Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’re like most Americans, you’re already dreaming of turkey, pumpkin pie, and cranberry relish. Seeing as this holiday usually involves house guests, traveling, and lots of cooking and baking, chances are you are also stressed about one thing or another. With so much to do in so little time, it’s easy to lose sight of what Thanksgiving is really about: taking the time to be thankful for your life’s many blessings and joys.
It is tradition in some families to go around the table and name something each person is thankful for. Unfortunately, for the family introverts this can be a little intimidating, while the extroverts in the room might go on and on. It’s also easy to slip into cliches and unoriginal answers. Sure, everyone might really mean it when yet another person says “family and friends,” but that doesn’t make it interesting. Spending time with family and friends is what it’s all about, so why not take that time to deepen those connections? Try asking each guest to write what they are thankful for on a slip of paper well before dinner, put the answers into a bowl and have each guest select one to read out loud either revealing the name of the writer or having the others guess.
If you have kids to entertain, there are countless Thanksgiving related crafts you can do, many of which make adorable holiday decor. Granted, a craft project in the middle of the dinner making rush probably sounds like a lot of mess and stress. But if there’s a grown up or older child who doesn’t have meal prep work to do and a space away from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, have the kids make a pine cone turkey, and on each paper tail feather have the child write something they are thankful for. To save time, one pine cone turkey could be made ahead of time and each child could contribute a single feather they’ve written on. A perfect centerpiece for the kids’ table!
A great way to observe Thanksgiving in a way that focuses on giving thanks is to volunteer as a family. Many local food banks need donations and help this time of year. Hospices and elder care centers are also great places to volunteer your time to spend with people who might otherwise be lonely during the holidays. Does your family love animals? Local animal shelters have plenty of inhabitants who would love a walk or a scratch under the chin, not to mention the less glamorous but very important litter box and cage cleaning. No matter how you choose to spend it, time spent together expressing your values in a concrete way helps to bring families together.
With that in mind, remember that many places that feed the hungry already have plenty of volunteers during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. “The real need for volunteer support is when the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over,” Meals on Wheels of San Francisco CEO Ashley McCumber told Money Magazine. Make sure that you contact any organization you’d like to help ahead of time and ask how and when you and your family can be of the most use.
Remember, it’s hard to feel thankful when you’re stressed out. So try to focus on friends rather than food, relationships rather than relish, and people rather than pumpkin pie.