12 Thanksgiving Family Traditions You Can Start This Year

Inside: Looking for new Thanksgiving family tradition ideas?  Here are 12 Thanksgiving traditions you can start with your family and friends this year.

turkey on the table 12 Thanksgiving Family traditions you can start this year

When I was little, I was fascinated with movies where the whole family came together to cook a meal.  Some family members chopped up the veggies, some tended to the grill, while others made salads, pies, and dressings.  

The teenagers kept the little kids occupied in the living room.  Over by the crackling fireplace, grandpa watched his grandkids play while reading the newspaper.  

Back in the kitchen, grandma was in charge.  She knew what needed to be done next, and orchestrated the whole ordeal with flawless confidence.  Some of the kids snuck into the kitchen to see what’s baking and to steal one of the finger sandwiches that were still under construction.  

Family Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner Together

The house was a-bustle with happy noise and fulfilling busyness.  As a kid, this was the best part of the movies I saw.  I loved watching families come together, make together, and laugh together.

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends, and be grateful.  It’s celebrated differently in different parts of the country and the world.  Thanksgiving traditions may vary from family to family, but what unifies us all is gratefulness.

Family traditions are a big part of our kids’ childhood.  It’s a big part of the memories we make together with our families.  Old Thanksgiving traditions are great, but sometimes it’s nice to add something new to the mix. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more.  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Thanksgiving family traditions to start this year

Whether you have a small family or a large one, here is a list of thanksgiving family tradition ideas you can make your own.  Include them in your celebrations and make your next Thanksgiving fun, meaningful, and memorable.

1. Cook Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family

It’s nice when everyone comes together before dinner and brings a dish to add to the Thanksgiving table.  But it’s something very special when you spend hours in the kitchen, preparing Thanksgiving dinner together.  This brings you closer and helps make the memories you will cherish for years to come.

2. Read a children’s book or a story out loud

Get a book that will tell a story about being thankful, and gather the children together.  Kids love stories, and while grandma is in the kitchen cooking up a storm with all of her helpers, Grandpa or uncle Larry can read a meaningful story to them.  

Here are some Thanksgiving story book ideas.

This can become a big part of Thanksgiving memories for kids.  Bonus points to Grandpa or uncle Larry for reading the book in an engaging tone, changing their voice based on the characters in the story.

3. Invite someone lonely for dinner

Find someone in your community that doesn’t have family around, and make them feel special by inviting them to join your family table.  You will make their day and give them another reason to be thankful.

4. Give food to those in need

Find a family you can bless with groceries this Thanksgiving.  Buy two turkeys instead of one and give one away.  Donate to a food pantry. Go to a part of town where there’s more need and share food with others.

5. Write thank you cards to each other

When the whole family comes together, take the opportunity to thank one another in written form.  Set out thank you cards, envelopes, and a few pens on a small table, and encourage the family to put them to good use.  

Each family member can then write thank you cards to each other.  Cards can be opened when everyone’s back home, or right there at the Thanksgiving table.  It’s up to your family members.  But the idea is to uplift each other with words of gratitude.

6. Write gratitude on index cards

Pass around index cards and have everyone write down what they are thankful for this year.  The host collects the cards and keeps them until next year.  Next Thanksgiving day, the host reads all of the last years’ index cards out loud.  This helps everyone see how much they’ve grown in a year and what has changed in their lives.  It’s like creating a time capsule for everyone at the dinner table.  Rinse and repeat again next year.

7. Share what you’ve learned this year

When the family is enjoying dinner, everyone can take a turn and share one thing they learned in the last year.  This can be coupled with saying one thing they are thankful for.  

8. Face time or Zoom with family who couldn’t make it

Video call those who weren’t able to make it to your family’s Thanksgiving celebration.  The call doesn’t have to be a long one, just going around the room and saying hello will make those missing from your dinner table feel very special and included.

9. Play a fun gratitude game together

Here is a game idea you can play with your family.  Pass out small pieces of paper to everyone in the room.  One paper will say “I’m thankful for…” at the top, and the other will say, “because…”.  To make this easy for you, here’s a free printable you can print out and quickly cut into cards.  Join the motherhood tribe email list below and it’ll be on its way to your inbox.

Fun Thanksgiving Family Game Free Printable by Raising Bliss


Everyone will have an “I’m thankful for…” card and a “because…” card.  They will then write down what or who they’re thankful for on the first card, and the reason for it on the second card.

Once everyone fills out their cards, collect all “I’m thankful for…” cards in one bowl, and all “because…” cards in another.  The host or another willing participant will then pull one card from the “I’m thankful for…” bowl, and one card from the “because…” bowl and read them together as one sentence.  

It will help if the pronouns on the second card were changed to match the first part of the sentence (her changed to him if the first card is talking about grandpa, and him changed to it if the first card is referencing a toy).  If changing pronouns seems complicated at first, don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it, and everyone will have a good laugh.

10. Take a group photo together

Thanksgiving is a great chance for everyone to take a photo together.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy photo shoot.  Just a snapshot of all the family members enjoying Thanksgiving traditions together will go a long way in building memories from year to year.

11. Decorate for Christmas

Once everyone is fed and the table is cleared, get all the Christmas decorations out and decorate for Christmas together with your loved ones.  Put Christmas music on, and deck the halls.

12. Thank the Creator of it all

You’ve thanked each other, you’ve reminisced about the past year, and you’re looking forward to the future.  But don’t forget to give thanks to the one who created everything you’re thankful for.  Thank God for all the blessings in your life.

In conclusion,

How do you make Thanksgiving feel special?

  • 1. Cook Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family
  • 2. Read a children’s book or a story out loud
  • 3. Invite someone lonely for dinner
  • 4. Give food to those in need
  • 5. Write thank you cards to each other
  • 6. Write gratitude on index cards and add it to family time capsule
  • 7. Share what you’ve learned this year
  • 8. Face time family who couldn’t make it
  • 9. Play a fun gratitude game together
  • 10. Take a group photo together
  • 11. Decorate for Christmas
  • 12. Thank the Creator of it all

There you have it, I hope you find something new on this list to add to your Thanksgiving family traditions.

Do you have family traditions you follow every Thanksgiving?  Leave a comment and tell me about it!

Want the free printable for a fun gratitude game?  Join Raising Bliss’ motherhood tribe below and it will be on its way to your inbox.

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dinner table 12 Thanksgiving Family traditions you can start this year

12 Thanksgiving Family Traditions You Can Start This Year

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