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15 New Thanksgiving Traditions for the Family

Celebrate the holiday with these fresh takes.

For many, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family, make memories, and eat a lot. Some of us have traditions that trace back generations. What about you? Perhaps you look forward to your aunt’s sweet potato pie or anticipate what everyone will say they’re thankful for. 

It’s also fun to start some new traditions that may become part of your family’s fabric. Your kids can look forward to them, play a part in making it better every year, and remember the first time you did it together. Who knows? They may pass it on to their children one day because they helped start the tradition.

Thinking about starting some new Thanksgiving family traditions? Check out these ideas.

1. Do a morning Turkey Trot.

Participate in a charity walk/run/race as a family. My city has one to benefit a local family shelter. No need to be a stellar athlete. Get active while helping a charity. This link lists Thanksgiving Day charity runs throughout the U.S.

2. Share words that will leave imprints on hearts forever.

a) Draw names in your family the week before Thanksgiving. 

b) Write a handwritten note of gratitude to that person. 

c) Stick it in an envelope.

4) Read the notes on Thanksgiving.

3. Facetime/Zoom family and friends who can’t join you. 

Schedule the Zoom ahead of time and see how many extended family members you can get on one call. Be sure to screenshot all the faces. Doesn’t have to last long. You’ll have different homes with Thanksgiving parties linking up for a Zoom party.

4. Deliver treats to local public servants: police officers, firefighters, convenience store workers, etc. 

Bake some cookies or homemade brownies to thank them for their service. Individually wrap them and include a note of thanksgiving and the recipe. This will help your kids learn to think of others.

5. Create a family Thanksgiving music playlist full of seasonal songs. 

Music has a way of keeping the mood just right.

6. After the meal, take a walk and play kickball, wiffle ball, or football. 

Make it a family or neighborhood event.

7. Get to know your family with a game of “Would You Rather?” or “2 Truths and a Lie.” 

You can do this on your family Zoom, around the dinner table, or during the post-meal walk.

8. Teach your kids how to make a family favorite Thanksgiving dish. 

It’s never too early to start passing down traditions to the next generation.

9. Visit a nursing home, foster home, etc.

Spend time with people who may not have family members around. Call ahead and schedule. Workers at the facilities can often direct you to those who will most appreciate your visit.

10. Invite a neighbor or someone who doesn’t have family near to share your Thanksgiving. 

11. Have kids make the appetizer (with your assistance, of course). 

You may not want them in on the main feast quite yet. The kiddos will be beaming with pride when they see everyone eating what they made for the festive occasion. If the appetizer isn’t good, everyone will forget once the turkey, ham, and pies hit the table.

12. Ask lots of questions.

Set questions out for families to discuss while eating. Make it fun and informative. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about each other.

13. Have a post-meal family game time.

Play a good group game like Spoons, Mafia, Taboo, or Uno. (Note: Use different Uno versions: Uno Attack, Uno Triple Play, or Uno Flip.) Everyone will be talking about the good times and laughs until next Thanksgiving.

14. Get outdoors for a Friday morning hike.

Leaves are colorful. Depending on where you live, the weather may be delightful, with a slight bit of chill. Spend time hiking with the people you love. Bonus: You’ll see plenty to be thankful for.

15. Volunteer.

Serve at a community kitchen, homeless shelter, or any number of places. Call ahead to save your spot, because lots of people volunteer during the holiday season. 

Don’t get discouraged if some new ideas miss the mark. Sometimes the joy is in the attempt. But if you hit on a new tradition or two, you’ll add even more joy to the idea of spending Thanksgiving with the ones you love.

20 Questions to Ask Your Family This Fall

Celebrate together as the season changes.

The cool, crisp mornings. The crackle of a bonfire. The gooeyness of s’mores. The vibrant colors popping in the trees. Fall is upon us, and it’s oh so magical.

The dawn of any new season brings opportunities to intentionally connect with your kids. It’s a great time to talk about what makes fall unique and learn more about your traditions and traditions around the world. 

Here are some questions to kick off fall conversations with your family.

As with any good questions, take the opportunity to dig a little deeper into your kids’ responses. Ask them why they answer a certain way. Have fun! You might find some new fall family traditions in your conversations.

1. What fall scent smells the best?

Pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon, apple cider, pecan pie, bonfire, just to name a few.

2. What’s your favorite fall activity?

Hayrides, trick or treating, pumpkin carving, the list goes on and on.

3. Where’s your favorite place to go in the fall?

Do you have a specific place you like to visit to see the leaves change? Is there an apple orchard or pumpkin patch that your family loves?

4. What’s your fondest fall memory from your childhood?

This could be a specific holiday, a fun trip, or just something that brings joy.

5. What fall holiday do you enjoy most?



6. What fall holiday from another culture would you like to learn more about?

To learn about more holidays around the world, check out 10 Autumn Traditions Around the World – Aberdeen.

7. What’s your favorite fall food?

Plan to make these as a family over the next week.

8. What are you thankful for?

And since gratefulness isn’t just limited to Thanksgiving, get our free download: 25 Family Activities to Increase Thankfulness and Joy

9. What’s your favorite thing to watch in the fall?

(Halloween classics, Thanksgiving specials, football, the World Series, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or are you prepping for Christmas already?)

Would you rather:

10. Enjoy a pumpkin spice drink or apple cider?

11. Get lost in a corn maze or spooked in a haunted house?

12. Eat caramel apples or candy corn?

13. Watch football or baseball? (It’s the playoffs!)

14. Jump in a pile of leaves or go on a hayride?

15. Have a cool, crisp, fall day or go back to the summer heat?

Trivia (Who doesn’t love good trivia?):

16. What makes leaves change their color? 

(Answer: Sugar is trapped in the leaves, causing red and purple colors.)

17. What country did Halloween originate from? 

(Answer: Ireland. Halloween originates from a Celtic festival celebrating the new year on November 1. Traditions were to light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.)

18. What is the most popular Autumn tradition in the world? 

(Answer: Halloween. It’s traditionally celebrated as All Hallows’ Eve in many countries (the day before All Saints’ Day). 

Bonus: Thanksgiving comes in second, followed by Dia de Los Muertos. If you want to explore another culture’s celebrations, I strongly recommend learning more about Dia de Los Muertos. Sounds like a “Coco” movie night!

Finish this statement:

19. My favorite Halloween treat is:

20. My favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving is:

Use these conversation starters at the dinner table or in the car.

Fall is a great time to connect as a family. Take the time to slow down before the bustle of the holiday season. The weather is perfect for getting outdoors and exploring with your family.

Other resources:

DIY Date Night: Let’s Fall In Love!

25 Fall Activities For The Whole Family To Enjoy

30 Romantic Fall Date Ideas For Couples

When you think about celebrating the holidays, what traditions comes to mind? Baking gingerbread men with your children? Taking the entire family to cut down the family tree the day after Thanksgiving? Or maybe, it’s the extended family progressive dinner that takes place every Christmas Eve.

“Traditions are often what make the holidays meaningful,” says Dr. Susan Hickman, clinical psychologist. “They are like the support beams for a building, communicating to children that in all the rush and seemingly randomness of our lives, there are still some things we hold sacred which remain relatively unchanged over the years.”

These annual celebrations create memories and bring generations together. They give families a structure around which to organize time and events since people are much more likely to take family photos and “rehearse” what transpired as they look back on the photographs and videos.

In an informal survey, we asked about meaningful traditions. Here are a few of the responses.

Many years ago, Betty Bergin began collecting antique crystal candlesticks – one for each of her four children. As children have started their own families, the Bergins have loved finding the crystal treasure that best represents each new addition to the family. Every Christmas Day, the candlesticks fill the center of their Christmas table. When their oldest son found his life mate, he announced it by giving them a crystal candlestick.

“What a precious memory that is to me, that at 31, he saw value in our tradition,” says Bergin.

“My favorite holiday tradition as a child was getting to open one present on Christmas Eve,” says Anne Hooser. “It was the same gift every year – a brand new nightgown. I remember when I was in my late twenties and had not been home for Christmas in many years, my mother sent me a present to be ‘opened Christmas Eve.’ It was a brand new nightgown! When I opened it up I just felt loved.”

For more than 50 years, Lorena Garza Gonzalez’s family has re-enacted the journey of Joseph and Mary in the traditional Mexican “Posada.” Now their children and friends of all ethnic backgrounds and ages help, share and sing to celebrate the occasion, which is followed with tamales, menudo, frijoles borrachos, and many sweet-pleasers.

“Traditions are so important in family,” says Gonzalez. “This is one I hope my children will continue for years to come.”

Special celebrations give families the time and place to discuss what is important to them.

“We often hear people talk about wanting to avoid getting into any discussions that might create conflict at these types of gatherings,” Hickman says. “Some of the best family discussions I can recall occurred during our holiday traditional celebrations. Sometimes there was conflict, but conflict isn’t always bad. Just because people disagree doesn’t mean it has to escalate into a fight or that you don’t love each other. In fact, when children see family members handle conflict appropriately, it is a great lesson for them.”

Consider ways you can incorporate holiday traditions, whether old or new, into your celebrations. It just might keep you focused on the things that really matter. For every family the traditions are different, but they all allow for a greater sense of shared identity and meaning. There is something very comforting about being able to think ahead and anticipate participating in a longstanding family tradition.

Image from Unsplash.com

Early in their marriage Susan and Scott* wanted to please both of their families when it came to how they spent time together over the holidays. Her mom wanted them to celebrate Thanksgiving with her. His mom celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, so her mom requested Christmas Day at her house. 

Despite some angst over changing things up with family holiday traditions, it worked fairly well… until their first child came along. Then they realized traveling late on Christmas Eve might not be the best thing for their family. Once again, they wondered how to deal with tradition. 

After negotiating, Susan and Scott decided to stay home for Christmas. Anybody who wanted to join the celebration was welcome. While not without its challenges, this adjustment to tradition held for a number of years—even as siblings married and added more in-laws into the mix. 

Now Scott and Susan’s children are adults with jobs and lives of their own. Once again, Susan and Scott find themselves in a situation where what has worked in the past for holiday celebrations doesn’t seem to fit their current needs. While their parents still want time with them, Susan and Scott also want to celebrate with their own children. Except now, their grown kids only have the actual holiday off. 

How can they be considerate of everyone as they plan to spend time with the ones they love?

Changing family holiday traditions can be complicated, and trying to please everyone can create a stressful holiday season for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of how families can easily transition from one phase to the next?

Since that’s not the case, here are some suggestions for navigating change and experiencing a special holiday season, no matter what stage of life you are in:

  • Instead of pressuring your grown children to keep things the way they have always been, give them the flexibility they need. 
  • Communication is key. Many misunderstandings surrounding the holidays happen because family members base their decisions on assumptions. Instead of being silent, request a family conference call or send out an email telling family members that you can adapt or adjust if necessary.
  • Take responsibility for your own emotions. Change is often difficult. The older you get, the more you realize you have limited time on earth. Although you want to spend more time with family members, they often have busy lives of their own. Acknowledging these feelings is important, and connecting with friends in a similar situation can help.
  • If you are the younger generation, recognize that holiday celebrations/traditions tend to be filled with emotion for everyone. While you’re trying to juggle everything, be patient with your extended family. 
  • Even if being there on the actual holiday isn’t possible, make it a point to celebrate at a different time.

It can be easy to get all worked up about what everyone expects from you during the holidays. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that family members are probably not intentionally seeking to complicate your life. Spend time talking with your spouse and/or family to brainstorm possibilities. Then build a plan that works best, knowing that everybody may not be 100 percent pleased with the end result.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The Value of Family Meals

Mealtimes are opportunities to connect and learn from each other.

For more than 40 years, Lynn and Pat Panter have been hosting family dinner on Sundays.

“It’s funny, this is just something we have always done,” says Lynn Panter. “When our children were little, we had Sunday dinner. As they got older, we kept on doing it. Here we are 40 years later with grown children, spouses, boyfriends and grandchildren seated around the table.”

Unlike some, the Panters don’t require or expect anyone to come for family dinners.

“There is no pressure to come,” Lynn says. “If they have something else to do, they know they are free to go do it with no repercussions for not being present. We usually have between eight and 16 people seated around the table on any given Sunday.”

Between the laughter, the stories and discussions about their day, it is always a lively experience and a great way for the family to connect.

“Even though my husband was on the road a lot when our daughters were young, the expectation was that we all ate dinner together,” Lynn says. “This was our time to catch up with each other and the events of the day. It kept us connected even when schedules were hectic.”

Research shows that regular and meaningful family meals offer a variety of benefits both to children and adults. Studies suggest that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week positively affects child development and is linked to lower obesity risk, decreased likelihood of substance abuse and eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school.

Additionally, meals provide a sense of family unity and identity as well as teaching traditions. Discussions around the dinner table not only give children an opportunity to express themselves, they also teach them to wait their turn to speak and hear many different perspectives. In some instances, they learn how to agree or disagree.

Family meals help parents transmit their values from one generation to the next and teach good table manners and etiquette. These times together as a family create a bond and shared memories that children carry with them long into adulthood.

The key to the success of these gatherings is making them technology-free zones – no televisions, tablets, or cellphones allowed.

“Some people probably wonder why we still have the Sunday dinners.” Lynn says. “I think the biggest reason we still do it is because we really enjoy being together. We look forward to catching up with each other. It’s not formal and everybody pitches in — which is a good thing. In order to do something like this, you need to enjoy doing it, otherwise, it becomes a burden.”

If you realize the value of family meals and it has been on your “to-do” list, this is the time to make it happen. Set a date, keep it simple and watch what happens. Younger family members may balk at first, but once they get in the routine, they will look forward to time together. Who knows what may be happening at your house 40 years from now?

24 Meaningful and Frugal Family Christmas Traditions

Money doesn't have to hamper your celebrations!

You don’t have to break the bank to celebrate Christmas! Here’s a quick list of ways to make memories. It’s so easy, you can’t afford NOT to take a look.

  • Make decorations for your house and the Christmas tree as a family. Gather nature items outside (now before it snows!) and make them into a garland for the tree. Make Christmas ornaments together.
  • Get in the kitchen and make Christmas cookies or candy as a family, then take a few plates to neighbors and sing Christmas carols while you’re at it.
  • Attend a free/cheap concert or play in your community each year.
  • Go sledding, build a snowman, or have a snowball fight.
  • Read Christmas stories from the library or have Mom and Dad talk about memories of Christmas from the good ol’ days.
  • Have a fun sleepover a few nights before Christmas in front of your lit tree. Watch a Christmas show, read Christmas stories, or listen to Christmas music.
  • Have a gingerbread house or cookie decorating contest. Then donate the houses or cookies to your local Festival of Trees event, if you have one.
  • Turn off all the lights on Christmas Eve and use candles as you tell the story of the Savior’s birth. If you have young children, act out the Christmas story from The Bible.
  • Talk about the most significant event that happened to your family this year and how that has helped you grow closer.
  • Write special memories from the past year and keep it in a Christmas box that you open each Christmas to see how you have changed over the years.
  • Write a family Holiday letter and then send it to loved ones.
  • Require that all gifts be homemade and be sure to draw names so each person is only focused on making one gift.
  • Run in a Christmas 5K event together.
  • Do the 12 days of Christmas for a family in need.
  • Put together a few boxes for Operation Christmas Child.
  • Serve the homeless at your local shelter.
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights, and, if you feel like it, find someone you can bring home for the evening to share the spirit of Christmas.
  • If you live near a Festival of Trees event, attend and/or donate a tree (you probably will have to start this several months before the event). Attend another charity event if you do not have a Festival of Trees in your area.
  • Instead of Elf on the Shelf, buy some Kindness Elves* and discover all the wonderful things you can do for each other this Christmas season!
  • Purchase a few toys and donate them to Toys for Tots.
  • Volunteer at a local senior citizens center. Make cards, sing songs, or just visit with the elderly for an evening.
  • Let the kids pick out 3 toys that they would like to give to another child in need.
  • Make a dinner for a family who needs it and take it to them on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
  • After all gifts have been opened, ask everyone to gather at least 3 things they no longer want that they can put in a bag and give to charity.

Adapted from: http://humbleinaheartbeat.com/meaningful-and-frugal-family-christmas-traditions/

Other blogs:

10 Ways to Connect With Your Kids This Holiday Season

How to Avoid Stress This Holiday Season