20 Thanksgiving Traditions for Families: Meaningful Ideas to Start This Year
Want to create lasting family memories – minus all the stress? Today we are sharing simple Thanksgiving tradition ideas your family can start this year. (updated 2022)
The Importance of Thanksgiving Traditions
Did you know there is research which shows that traditions make our kids feel more secure?
Traditions also help promote healthy relationships between generations.
Children will often remember the special experiences of family traditions long after the toys and gifts are forgotten.
But the good news is that they don’t need to be lavish and complicated.
Plus, you wanna know the real reason you need to start some Thanksgiving family traditions now?
Because when your kids are married adults, you want them to come home for the holidays!
If you have memorable traditions in place while your children are growing up, they won’t want to miss out on them when they are grown.
This will ensure that your children and, eventually, grandchildren are sitting around the dinner table during the holidays.
Simple Thanksgiving Traditions to Start This Year
1. Family Thanksgiving Tablecloth
Our first super simple Thanksgiving tradition is a heart-warming idea from the Mills Family in Missouri.
Each year, everyone invited to Thanksgiving dinner signs the tablecloth with a permanent marker.
Here are a few tips to kick up the sentimental value:
- New baby in the family? Trace their hand or foot on the tablecloth so they are represented.
- Use a different color marker for each year. Create a key along one of the bottom edges so you can look back and see who was there in 2017.
- Your daughter invited her fiancé last year and then he called off the wedding? No problem, place the gravy boat over his name!
An alternative idea would be to do this with a table runner.
2. The Thankful Pumpkin
I can’t think of a more simple Thanksgiving tradition than that.
It’s best to use a “fumpkin” AKA fake pumpkin, which you should be able to score for super cheap at any craft store after Halloween.
Use any color of spray paint, let dry and then use sharpies or metallic paint pins to write.
There are a few different ways you can personalize this new super simple Thanksgiving tradition:
- Write the year on the pumpkin and have everyone sign their name.
- Create a pumpkin for each family member to fill with everything they were thankful for that year.
- Store the pumpkins to set out the following years for an opportunity to reminisce. Also becomes a super simple way to decorate!
3. Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt
Grab the kids and get outside for this fun fall activity. Just print out this super adorable Thanksgiving scavenger hunt for kids and have fun looking for all of the items on the checklist.
4. Gratitude Jar
You will adore this fun family Thanksgiving tradition idea from Made with Happy.
First you get your DIY on and make the bank. This requires a few simple materials like a mason jar, a wooden plank, and prepping some wooden “coins” to deposit in the bank.
All of the supplies to make this project come in multiples, so you will have enough to make a second “Gratitude Jar” to give to someone as a gift.
Once complete, simply write your thank-yous and notes of gratitude on the coins and drop them in the bank throughout the year or month of November.
Enjoy reading them aloud as you sit around the dinner table on Thanksgiving. You could even create a different colored “coin” for each family member.
5. Make a Thanksgiving Treat
Spending time together in the kitchen is always a fantastic way to make memories as a family.
Make a fun Thanksgiving treat like these no-bake turkey cookies to give to neighbors or to enjoy with your family.
6. Turkey Day Countdown
As an elementary school teacher, holiday countdowns are a staple in my classroom.
A simple paper chain made from fall-colored construction paper, is an easy way to countdown the days until Thanksgiving. Simply remove one link of the chain each day.
7. Thanksgiving Door Banner
I originally found the inspiration for ideas when looking for ways to make Valentine’s Day special for my kiddos. When Turkey Day rolled around, it popped back into my head as an easy Thanksgiving tradition to start with my family.
Simply cover a door with butcher paper. I love the rustic look of brown kraft paper; perfect for fall!
Be sure to use painter’s tape for easy removal.
Set a mason jar of permanent makers nearby, and everyone has a chance to sign their name or write what they are thankful for. When the festivities are over, you can roll it up for safekeeping, or turn it over and let the kids draw on the back.
8. Family Turkey Trot
Avoid the commute and crowds associated with larger Turkey Trots and instead enjoy a nice stroll with your friends and family!
Set a meeting time and designate the route using sidewalk chalk or large bows tied onto light posts. I could see this one quickly turning from a friendly stroll into an annual competition between siblings!
9. Hand Out Blessing Bags
Spend some time together as a family putting together blessing bags for the homeless. Fill the bags with toiletries, snacks, gloves, socks, and hand warmers. Keep them in your car to handout around town, or donate them to a homeless shelter.
10. Volunteer in a Soup Kitchen
There is no better way to raise grateful children than to give them opportunities to help others that are less fortunate.
Make volunteering in a kitchen that serves meals to the homeless or a women’s and children’s shelter a Thanksgiving tradition to help others.
11. Play Board Games
Thanksgiving is typically when we spend time with extended family and friends. In order to make sure you get to see everyone while they are in town, plan a Thanksgiving Game Night.
This is a great tradition because it can take place before or after turkey day, as a fun activity to laugh and play together.
12. Go Black Friday Shopping
In the retail world, the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, when stores often have huge sales that start early in the morning. It’s a great time to snag great Christmas gifts at amazing discounts.
Make it a tradition by going with family each year.
Not ready to brave the crowds? Then stay home in your jammies for a virtual Black Friday while you shop online together.
13. Decorate for Christmas
In our home, it’s a tradition to decorate for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving.
Turn on the Christmas music, put all the pumpkins away, and spend the day putting out all your holiday decor.
14. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
One of my favorite memories from childhood was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television. Growing up in a small town, it was amazing to see such a huge parade with amazing floats, balloons, and bands.
Watching the parade on television is an easy activity that is great for friends and family of all ages.
15. Friends Pie Night
Thanksgiving – so MUCH food, so LITTLE time!
The Holidays are such a special time of the year, but the hustle and bustle often mean that we aren’t able to spend time with some of the people we are closest to.
Typically, Thanksgiving dinner is eaten with family, and then we hop on Instagram to “see” all of our friends. Wouldn’t you like to actually spend time with them too?
Here comes Friends Pie Night to make that happen!
The setup for this super simple Thanksgiving tradition takes no time at all.
Invite your friends, brew a pot of coffee or tea and be sure to have plenty of plates and forks available.
Each invitee brings their favorite pie and everyone joins in the Pie Fest.
The Dating Divas have a ton of ideas to make the night super fun and entertaining, including gratitude charades and pie judging.
Another spin on this same idea is a Leftover Pie Party.
This super laid-back tradition is hosted the day after Thanksgiving.
In this version, everyone brings their leftover pie from the night before – because there is ALWAYS more pie than you can possibly eat in one day.
The perfect post-Turkey Day brunch to visit with friends and eat more pie! Plus if one of the kids shoves their hand in the pie it’s ok, because there is plenty more to go around.
16. A Box Full of Thanks
This wonderfully simple idea from Cottage in the Oaks is definitely one worth sharing.
This is a great tradition to start when your children are small and continue it as they grow.
To start, each person decorates their own box.
You can use an empty wipes container, shoebox, or purchase a document box – all of these would work great.
At the beginning of November, set out strips of paper and markers for writing.
Each night at dinner, have everyone write something they are thankful for and place it in their box. On Thanksgiving day, you can open the boxes and read everyone’s responses.
If you use a different color of paper each year it makes it very easy to keep them all in the same box, but pull out a few from previous years to reminisce.
There you have it! A handful of super simple Thanksgiving traditions to start with your family this year!
More Thanksgiving Ideas:
- Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt: FREE Printable for Kids
These are such great ideas! I love the painted pumpkins and the gratitude bank!
I thought they were great too – that is why I just had to share! I am all about simple – but meaningful traditions!
I am all about traditions! Especially with my babies being so little now (16 months and due in January!) so having a lovely tradition to start from the get go would be wonderful to see later as they get older!! Love these ideas!!
Awww…little ones! That would be so fun for you to trace handprints and (like on the tablecloth) and see how they grow each year. I can even imagine and entire tablecloth of just handprints – how cute would that be? And super fun to watch it fill up as they grow!
Exactly what I was looking for! Awesome ideas thank you!!
Great! I am glad these ideas are helpful to so many. I just know that I want to make the holidays meaningful for my family, but I don’t have time for elaborate crafts, decorating or projects. These quick ideas are the perfect way to pause and create memories – without adding stress and frustration!