Thanksgiving is hardly a time to think of battles. We were at Gettysburg this past summer. It was sobering. The wheatfield, the hospital, the pillars from the states erected over acres of war-torn land. It was amazing and quieting. Yesterday we attended a luncheon with our State Senator who mentioned that President Lincoln declared a day of National Thanksgiving after the battle at Gettysburg.
A Day of Thanksgiving after a horrible 3-day butcher-fest.
And the pilgrims- think what you may- lost 45 of the original 102 souls who landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They were people who were willing to suffer and die for the hope of freedom and the right to religious liberty. Those that survived celebrated with a feast: a day of thanksgiving after a year of profound suffering, death, and loss.
Battles and Loss
Maybe you feel like you’ve just come through a battle of sorts: a battle for your health, a battle for a child struggling with addiction, a battle for your soul or the soul of someone you love. What I know for sure and for certain is that this life is chock-full of battles, hardship, and disappointments. And holidays can be like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut
But I also know that regardless of the battles you’ve fighting or just won or recently lost, there is much to be grateful for. We live in America. We are the fortunate 5% of the world’s population that lives in a place of relative freedom, choices, prosperity, and opportunity.
In spite of the battles being fought, lost and won, we have much to be grateful for.
An Attitude of Gratitude
My daughter and I went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood last night. Mr. Rogers was beloved by many precisely because he continuously found thanksgiving amidst the battle. I certainly didn’t expect to cry throughout, but I wasn’t the only one as you could hear others in the theater muffling tears, sniffling and blowing their noses. At the end of the movie, Mr. Rogers leans in to whisper to a dying man, a man whose life has been exemplified by loss, addiction, and desertion of the people he was charged to protect. He is asked later, what was it that he whispered. He has asked the man to pray for him because someone so close to death would be close to God. It is a beautiful re-frame. Instead of pitying the man, he sees that death brings clarity and refined purpose. This woeful sinner repented, asked forgiveness in a clear and profound manner and used his last days to redeem and bring healing. Mr. Rogers is grateful for this man’s life-all of it- the pain, suffering, redemption, and healing. He finds thanksgiving amidst the battle.
Holidays can be hard. My prayer for you is that you see all that you have to be thankful for and that despite the current or recently fought battle, you will feel God’s good presence and experience joy!
May it be your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Lord, who hears prayer.
We love to celebrate Thanksgiving. At our house it means dedicated days to enjoy each other’s company, visiting, cooking and eating. While there are certain recipes that we always make and certain things we often do, we are always on the look-out for new ways to celebrate together! Traditions are important because they give us a sense of belonging and community. Holidays help us remember our values as well as personal and collected history. Here we’ve gathered 25 things to do to ensure that your Thanksgiving Holiday is a delightful day of gathering with friends and family!
25 Ideas for Celebrating Together
- Breakfast: Set out a simple continental breakfast, a lovely quiche or pumpkin muffins, orange juice, and coffee to fuel the troops till the feasting begins.
- Board Games: Are de rigor when we get some time together- especially when we get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays! Some of our favorites are; Bananagrams, Codenames, Trails and Rails, Eclipse, Risk, Agricola and, of course, Settlers of Catan!
- Books: When our kids were younger, we’d set out a Thanksgiving Day basket full of books, including; Eating Plates, Sarah Morton’s Day, Samuel Eaton’s Day, On Plymouth Plantation, Tapenum’s Day, The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving, Squanto’s Journey and If you Sailed on the Mayflower – to name a few!
- Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: You’re never too old for Charlie Brown and friends! You’ll get a brief overview of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Snoopy then serves up a holiday feast which includes buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, jelly beans, and ice cream sundae.
- Comedy: We are always on the look-out for good comedy and love to share with others! One of our favorites is John Branyon’s 3 Little Pigs
- Corn Kernels: Put five kernels of corn (candy corn, works too if you don’t have access to real kernels!) by each place setting, in honor of the first Thanksgiving, and have everyone go around the table and name five blessings they experienced this year.
- Create a Cornucopia: Create a cornucopia for your Thanksgiving centerpiece or buffet table. My mom used to have a simple cornucopia basket that we’d decorate each year with leaves, pinecones, and flowers! The meaning of cornucopia comes from the Latin words “cornu” meaning horn and “copia” meaning plenty. The cornucopia is a common harvest symbol associated with plenty. If you can’t find a basket one, bake an edible one out of bread! A quick internet search will help you find a plethora of ways to create a beautiful and edible centerpiece!
- Cyber Monday: Along with other on-line companies, True North Homeschool Academy has some amazing specials coming up that you are not going to want to miss!
- Food: We love good food, are all busy and have some dietary restrictions to work around. Sometimes our Thanksgiving table looks traditional and sometimes not so much! Each year we tweak, plan and prep for a few days before the big day so that there are plenty of left-overs to feed the masses over the weekend and we can spend more time visiting.
- Give a Toast: Before the meal begins, raise your glasses and honor the occasion. Giving a toast lends a festive air and is a lovely way to celebrate Thanksgiving and all that you are thankful for!
- Gratitude Garland: Have a basket of pre-cut, fall-colored construction paper chains and pens near-by so people can write down what they are thankful for. Start linking up and create your décor as you go- add to the chain over the holidays!
- Hostess Gift: Take along some Tupperware if you find yourself a guest during the Thanksgiving weekend and help your hostess out with storing and sharing yummy left-overs! Leftovers are just a natural extension as we celebrate Thanksgiving, so we always make plenty so we will have enough to nosh on the rest of the weekend. Of course, a delicious side dish, flowers or homemade preserves would also be a lovely hostess gift.
- Maker Space: Set up a simple craft table with a tried and true holiday craft like the Thanksgiving apple or Handprint turkeys. These crafts are simple and fun to create!
- Placecards: Create beautiful place cards for the table so everyone knows where they belong. Write an encouraging note, scripture verse or a blessing on the back as a keepsake.
- Ping-pong or Air -Hockey: These are fun diversions and a great way to get multiple ages and stages interacting together. Both beginners and your super talented people can visit while they play.
- Pray Together: Join hands and pray – your prayer can be a simple one, a collective one, or a traditional one. You can find traditional prayers online, or pray through a Psalm together. You could even print these out for each place setting ahead of time.
- Take a Hike: If the weather is nice enough, get outside after the traditional turkey and take a hike. Encourage the littles to find as many colors in nature as possible, or to identify various sounds. If you have enough of a group, play a round of flag football or ultimate Frisbee.
- Tell Family Stories and Sing Songs: Every family has its share of fun, wild and wonderful stories! Tell about the time you had the canoe misadventure, or your latest vacation, or about when Grandma was little. Stories are a wonderful way to bond together and re-visit shared history. And don’t forget the joy of the sing-along. When I was little, no visit to my Grandparents was complete without a trip to Aunt Dolly’s house, where we would all gather around the piano and sing together. Church hymns are wonderful, but simple rounds and camp songs are delightful as well.
- Thankful Tree: Create a thankful tree with branches, spray painted if you like, and “planted” in a decorative pot. Set out construction paper leaves and markers and have friends and family write down what they’re grateful for on a leaf, then attach to the branches.
- Set the Table: Put a leaf in the table, pull out the tablecloth and set out your best dishes. Don’t forget a centerpiece, napkins, and lovely place setting cards. Put on some soft background music and light candles, then gather together to talk, laugh and enjoy a beautiful meal together.
- Show Gratitude: Set up a letter-writing station complete with beautiful stationery, colorful pens, and stamps for easy mailing to truly celebrate Thanksgiving by honoring those who have enriched your life in the past year! Give everyone time to write a letter of gratitude to a special friend who has blessed them this past year. A wonderful activity and sweet takeaway of the day.
- Serve: Donate coats to kids in need, serve in a soup kitchen and donate to your favorite charity, such as Blessing Bethlehem!
- Turkey’s Away: WKRP’s Turkey’s Away episode is still funny, after all these years! “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”
- TV: Of course the Macy’s Day Parade is a Thanksgiving Day staple, along with afternoon football. If neither of those of your cup of tea, check out the National Dog Show!
- Video Chat: Visit with Far-away Family and Friends! You can use Zoom free for 40 minutes at a go! Of course, it’s not the same, but when your married kids live half a country away, it is the next best thing!
More Celebration Ideas
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? We’d love to hear about what you do to make the holiday memorable! If you would like more fun ideas for creating family traditions and celebrating the season, download our free Fall Bucket List Printable to help you plan now!