7 Ideas for Thanksgiving
By Dan Vis
November 20, 2016

Note: It's been a couple years since I posted this, but it suggests some creative ideas, and I thought it might be worth sharing again. Be sure to leave a note in the comments below sharing your favorite idea for making this week's big holiday more meaningful.

Table set for dinner

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 way to revive Thanksgiving is to infuse it with a few new traditions.”

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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.

“The Bible is filled with counsel and instruction to live lives of thanksgiving.”

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The Bible is filled with counsel and instruction to live lives of thanksgiving. And most of us have plenty of things to be grateful for. If you live in a country where Thanksgiving is celebrated, why not do what you can to preserve the real meaning of this Holiday. And for all of us, let's commit to making thanksgiving a more important part of our life!

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