop by to introduce myself! It looks like we have something in common… I’m in the balancing act too… FULL TIME:) We have 6 kiddos and I have to say that I thought the toilet paper tower was the best!! Isn’t life grand with so many creative members on your team?

    I’ve enjoyed your posts… and the candidness of them. I think we gloss over those Thanksgiving traditions too quickly… gratitude seems to be the essence of character depth.

    LOVE your blog girl!!!
    Pretty Organizer


  16. Jen,

    Thanks for the shout out…Go Vikings!!


  17. Smelling Coffee says:

    We used to do a Thankful tree, but using cutouts of the children’s handprints for the leaves… but it’s been years, and I didn’t save them – and now I wish I had!

    I love your ideas here, and like the seasonal scrap book idea – since I, too, have a closet of scrapbook things that have never been put to use. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to what else you have to share with us.


  18. These are all such great ideas. I just finished browsing through the website with all these wonderful products. I love stuff like this and I think the albums are such a great idea.

    Where did you find the wrought iron tree?


  19. I love love love this! Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday and I’ve been looking for new traditions…or any tradition really. Fabulous post!


  20. I am doing a Christmas album for my mom. It’s been a while since I picked it up. I think I’m on 2002 give or take. So close. I’d like to get it to 2008 and be at the only add a page a year place! Have a wonderful Sunday! Kelly


  21. Tricia Anne says:

    Sincerely ~ Tricia Anne


  22. You are so full of wonderful ideas! Thanks for sharing them. I am definitely going to adapt this for our family.

    Miss you!


  23. Great ideas! Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday, but I hadn’t thought about some of these things.


  24. Julia @ Hooked on Houses says:

    We do the leaves (writing what we’re thankful for on them each night at dinner), but I never thought to hang them on trees. We just tape them to the bay window in the kitchen. Love the idea of having a Thanksgiving album, too. You’ve inspired me today. Thanks! πŸ™‚


  25. What sweet ideas- wonderful ways to helps us remember the real things to focus on during Thanksgiving etc- thanks for sharing


  26. Valarie Lea says:

    I love the idea for the Thanksgiving album. Such great ideas!



  1. […] Posted by Gwen on November 22, 2013 in All Posts, The Weekly Word | 0 comments […]

  2. […] Some crafty ways to help your whole family focus on gratitude. […]

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