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Seven Ideas for Thanksgiving
By Dan Vis
November 20, 2016
Comments: 26

Note: this was a popular article last year, so I decided to pull it out, polish it up, and post it again. Be sure leave a note in the comments below sharing your favorite idea for making this holiday more meaningful.

Thanksgiving is in trouble. With the growing popularity of Halloween and the increasing commercialization of Christmas, Thanksgiving seems to be getting the squeeze. One newspaper published a cartoon picturing zombies chasing reindeer. The caption explained that's what happens when you start promoting Christmas before Halloween!

Thanksgiving is like a scrawny, little turkey standing between Frankenstein and Santa, pushing frantically with its wings to keep its place on the calendar. Yes, Thanksgiving is in trouble!

One thing that could help to revive this holiday is to infuse it with a few new traditions. Many families have Thanksgiving traditions already, of course. Many involve certain foods and favorite dishes. And often it includes going around the circle and sharing something we're thankful for. But why not try something more creative? Listed below are seven fresh ideas to consider this year. Perhaps one or two will resonate with you, and can help spark a new tradition in your family.

1. Invite people over.
Our family has made it a point to try and invite people who don't have family nearby, and have had many full tables as a result. It's more work, but also a lot more fun. In fact the more people you have, the more festive the celebration! Holidays can be a lonely time for some people. Your invitation can make all the difference in someone's enjoyment of the day. And seeing their happiness is a great reward.

2. Play a board game.
Rather than just eating a giant meal and then sitting around, try getting a new board game everyone can play and set aside some time for a round or two. Games give family members a chance to interact and spend time together in a way they don't normally. Turn off the digital devices and get some real face time together. Consider a cooperative board game--like Pandemic or Flash Point--where the players have to work together to win the game, rather than compete against each other. Try Google to research this interesting genre of games.

3. Spend some time outside.
Take a walk, play catch, or sit around an outdoor fire and enjoy the evening. After all of that cooking and eating, it feels great to step outside and breathe the crisp air. Walking after a big meal helps get the blood circulating, causing the food to digest more quickly, and keeping your mind active and alert. Just be sure to bundle up if it's cold!

4. Tell stories.
Rather than just having everyone share something they are thankful for, how about having each person share a story. What is their warmest Thanksgiving memory? Or favorite Thanksgiving story. Describe an event that left them deeply grateful. Share the kindest thing someone ever did for you? The most generous act you ever observed? Or come up with a topic of your own. Stories invite us to open up in deeper ways, and get us to share more. They are also powerful teaching moments for children.

5. Write thank you cards.
Have someone purchase a supply of nice thank you cards before Thanksgiving, and then at one point in the festivities, have everyone think of some person who was a blessing to them (can be a person from their recent or more distant past). Then pass out the cards, and have them write a short note expressing their appreciation. Mail these out the next day. They won't get to their destination on Thanksgiving, but when it does come in, it will still be a meaningful reminder that you care.

6. Show Generosity.
Sometimes you can jumpstart the Holiday spirit by encouraging everyone in the family to do something generous. Ask your kids to collect the clothes or toys they don’t like or need, or extra things from around the house--and then share them with some charity, or a family you know that is in need. This action helps to teach your children the importance of doing good deeds without any return or recognition. Small children especially, will see this as a grand adventure!

7. Connect with loved ones.
If you have family or friends who live at a distance, why not try connecting with them using Skype or some other video conferencing software. Make arrangements in advance to connect, and then set aside a few moments on Thanksgiving to say hello and catch up. In fact, depending on the technology you are using, you may even be able to link in several people at the same time and get them all talking to each other. Instant family reunion! You don't have to talk long, but use the opportunity to express how much you appreciate these loved ones, for the blessing they have been in your life.

Comments

So what about you? What traditions were popular in your home? Which do you find most meaningful still today? Share a note or two in the comments below.

Posted by Dan Vis on 11/27/17
Sounds like a wonderful experience Wendelina! Would be so nice to participate in something like that.
Posted by Wendelina P Deligero on 11/26/17
Blessings everyone I mean
Posted by Wendelina P Deligero on 11/26/17

Thanks for all those wobderful ways of sharing thankfulness. Here in Surigao del Sur, Philippines we will have our yearly SDA churches get together. We ussually hold it in one of our beautiful beaches. We have it by unit, comprising of about 7churches.

Jessie, I hope that someone near Vermont will be able to help you.

Bkessings everyone.

Posted by Qing Ling on 11/25/17

Jessie Butterfield you are loved! and yes, sometimes when special events happen where people tend to gather and we are on our own, it can amplify our feelings of loneliness - but as you can see from Diane's message (and Dan's example too), there's always someone around that would gladly include others in their family gatherings if they could. I sometimes feel like I have no one around me too, even being married, but that's just Satan taking the opportunity to amplify lies in my head. I know that Jesus loves me and because His infinite love fills my cup to overflowing, I get busy looking for ways to include others in my life even if at first it seems like there isn't anyone to reach out to. And by God's blessing, He always brings people to my life that I can be a blessing to.

Valerie Smit I have always found Thanksgiving a foreign idea as well, but it's creeping into Australia, even Black Friday sales! I don't think holidays are connected to each other.. they just happen to occur in the calendar - but the same way we capitalise on the opportunity of Christmas season to highlight God's gift to us in His Son Jesus, I can see how we can capitalise on the Thanksgiving annual celebration in making extra special effort to show people how much we appreciate them.

I am especially thankful for FAST for continuing to hold up the beacon of discipleship based on internalising God's Word - we need to be transformed from the inside out, and FAST teaches people how to do just that! I love how John 6:63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. connects the power of the Holy Spirit with God's Word.

Posted by Dan Vis on 11/23/17
Valerie Smit, feel free to do a google search. I'm sure you can find the basic story of how Christians came to America to escape religious persecution, and had a special day of Thanksgiving to God for surviving the first winter. In the USA, Thanksgiving is about one month after Halloween, not before.
Posted by Berith Bermejo on 11/23/17

A comment for you above, Dan.

Hi Valerie Smit, you can tag a person by clicking their picture beside their comment. That way they get a note saying you mentioned them and they can read what you say. :)

Posted by Valerie Smit on 11/22/17

So, Dan Vis, how did it get started, & where does Halloween come from?

how can you have such a Christian holiday followed so soon by such a pagan holiday??

Posted by Dan Vis on 11/22/17

Jessie Butterfield, thanks for reminding us there are people everywhere who get neglected at these holiday seasons. This is the first Thanksgiving we will be living near family. In past years, because we didn't have family around, we would always try to invite over a house full of people who did not have relatives around. Some really special memories...

Thanks for caring Diane, and Carole!

So true Valerie Smit, but of course it is a wonderful thing to give extra special focus on friends and family. Too bad you don't have something similar in your area.

Marion, it does seem as if Halloween is on the rise here as well. It seems there is more and more of a focus on death in the culture here. And less of a focus on gratitude and thankfulness. I do think reversing that trend is something worth fighting for.

Posted by Carole Bliss on 11/21/17

Jessie, Thank God you are part of the family of God.
You are part of this mission, and may you always know, HE is with you.
wishing you unexpected blessings this week, and every week.

Blessings,
Carole

Posted by Marion Coppock on 11/21/17
I always loved Thanksgiving in the US when we lived there, sorry to hear it has trouble. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October and we celebrate the successful harvest of grain and gardens that just been brought it. It seems though that as soon as our Thanksgiving is over out comes Halloween which is getting more gruesome all the time.
Posted by Jessie Butterfield on 11/21/17
I live in Vermont.
Posted by Valerie Smit on 11/20/17
I am not American, & don't understand why you have one special day to give thanks.
Surely, giving thanks, drawing near to family, & being kind & helpful should be daily events?? and not kept packed away in the cupboard to be aired on one day of the year
Posted by Diane Castanon on 11/20/17

Jessie Butterfield, your current situation sounds so sad...it breaks my heart. What state do you live in? Maybe one of us can bring you home for Thanksgiving. I live in Northern California.

Wheelchairs don’t bother me. I’m a Registered Nurse and took care of my mother the last 2 years of her life, while I worked from home. She was mainly bed-bound, but I got her up to a wheelchair daily, and made sure she wasn’t disconnected from people.

Jesus loves you sooo much! Jeremiah 31:3The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee..   May you feel the warmth and love of God’s powerfully loving arms encircle you. Hugs!
Love Diane

Posted by Jessie Butterfield on 11/20/17
When I was a child, we went to my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving. We had a big meal, and then my siblings and I, and our cousins went outside and did whatever we felt like doing. I live alone now. I spend Thanksgiving alone except for a paid caregiver who comes in to help me in the morning and another paid caregiver who comes in the evening. My grandparents passed away, and my other relatives are scatterd. I guess no one in my family wants to lift my wheelchair.
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/20/17
What an amazing story Carole! I think Thanksgiving must be extra special to you as a result! :)
Posted by Carole Bliss on 11/20/17
When we get together, I start asking each one, what they are thankful for.
This year, I have little cards for them to write on, and pass to the person next to them.
I have a personal story. I was born on thanksgiving, many many years ago. My Mom or I were in danger, as to life. The church prayed and both of us made it. Our God is so good to us. The gift of life is precious.
Blessings, and prayers,
Carole
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/20/17
What a great idea Valerie. We have done that in the past and found it quite rewarding. :)
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 11/20/17
I am thinking of how I can be of service to someone less fortunate. If possible, I will be helping serve those who are less fortunate to have food on a regular basis.
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/24/16

Good suggestion Rhonda. I think serving others reminds us of the blessings we have, and thus creates gratitude!

Seems many of our members are enjoying the holidays. Been a little slow online today. That's a good thing!

Posted by Rhonda D Coleman on 11/23/16
In 2005, when I lived in Collegedale, TN, I participated in a "Turkey Trot" to raise money for the homeless (that was a blast! and I got some exercise in as well) I have also helped serve food at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving. Afterwards, when I spent the rest of the day with my own family, I could really appreciate the holiday even more. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/22/16
Wow! That's original Joyce! Sounds like a lot of fun. Make sure they all get something special to eat on Thanksgiving. :)
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 11/21/16
This year we are giving our time to take care of all the animals for everyone who going on trips over the holiday. We will have 4 dogs, a cat, a bird and a lizard. It should make a good picture if we can get one! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and a special thanks to God for giving us another day to give thanks for all we have!
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/21/16

What a nice story Marsha. I wonder if there aren't other locations a parent could take their children to that would make the day more special...

Diane, glad you are going to use the holiday to connect with family. Technology is definitely one great new way to make this old holiday new and special!

Posted by Diane Castanon on 11/21/16

I don't recall my family celebrating Thanksgiving until after my parents divorced in 1969. My mother celebrated it with us. I remember that, as a vegetarian, there was nothing for me to eat.
Nevertheless, when I got married, I developed memories with my husband and his family. Thanksgiving was/is a time for being thankful, sharing joyful stories, sharing yummy Puerto Rican food (which I learned to make from my mother-in-law) on our China plates with matching glasses, and spending time catching up about what's going on in each other's lives. It's spreading infectious happiness and laughter.

This year, we will FaceTime our children and grandchildren, as they all live in other states with one daughter living in Hong Kong, to spread some extra joy and happiness into their lives.

Posted by Sandy on 11/21/16
Great suggestions! Thank you.
Posted by Marsha on 11/21/16
When I was much younger (back in the early 1960's), my dad took my brother and I to the Mayflower and to see Plymouth Rock while my mom fixed lunch. That is one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories:-). Family time with my dad and then home for a wonderful thanksgiving with my mom and other friends!

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