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Since we are already halfway through the first week of November and Thanksgiving draws near (as does Christmas, according to Target and other stores I noted that have already decorated en masse), I thought I would share a list of holiday traditions we compiled at a recent MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting.  I’m going to condense the list down to 15 (or so) traditions, as it grew to become quite a few pages long!

A disclaimer before I start: don’t feel pressured to do all or any of these.  Different traditions work for different families.  You are not a terrible parent if you don’t have any specific traditions, or if you only do one or two.  Sometimes taking too many on causes us to forget why we are celebrating and becomes just one more thing to check off on our to-do list.  Also, never let yourself feel trapped by a tradition.  If it’s not working, change it or stop it.  If you miss it one year or are off by a day, it doesn’t ruin it (I speak to myself here as I have this crazy way of feeling like everything is messed up if I get off even a little bit.  I’m ridiculously melodramatic that way and am working on it.  Well, I’m asking God to work on it.)  This list is just meant to inspire anyone looking to incorporate some new traditions this year.

Anyway…despite our culture’s tendency to skip over Thanksgiving, our group started there and some of the ideas included:

1) A Give Thanks journal.  My family actually started doing this last year.  The idea is to have a notebook of some sort to record what each family member is thankful for each year.  My favorite moment when we started this last year involves my son, who was almost 2 at the time.  As we went around talking about what we were thankful for, his answer every time was “God”.  He said it so earnestly and yet so deadpan that it still makes me laugh to remember it.  It serves as a great way to look back at our blessings through the years.

2) Another fun idea related to the journal, but especially great for young children, is a Thanksgiving tree.  We did it for the first time this year- I cut out a tree shape from some brown construction paper and each day we cut out leaf shapes and write things we are thankful for on them before taping them to the tree.  Here is the one we have in process- definitely nothing fancy :)

3) Getting/putting up a Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We like to add on getting peppermint milkshakes from Chick-fil-A as part of this. ;)

4) Fruit of the Spirit in the Horn of Plenty (Cornucopia)- I love this idea. Nine days before Thanksgiving, place one piece of fruit in the horn to represent one fruit of the spirit (do this each day leading up to Thanksgiving).  I think it allows a wonderful (and visual) way to illustrate and discuss the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control).  From my understanding, they have horns of plenty at places such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.  It also can make a pretty Thanksgiving centerpiece! :)

5)  Run the Table with Thanks- take a piece of muslin fabric and turn into a table runner (cut piece 12 wide x 36 long) and then sew a ½ inch hem around all edges.  Place in middle of table with a selection of fabric and permanent markers and ask guests to write something they are thankful for.  I don’t sew, unfortunately, but this could certainly be done without having to sew and sounds like a sweet idea and great way to include Thanksgiving guests or family at Thanksgiving gatherings.

So I was going to stop at 5 for Thanksgiving, but I need to add in a bonus which happens to be the best of all of them in my mind.

6) Serve as a family in some way.  Perhaps at a soup kitchen- to get even a remote idea of what it is to be hungry, one option may be to not eat yourself (or skip a meal) that day until done.  Serving others is a beautiful holiday tradition to incorporate and along those lines, another option is connecting with a group that is organizing an Invite a Troop to Thanksgiving event for those that are deployed and away from family for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes is one my family currently does as the collection week falls the week before Thanksgiving.  It’s a great way to help my kids give to other kids in need around the world.  Here’s a link if you want more info: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/  

So those are some of the top Thanksgiving traditions we shared about in our meeting.  If you have any to add, feel free to comment below!

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