‘Tis the season of nostalgia. Remember the days when you simply had to show up at the Thanksgiving dinner table, eat tons of delicious food, and lounge until the dishes were magically done?
Though you may not get away with that anymore—now that you’re in charge of your own family festivities—you do have the opportunity to create your own Thanksgiving traditions and memories. Here are five easy ideas to get started:
1. Create a Loose Plan
When it comes to starting new family traditions, begin by deciding how you’d like to celebrate the weekend in advance. Our family always keeps the Macy’s Day Parade on in the living room for the kids while the family chefs get to work in the kitchen. Other families may prefer to play music, experiment with fall leaf crafts, or start up a backyard football game. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can stick to every year.
2. Game It Up
My family loves board games, but with today’s busy pace, it’s hard to find time to sit down together. That’s what makes this holiday perfect for quality time. Of all our Thanksgiving traditions, this one’s my favorite. Rather than play the usual Monopoly, we channel our inner pilgrims and play the award-winning board game Settlers of Catan.
As we build roads, villages, and ports, we talk with the kids about how hard it must have been to use the earth’s resources to settle new lands. They usually lose interest about two minutes into the conversation, so we’re always ready with more age-appropriate Thanksgiving games like the Turkey Coloring Maze Tablecover for kids. This way, we can still be together without half the group getting bored.
3. Start a Yearly Custom Keepsake
The best Thanksgiving traditions are cumulative. A few years ago, my family adopted a unique idea from celebrated crafty blogger Becca at Blue Cricket. It’s called the Thankful Tablecloth. For a few weeks before T-day, we left a notebook out on the kitchen counter for family members to write down an ongoing list of things they’re thankful for.
One person’s addition to the list sparked ideas from others, so the list grew and grew. Next, we collected our craft supplies: a twelve-pack of Sharpie King-Size Permanent Markers from OfficeMax, utility painter’s canvas drop cloth from Sears, and an iron and ironing board.
Then, we got to work. After ironing out any wrinkles, we used the markers to transfer our family-specific blessings onto the tablecloth, each in our unique handwriting. Not only did we produce a conversation-starter keepsake specific to that year, but we also made memories that’ll last forever.
If at any point you get stuck, upload your graces to the Custom Table Runner generation tool on the Shutterfly website to streamline the process.
4. Get Active
My family volunteers every Thanksgiving season by packing boxes for less fortunate local families. Hoisting a few hundred 15-pound birds and pushing packages full of canned beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, and stuffing always gets our heart rates up while doing something for others.
Local turkey trots or farm tours are another family-friendly option for starting new family traditions. Mobile apps like Eventbrite can help you explore even more ideas to burn off those extra helpings of pumpkin pie.
5. Celebrate in Style
When you’re bringing the whole family together, make this an opportunity to collectively express even more festive spirit—and maybe even outfit the kids in cute Thanksgiving attire, like this little kids turkey Thanksgiving T-shirt from Kmart.
Thanksgiving can be the year’s most feel-good holiday of all, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Thankfully, the best traditions are easy to implement if you decide early and keep things simple.