5 Secrets to Make Your Family’s Thanksgiving Traditions Incredible!

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Family throwing leaves in the airThanksgiving and the whole holiday season is a wonderful time for making memories that last forever. Everywhere you go, all over the world, people have traditions that bind them to their families, their culture and even give people a sense of identity and community. That feeling of identity and community starts at home. Take some time to think about your family and holiday traditions and how they have shaped you and ways that you can create remarkable traditions with your family. Let the following five elements guide you in creating unforgettable traditions with your children this holiday season.

Make it meaningful.

One thing I’ve learned since I got married is that different things are meaningful to different people. My passion and what creates meaningful memories that stick with me is not the same as what may do it for you or my children. When my wife and I got married we did the holiday sharing thing. We would spend Thanksgiving at her family’s one year and we would spend it with my parents and family the next year.

The first Thanksgiving with my wife’s family was different, not better or worse, just different. Like a lot of people on Thanksgiving Day, much of the family spent a huge part of the day watching football. That was never a huge part of my past Thanksgiving experience. At first I thought to myself, “Come on, let’s go do something. Let’s go play football or play a game. Let’s create some moments and memories!” As I sat there throughout the day, I noticed something about this football tradition that I did not anticipate. They were creating memories! I just was not participating yet. They talked about years passed, about games they had watched and funny things that had happened during the games. Watching football was very meaningful to them and it established memories that have lived on for years.

The trick is to find something that is meaningful to you and your family. Ask the kids what they would like to do. Make it their idea. Find something that is common and meaningful to each member of the family or create something that you can learn and grow together from. Infuse each tradition with love, connection and purpose!

Make it novel.

Novelty keeps us interested. You may be thinking, “isn’t tradition the opposite of novelty?” “Isn’t it supposed to be routine and predictable?” Well, that is partially true. Traditions definitely are rituals of meaning that have an order about them but they don’t have to be routine, monotonous or boring.

What if you created a family tradition to bake and eat a new kind of cookie as a family every Thanksgiving. You could try some crazy recipes like, Apple Toffee Pudding Cookies , Cocoa Coconut Bites or just some regular Oatmeal Chocolate chip but dip them in root beer floats.

It may just be that the Tradition is something that falls way outside the normal everyday. There is excitement and anticipation that surrounds the holidays naturally. Adding a little extra spark of novelty can really light a fire of communication and enjoyment to your family relationships.

Make it fun.

I have seen families that have traditions that the whole family counts down the days until they get to do it again. I’ve also seen families that conjure up some obligatory traditional task that no one really wants to do but Dad and Mom drag everyone kicking and screaming because, it’s tradition.

Many families have traditions at Thanksgiving time to share what you are thankful for at the feast table. While everyone sits and waits for grandma to stop crying so she can share her twenty minute list of things she is grateful for, the kids are squirming in their seats and itching to get down and play with their cousins they haven’t seen in twelve months.

What if instead, everyone gathered after the meal to play a game Thanksgiving Pictionary where you split into teams and you had to draw something you are thankful for and your team has to guess what it is. Or, what if you cut out a bare tree and taped it to the wall and set a pile of cut leaves on a table near the tree that the whole family could write or draw something they are grateful for on a leaf and tape or paste it to the tree throughout the day, whenever they wanted. Play and enjoy the tradition. Find ways to include and make it fun for everyone.

Make it helpful.

There is no better way to instill gratitude than to help someone else. Find ways to give and serve. Maybe make it a tradition to invite a widow or someone else that is lonely or needing help to your thanksgiving festivities. Being helpful doesn’t always mean giving money to a charity or volunteering at a soup kitchen, although those are wonderful things too. It may simply be to take the “crazy cookies” you made to a friend or write a letter of gratitude to someone that has made a positive impact in your life.

Make it last.

Anticipate it before it happens. Hollywood uses hype and buzz all the time to get us excited about new movies. You can do the same thing with thanksgiving traditions. Remind them, “Man, I can’t wait until…” Share your excitement and your appreciation freely. Tell your children, “Thank you for sharing this tradition with me.”

Remember it when it’s over. Reminisce about memories of past years or moments that were especially fun, happy, inspiring, funny or touching to you and listen as they remember the things that were most meaningful to them. Write down your traditions and let them soak into your children’s lives.

Holiday traditions are not something to be bound to no matter what just because that is the way it’s been done, but holiday traditions can be powerful vessels for growth and connection with our family and loved ones. If there are traditions that aren’t working for you and your family, make new ones. Remember to make it meaningful, make it novel, make it fun, make it helpful and make it last. Now, go start making wonderful memories!

Question: What are some of your best holiday family traditions?

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