My favourite time of year is here! The air is crisper, the trees full of color and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. We celebrated today with some new friends from England who recently moved here to Deutschland. Germans don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving; it’s acknowledged in churches where there is a special “Erntedankfest” (Harvest Thank Festival) service, but it’s not a big deal in families.
It sure is in our family though! Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays, and now that I have a baby and a toddler I have even more to be thankful for 🙂 It is fun to spoil new friends with a special Thanksgiving Dinner each year.
Making this time of year meaningful for us as a family is important to me. I know that in order for it to be about more than the yummy food, I need to be intentional in cultivating an atmosphere in our home that points to something deeper. With two young children who can’t converse a whole lot yet, I have found that the best way to teach them is through activities and routines.
Today I want to share 5 of my favourite Thanksgiving Traditions that you can start with your kids this year:
1) Invite someone new over for Thanksgiving Dinner. When I think back on my own childhood, I remember how, growing up, there were often people at our table who didn’t have anywhere else to celebrate. My parents were intentional about reaching out to the lonely, elderly, and immigrants. While I may have preferred just “family time” some years, this culture of generosity has really shaped my own heart for hosting. Who do you know in your own neighborhood or church or circle of friends who would appreciate an invitation? (Hint: ask your kids who they’d suggest!) Often it’s not about the food itself, but the time you invest in fellowship.
2) Make a “Thanksgiving Tree.” I originally got this idea from Ann Voskamp, and downloaded her beautiful printable cut-out leaves with Bible verses on them. This past week I got my 2-year-old to help me gather twigs from outside, which we then put in a vase for our own Thanksgiving Tree. Each day we choose one leaf and read the Bible verse printed on it, then on the back of the leaf write down one thing we’re thankful for. This is an interactive activity that also makes for cute decor!
3) Give to the less fortunate. Anyone with young kids is familiar with the struggle of finding room for all. the. stuff. We are currently in the process of sorting through our toy room and organizing some of the kids’ toys. Why not ask your kids which one or two toys they could part with, and give those to a family in need that you know, or donate them to a shelter? We will be passing on some of our toys and clothes that the kids have grown out of to an immigrant couple from Syria who will be having a baby next month.
And in case your family sponsors a child, why not sit down as a family and write a letter to him or her? Let your kids draw pictures, and together come up with a list of what you are thankful for about them, or write out a prayer for your sponsored child. Or, decide as a family to begin sponsoring a child!
4) Bake together. Maybe an obvious suggestion, but…involve your kids in meal prep and cooking! It may take twice as long and be messier than you’d like, but your child will love it. This week I took both kids grocery shopping and Caleb helped me pick out a “Bawk-bawk” (his name for “chicken”, which is close enough to a turkey 🙂 ) and yesterday we baked our traditional Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake together. Having him by my side while we were cooking reminded me to not be so goal-oriented, but to enjoy the process and engage with him.
5) Go around the circle at mealtime and have each person share something they are grateful for. This was one of my family’s traditions growing up. It was so routine that everyone expected it, and one year my cousin and his wife specifically waited until Thanksgiving to share the news of their pregnancy with us until my dad opened up the “thankfulness round” after the meal.
This year I printed out leaves for each place setting, and during the meal each person wrote down something they were grateful for on them, which we then later read aloud together. What a great conversation starter!
Well my friends, I hope these ideas inspire you and help you have a fun, meaningful weekend, making precious memories with your children.
Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!
What were some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions growing up? Share in the comments below or in the Facebook group!