When you think about the ways our society has molded the foundation and structure of families, you may think TRADITION. Traditions are not just an activity, they are an emotional connection to a holiday that provides feelings of comfort and belonging. They bring excitement about gathering with family and friends, they help us instill values from generation to generation, and they allow us to focus on the true meaning behind our gatherings. Traditions teach, admonish, and help us grow. And although the very definition of tradition stems from being established and/or inherited, it would be naïve to not consider how families evolve and grow. Traditions should be able to adapt or dissolve to make room for ones that continue to shape legacy. You may be at this crossroads now. My hope is that some of these ideas may present an opportunity for you to create new ways to connect as well as foster precious family memories.
Here are five traditions you should consider starting this year.
1. Greetings of Gratitude
It’s common among our Thanksgiving celebrations to go around the table and state the many wonderful things we are grateful for. BUT, sometimes the people we are most thankful for are not the ones to receive our words of praise. As an activity to implement this year, pull out some blank “thank you” cards or paper for the kiddos to decorate, and write greetings of gratitude to those who have impacted you most in the past year. Life gets busy and it’s hard to remember to do these minuscule gestures after the moment has passed. That’s why taking time on a day dedicated to thankfulness gives you a chance to really reflect on the ways others have been a blessing in your life and recognize them for it. Maybe it was a nurse that cared for a family member after an accident, or the teaching assistant that went above and beyond with your child in school. Maybe it was the friend always available to lend a hand on home improvement projects or an ear for the hardships and heartbreaks.
Let this activity speak volumes by action. Show your kids how to be affirming in their gratitude and in spreading appreciation. It’s sure to impact you in the same ways!
2. Gridiron Games
While being sentimental and contemplative about your blessings is paramount to Thanksgiving, we can’t ignore that Turkey Day also involves a popular trio of P’s: Parades, Pigskins, and Promotions. If you’re like my family, sitting in front of the TV to watch the game is always on the schedule. Maybe call this a tradition, maybe not — it somewhat depends on the percentage of the group that enjoys football. What CAN become a tradition for fans and impartials alike is a way to make a game from the game. Try this Scoring Squares printout for instance. The directions are easy, it doesn’t take focused attention OR skill, and can be made more interesting by applying a betting aspect.
1. Assign one team to the rows and one to the columns. (i.e.. Texas A&M Aggies and LSU Tigers) ((we’re a college football family #sorrynotsorry))
2. Recruit players (i.e.. EVERYONE because it’s too easy)
3. Have each player choose a set number of squares at random by initialing their boxes. Every square should be filled. (ie.. 10 players would choose 10 squares each)
4. (optional) Place a prize on the game by having each player pay $1 or $5 per square
5. Write down numbers 0-9 and place in a bag. Draw them out writing the order from left to right in the top-most row, and a second draw from top to bottom in the far left column
6. Determine winners based on the score at each quarter OR the final score upon conclusion of the game. To do so, find the box that intersects the last number in the score for Team #1 and the last number in the score for Team #2. (i.e.. If the Aggies lead 35-21 over LSU, find the 5 and 1 intersection) Whoever chose that box is the lucky winner!
3. Family Turkey Trot
This one is brought to you by my mother, Carol Roam herself. For the last few years she has made it a requirement for us to go for a walk before having dessert. And although it has often only happened after sheer badgering, I have to admit it’s something I now look forward to. Not only does it give you a chance to digest and work off a little of the massive meal, but a sweet opportunity to connect with those you love most apart from distractions. Try suggesting a turkey trot around your block to your family and reminisce while making new memories!
4. Tax Collectors at the Table
Growing up, I was constantly shown the example of welcoming arms around the Thanksgiving table. From my grandma extending invitations to widows in the community to my in-laws who never question adding an extra collapsible table in the foyer, I can think of very few holidays spent with only family. In fact, one of my favorite Thanksgivings was one in which my sister brought all the foreign-exchange girls from her volleyball team to celebrate with us. My grandma set up extra space in the garage to accommodate cousins and friends alike. We represented Poland, Latvia, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and the Ozarks at the table that day — and it was a memorable picture of different backgrounds coming together in the same spirit of thankfulness and fellowship.
We know from scriptures that as Jesus journeyed, he invited the outcasted to join him to dine. These people, often tax collectors, were looked down upon in society, unloved, forgotten, and likely with nowhere to go. Who in your life is down on their luck, unable to travel, or without companionship? If someone came to mind as you imagined the position of those mentioned, I challenge you to invite them to your table this year.
My husband Ben mentioned last year that we should make it a tradition to take communion on Thanksgiving. Being able to partake in a personal setting with family seemed like such a great way to not only reflect but create an attitude of worship. But upon doing some more research, I realized how even MORE appropriate this concept is.
The word “Eucharist” is a transliteration of the Greek word eucharistia, which is itself a translation of the Hebrew word berekah. All three words have the meaning of thanksgiving, or praise for the wonderful works of God. That’s right, Eucharist literally means Thanksgiving. How cool is that?!
Every time we take communion and go before “The Lord’s Table,” it is an act of pure thanksgiving. So making that a priority for a day centered in thankfulness is an honor and privilege. When we remember that every act of gratitude is a communion in the sacrifice of Christ, it will change your whole perspective on the day. For the offering of thanks is the means by which we are capable of salvation.
Love these ideas? Have some to share? Let me know which your family may be trying with us this holiday!