17 Creative Thanksgiving Traditions for Your Family to Try

Darcie Fuqua

Contributing Writer
Updated Nov 10, 2022
17 Creative Thanksgiving Traditions for Your Family to Try

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.

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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.

Darcie Fuqua headshotDarcie Fuqua is a Business Analyst, Auburn Grad (War Eagle!), Christian blogger & podcast host, and mental health advocate. She is from the deep south of Alabama, where she currently resides with her husband, two energetic fun-loving boys, and a dog named Charlie. She loves sinking her toes in the sand, cuddling with her boys, and having great conversations over a table of good food. You can read more of her writing on her website www.leightonlane.com and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram. Check out Darcie’s latest project as cohost of Therapy in 10.

Originally published Wednesday, 26 October 2022.