Holiday traditions can be a source of joy that families look forward to each year—turkey carving, parades, reunions with family, all of these things fill our hearts. But as the calendar rolls around to November, you might find yourself wanting to replace some old, tired traditions with fun new ones. Look no further. At Austin Family, we’ve done our research and compiled a list of ten Thanksgiving traditions to try. Don’t overwhelm yourself—pick one and see how it goes. That’s the great thing about holiday traditions—it’s never too late to try out a new one and make it your own.
- Make it potluck. There’s no reason the host has to do all the heavy lifting in the kitchen. Ask your guests to bring a dish. Most people have a holiday side dish or dessert recipe that they’re quite proud of. Let your guests bring a good portion of the meal and then rave about their culinary abilities. Everyone will appreciate some added variety to the meal, and it will take some stress off the host.
- Phones at the table, please. After the Thanksgiving meal, when everyone is still gathered at the table, have your guests choose one photograph on their phones that makes them especially grateful. Allow each guest to show his or her photograph and describe what it is about that moment that sparks gratitude. You’ll learn something new about your guests and use technology in a positive way.
- Likable leftovers. When all the guests leave, the host is usually left with a mountain of leftover mashed potatoes. Why not share the wealth? Purchase some cute “to go” boxes from your craft store and send guests home with some leftovers from your feast. Thanksgiving leftovers make a great midnight snack or next-day brunch item.
- Stay Connected with technology. Plane tickets for the Thanksgiving holiday week can be very expensive. If you can’t be with your loved ones, make a new tradition of using technology to connect. Set up a smartphone in the dining area and take five or ten minutes to video chat with friends and family. Be sure to ask pointed questions to your virtual guests: what are you all eating for your feast? What do you have planned for the day?
- Take the party outdoors. When the big Thanksgiving meal starts to digest and everyone feels sleepy, take the party to your backyard to change things up. Let the kids play (Austin weather is typically pleasant at the end of November) and set up chairs for adults around a fire pit if you have one.
- Party favors for all. Kids aren’t the only people who like a nice party favor. If you’re hosting a large gathering, use a party favor as the place card for each guest. A small candle, a Christmas tree decoration, or a special candy or chocolate are items that not only make a decorative table but help your guests feel welcome and special.
- Take a scavenger walk. After your meal, plan to take a walk with your guests in your neighborhood. If you have kids in your group, make a list of items for them to find on the walk. (The first person to find all the items gets the biggest helping of dessert.) Even better, have your guests each find a pretty leaf, branch or nature item to use in a holiday wreath or table decoration.
- Christmas tree fun. If you’re someone who likes to have your Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving, why not incorporate it into your Thanksgiving festivities? Have guests help decorate it. You might give guests a hanging “gratitude pin.” Let each guest write what he or she is thankful for and hang it on your tree to get the holidays off to a lovely start.
- Playlist requests. Good background music makes any gathering better. Why not ask your guests ahead of time what artists they love to hear around the holidays? Use a music app like Spotify or YouTube Music and creating a Thanksgiving, 2023 playlist for your special day. Your friends and family will enjoy hearing their favorite music at your feast and it will spark great conversation.
- Show Off Some Talent. If your kids play an instrument or have a fun and silly talent, let them do a little performance for your guests. It’s a wonderful way to help boost confidence in your kids and it makes for a fun and enjoyable evening for your guests. If distant relatives are there for the meal, they will love getting to know your kids better and creating a new memory.
Jess Archer is a writer, a mom of two kids and a wife. She is the author of the memoir, “Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Billy Graham.”