12 Thanksgiving Family Traditions You Can Start This Year

Inside: Looking for Thanksgiving family traditions ideas? Here are 12 new Thanksgiving traditions for families you can start 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 put together salads, baked a pumpkin pie, and made dressings.  

The teenagers kept the little kids occupied in the living room.  They played board games and built towers with wooden blocks. Over by the crackling fireplace, grandpa watched his grandkids play while simultaneously 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 perfect time to gather with family and friends, to make new memories, and to be grateful.  While the US traditionally celebrates Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, the celebrations vary in different parts of the United States and the world.

Some families celebrate by participating in a turkey trot, some attend Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade, and some watch a football game after their turkey dinner. 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 great time to make memories together with our families.  Old Thanksgiving traditions are great, but sometimes it’s nice to add something new to the mix and celebrate this time of year in different ways. 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 call your own. Include them in your celebrations, it’s a great way to make your next Thanksgiving fun, meaningful, and memorable..

1. Cook Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family

It’s nice when everyone comes together for a Thanksgiving meal and brings a dish to add to the family table.  But it’s something very special when you spend hours in the kitchen, preparing a big meal together.  This is one of the best ways to bond. Cooking together 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, and 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 Thanksgiving celebrations and have some delicious food with you.  You will make their day and give them another reason to be thankful.

4. Give food to those in need

As you look forward to enjoying turkey with cranberry sauce and your aunt’s delicious new recipe for a sweet potato casserole, don’t forget about those who aren’t able to have such a vast Thanksgiving feast.

Find a family you can bless with groceries this Thanksgiving.  Buy two turkeys instead of one and give one away.  Donate to food banks. Serve at a soup kitchen. Drop off necessities at homeless shelters. Go to a part of town where there’s more need and share food with others.

Spread the holiday spirit by serving someone less fortunate.

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.  Young kids can participate too, and if they can’t write yet, adults can help them put their gratitude on paper.

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 show that you appreciate those you love and 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 in a gratitude jar until next year.  Next Thanksgiving day, the host reads all of the last year’s 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 the big feast, 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…”. 


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 Thanksgiving hosts 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.

Playing this game together is a fun way to connect and have a good laugh.

10. Take a group photo

Thanksgiving is a great chance for everyone to take a photo of the entire family.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy photo shoot.  Just a snapshot of all the family members enjoying fun 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 together 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. Give thanks for what you have and celebrate this holiday in new ways.

Does your family have a favorite Thanksgiving tradition?  Leave a comment and tell me about it.

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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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