Some simple things you can do to put the thankfulness back into your family’s Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving is all about … well, you know what it’s all about. The question is: How do you make it more of that kind of celebration for your family. One way to enrich your family’s holiday is to incorporate meaningful activities into the day itself. Here are a few suggestions to help put the thankfulness back into your family’s celebration…

1.  Combine holiday decorating with expressions of thankfulness. Help the kids use construction paper and craft supplies to make colored leaves, pumpkins and other seasonal symbols. Then help them write reasons why they feel thankful on each cutout. Use these decorations to give the house a festive look. (See Gratitude Bowl)

2.  Have everyone say what they are thankful for. Either before the feasting begins or after the meal, go around the table and have each family member finish this sentence: “This year, I am most thankful for …” To keep it simple for young children, use this sentence starter: “I am thankful because …”

3.  Make the Thanksgiving meal educational. Let the kids dress up as Pilgrims and Native Americans and eat foods similar to the ones the Pilgrims and Indians would have eaten. Children will learn a bit of history as you help them research what kinds of clothes were worn and what foods were eaten during that time period. (See also Relishing Math at the Thanksgiving Feast)

4.  Invite someone to your family dinner who cannot celebrate Thanksgiving with his or her own family: an elderly person whose children live far away, a college student who cannot go home for the holiday, or a member of the armed services who is stationed far from home.

5.  Sending Christmas cards is a common family tradition. Why not send Thanksgiving cards as well? Purchase blank greeting cards with a fall theme or make your own. Inside write a note thanking the recipient for something special he or she has done or the positive impact he or she has had on your life. And don’t forget to thank our sefvice people serving abroad.

6.  Use the Thanksgiving holiday to remember those who regularly go without enough to eat. As a family, decide to eat small meals the day before Thanksgiving to remind yourselves how it feels to have little to eat. Give the money that would have been spent on the day’s regular meals to an organization that feeds the hungry.

7. Read scriptures, poems or stories about thankfulness throughout the month of November. As a family, talk about what the passages mean and how you can apply them to your lives.

8.  Help someone from a foreign country experience a bit of American culture. Invite the person and his family to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family. Not only will your guests discover more about this country, but your family will also get the opportunity to interact with people from a different culture.

9.  Express your thankfulness by sharing your blessings with the less fortunate. As a family, select a charity to support and devise a plan for how you will give to that organization. For example, if weather permits, have a family yard sale and give a portion of your profits to the Salvation Army. Or have your children save some of their allowances each week during November. Then use this money to buy groceries to donate to the local food bank.

10.  Create a “blessing jar” or “blessing basket.” Put the basket or jar along with a pencil and pieces of paper in a central place in your home. Throughout November, ask family members to write some of their blessings on the pieces of paper and put them in the container. Read these blessings aloud during your Thanksgiving meal. At the end of the meal, say a prayer of thanks for all the ways in which your family has been blessed. (See Gratitude Bowl)

Nancy Twigg is the author of Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions.