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8 Creative (and Free) Ways to Fully Embrace the Spirit of Thanksgiving



This year has taken enough already from us; I refuse to give Thanksgiving over to a year of unforeseen circumstances and challenging setbacks. Let’s have the kind of day that feels all the more meaningful in light of what this year has taught us.

Here are some ways I am re-engaging tradition and introducing new practices: 

1. Have everyone write down something they are thankful for this year and put them in a jar. Have one person pull them out and read them, with everyone else guessing to whom it belongs. Once the correct person has been named, they can share why they chose their answer. 

2. Organize a Thanksgiving “turkey trot.” Some years we have done it before the meal, as a way to enjoy the day together before a meal brings us to the table. Some years we’ve done it after dinner, before we enjoy a piece of pie or pumpkin flavored ice cream. 

3. Create a worship playlist. Ask everyone to contribute one song to a playlist that runs throughout your meal. It’s a fun way for everyone to feel represented in the household, while sharing their particular musical taste. 

4. Double a recipe to either share with someone else or freeze for later. Cooking is already a part of the day, so it’s not much more to add to the list of what to make, while sharing the load. Whether you bless someone else with your efforts or enjoy it on another day when you have less time, it’s a gift you are giving on a day when giving is our focus

5. Pass out a form you custom create for your family regarding Christmas. What are you hoping to receive? What’s your availability for family functions? What Christmas traditions are important to you? What holiday food or movies are you hoping to experience this year? This always helps with Black Friday shopping and getting ahead of expectations at the start of the season.

6. Figure out what’s most important to you and relax on all the rest. Think about how you want to go to bed feeling (Full? Connected? Relaxed? Thankful?) and reverse engineer your day. For me, this means I end up letting some things go, and pre-communicating others. We have a roll of kraft paper on our pantry door and I write out the day’s events (we are eating at this time, or leaving for somewhere at this time…) I write what’s happening that’s optional (pick up football game, Christmas movie at night) and what’s expected (meal times, clean up list.) It helps me not answer the same questions over and over throughout the day and keeps people feeling oriented and secure. 

7. Think about if there is someone you can include in your family meal. Is there a neighbor, extended family member, work or school friend who doesn’t have anywhere else to be? It’s a chance to reinforce family values of inclusion and generosity, while practicing the biblical principle of hospitality. 

8. I usually print off questions or create them myself to place on the Thanksgiving table to drive conversation in a fresh direction. Could be questions about the year we’ve just been through, or about the historical significance of the day, it could be questions about what, and who we are thankful for…

There are plenty of ways for the day to be experienced to its fullest, and I am hoping instead of feeling like it happened to me, I engineer a day I want to wake up in and experience with the most important people in my life.

I hope this Thanksgiving is a chance you can share beloved traditions and new practices in a way that encourages your heart and fills you up. Happy Thanksgiving season!



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Beth and her husband, Todd, live with their family in Cincinnati, Ohio where they serve as Co-Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries. After graduating from Indiana University, the Guckenbergers moved to Monterrey, Mexico where they lived for 15 years. Between biological, foster, and adopted children, they have raised eleven children.


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