Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas

7 practical ways to honor God and give thanks during this year's holiday.

Thanksgiving can easily get lost in the flurry of family, food, and football.

Here are some ideas submitted by FamilyLife staff members for honoring God and giving thanks in your Thanksgiving festivities.

1. Pilgrims’ Kernels

Several years ago, before any of the Rainey children were married, Barbara Rainey wrote about a tradition:

“Just before we eat, we all write (on special place cards) 5 things for which we are thankful to God. On each of our brunch plates are 5 kernels of corn --  a reminder of the Pilgrims' daily ration during one of their first difficult winters.

We pass a basket around the table, and each person places one kernel of corn at a time into the basket and tells of one thing he or she is thankful for. The basket goes around the table 5 times.

I'm saving all of these place cards as reminders of how God has worked in our lives. Here, for example, are some of the things our children wrote one Thanksgiving:

  • "I'm thankful for being able to have a family."
  • "I'm thankful Ashley got to come home from college for Thanksgiving."
  • "I'm thankful for having a big sister."
  • "I'm thankful for God in my life."
  • "I'm thankful for my ministry at my high school."
  • "I'm thankful for my sisters and all they've taught me about relationships."
  • "I'm thankful for a great brother."

Dennis and I were thrilled to hear the kids actually thank God for each other! After so many years of arguing and fighting with each other, they were finally beginning to show each other the affection we hope will continue through their lives.

2. Feathers of Thanks

This idea is popular with small children. Using colored construction paper, create a paper turkey to place on an appropriate wall. Then cut out several feathers for the turkey.

Give a feather to each person in your family, and have them either write or draw something they thank God for.

When they are finished, have them tape the feathers to the turkey.

3. Thanksgiving Notebook

Purchase or create a nice notebook or journal before Thanksgiving. Over dinner, as each person tells about something they thank God for, have a family member write these down in your notebook.

Then, next year, do the same. As time goes by, the notebook will become a precious record of God's provision to your family over the years.

4. Thanksgiving Placemats

FamilyLife staff member Jennifer Loftin spent 2 years in Japan, and each of those years, she celebrated Thanksgiving with a couple who opened their home to Americans who were living in Japan.

The couple would prepare a mat with a cutout for a picture, and each person at the dinner would write what we were thankful for that year. The lady would laminate it, and next year it would be part of the collection of placemats.

The placemats from previous years would be placed around the table so that as they ate, they could read what others had been thankful for in years past.

5. Passing on Special Memories

Thanksgiving is a good time to remember what God has provided for you in the past. Before the day comes, spend some time with your spouse writing down special memories.

  • How did God bring you together?
  • What are some special ways He has provided funds for special needs?
  • How has He brought you through times of suffering?

Tell these stories over Thanksgiving dinner, marking a tangible, prepared version of God’s legacy of faithfulness to you.

6. Blessings Jar

Ricky and Ginger Roberts have a "blessings jar." It's a decorative jar that sits in their home, so the members of the family can fill it with notes and reminders of blessings all throughout the year.

On Thanksgiving, Rick and Ginger pour out the notes and read them out loud as a family, then they start again for the next year. That way, even little things are remembered.

7. Hard Tack

Bob Lepine (co-host of "FamilyLife Today" radio) and his family follow a tradition of making "hard tack"  and then eating it during their Thanksgiving meal. An unleavened bread which will last for months without spoiling, hard tack was used during the time of the Pilgrims on voyages across the Atlantic Ocean.

As they eat the bread, Bob reminds his family of the hardships the Pilgrims endured to come to this country.

He also asks, "Who else can you think of that needed bread to sustain them on a long trip? The answer: the Israelites, who ate the daily manna which God provided after He brought them out of Egypt.

This context provides the family with an opportunity to remember how God also sustains them and provides for all their needs.

Used with permission of FamilyLife, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, www.familylife.com. Copyright © by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.