The holiday season is fast approaching. It will soon be time to plan the Thanksgiving menu and make our way through crowded grocery stores. Or order grocery delivery (Praise Jesus!). Besides the tradition of the feast with friends and family, Thanksgiving is also a time to partake in other beloved family traditions, such as playing football and watching the Macy's Day Parade.
While nothing can compete with long-honored family traditions, especially Grandma's pumpkin pie, it can be enjoyable to incorporate a new family tradition into the mix. Let's look at 17 creative ideas to make the holiday extra special this year:
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Choreograph
1. Say the Blessing Before Dinner
Sometimes in a typical week's busyness, we forget to say grace before dinner. But no one in our family touches the turkey on Thanksgiving before thanking our gracious God. Prepare a blessing or have a guest say a prayer of thanks while holding hands in a circle. It's always precious to get the children to say the blessing too.
2. Writing Down What You Are Thankful For
The holidays are the perfect time to intentionally practice gratitude. November can start a daily habit of writing down our thanks, and praise for all God has done for us. Ask friends and family to focus on the true meaning of Thanksgiving by writing down what they are thankful for.
I started the tradition of a thankful tree a couple of years ago. When I host Thanksgiving, I ask guests to write down one or two things they are grateful for on a paper leaf. We then hang the leaves on a big branch I picked up from a walk in the woods. Another great idea for recording notes of thanks is to spread a roll of postal paper on the table and hand out sharpies. You can fold the paper up and keep it in a binder. A gratitude jar is another simple and inexpensive idea.
3. Write Down Goals or New Year's Resolutions
While your guests are in the writing mood, ask them to jot down a goal or two for the New Year. So many of us anticipate writing our New Year's Resolutions and never find time to sit down and record them. While the turkey is roasting and friends and family are nibbling on appetizers, provide notebooks and pens. Hopefully, the joyous occasion sets the tone for wondrous dreaming and hopeful ambitions.
4. Sign and Date a Tablecloth
Spread a plain fabric tablecloth on the table and lay out sharpies or paint pens. Have your family and friends sign and date. Maybe they can write a quick blessing or a funny memory. You can bring the tablecloth annually for guests to sign and reminisce on past Thanksgiving gatherings. You can also use a Christmas tree skirt or quilt for the keepsake.
5. Exchange Ornaments
The stores are busting with Christmas novelties and decorations with only four weeks until Christmas. Have your guest bring a store-bought or handmade ornament to exchange. It is a great way to kick off the Christmas season and bring home a lovely memento to hang on the tree. Women's Ministry Toolbox has some helpful tips on hosting an ornament exchange.
6. Play Indoor Games
If it is a bit frightful outside, have fun playing indoor games. Charades, Bingo, Phase 10, Pictionary, Cranium, and Taboo are great options for a large crowd. Buy some gag gifts or candy bars as prizes to up the stakes. Play Party Plan shares 15 Fun Fall Party Games for large groups.
7. Play Outdoor Games
Living in the south means some Thanksgivings are thirty degrees, and most are eighty degrees. When the weather is warmer, we tend to spread outside. We have a large family and lots of young children that need to run off energy. If you can get out with your guests, play a friendly game of touch football, frisbee, or kickball. The kids love hide-and-seek, and I love acting like a child again. Cornhole is also a favorite.
8. Go for a Nature Walk
There's nothing like a leisurely stroll through the woods, a local park, or the neighborhood after a heavy dinner to rejuvenate everyone and make room for dessert. It's also an excellent way to keep people from falling asleep on the couch!
9. Have a Scavenger Hunt
While you are out for a walk, have a nature scavenger hunt. The Science Kiddo has an adorable Fall Nature Scavenger Hunt printable for kids. Print a Free Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt for Kids from Play Party Plan for a clue-based scavenger hunt that can be played indoors.
10. Video Call Long-Distance Relatives and Friends
The pandemic brought us more ways to connect with loved ones who are far away. Set up a video call and invite your long-distance friends and family to join the festivities virtually. It will be an excellent time for a quick catch-up and to see everyone's smiling faces.
Photo Credit: ©unsplash
11. Get Crafty with the Kids
Keeping tiny humans entertained is no easy feat. Plan a fun holiday craft ahead of time and set out the materials on Thanksgiving morning. Get a head start on Christmas gifts and keepsakes by having the kids create ornaments. If you don't mind the paint mess, have the kids add their handprints to a fabric tablecloth, tree skirt, or ornament. The ideas for affordable children's crafts are endless on Pinterest.
12. Have Guests Bring Donations Instead of Hostess Gifts
Ask your guests to bring non-perishable food items or canned goods to donate to the local food bank. You can also do a coat drive or call a local shelter or group home and get a list of needed items for guests to donate if they wish.
13. Ask Guests to Make a Toast
After the blessing and everyone has taken a seat, ask your guests if they would like to say a toast. It's a beautiful time to reflect on the previous year and say cheers for the one to come. Plus, some people are good at getting people to laugh.
14. Host a Dessert Competition
From pies and cookies to cakes—have your guests bring their best. You can have different awards based on taste, look, and creativity. Everyone can be a judge, and everyone wins by tasting sugary treats. Moms & Munchkins explains how to run a Pie Baking Contest with free printables to make it easy.
15. Watch a Holiday Movie
While the food is digesting, grab some blankets and cozy up on the couch to watch your favorite holiday movie. Have a crowd and need more room? Take it outside with a projector and a sheet. If you have kids, check out The Best Thanksgiving Movies for Kids and Families from the Lola Lambchops.
16. Have a Dress Code
Why wait for the tacky Christmas Sweater party? Ask your guests to wear something fun. Have everyone wear crazy socks or silly shirts and have a friendly competition. You can also do color-coordinated outfits and make your photos look fantastic.
17. Take a Group Photo
Don't forget to commemorate the day with a group photo. Keep it basic, or create a fun backdrop and add some props. Make sure the picture includes the hostess. Tip: grab a tripod and set the timer on your phone.
Originally published Wednesday, 26 October 2022.