How to start Thanksgiving traditions

How to start Thanksgiving traditions

sally mahan gives tipson how to start thanksgiving traditions

My grandson Max woke up this morning and the first words out of his mouth were, “Are we going to Grandpa and Nana’s house today?” It’s those moments that reinforce why Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday: It’s the one time of the year that my husband and I get to have all of our children and grandchildren together.

I try to put special things together every year that I can do with our grandchildren, Sydney, 6, Max, 3, Logan, 2, and our newest addition, Ellasyn, 7 months.

Sydney and I have created a few Thanksgiving traditions that we’ve shared through the years, but I think that Max and Logan are old enough now to take part in these fun activities. Here are a few fun things that we’ll do:

A Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt

I used to do this when my boys were little and they loved it. Basically, I’ll put notes around the house directing them from one point to another until they find the treasures, which will be small toys and maybe something sweet to eat.

Every Thanksgiving Day, Sydney and I head out to the woods with basket in hand. We find various “treasures,” such as colorful leaves, pinecones, acorns and any other neat thing we come across. Sydney then takes all those wonderful forest finds and decorates the dinner table.

Make Centerpieces Together

Last year I arranged several different-sized candlesticks with orange, white and gold candles on the table to put among our nature treasures. It’s not only fun and educational, it also makes for a unique and beautiful dinner table. I’m so looking forward to including Max and Logan in our special nature hunt this year. (Hint: Make sure to wash the pinecones and acorns. Little bugs love those things!)

I’ve put together a craft bag with felt, glitter pens, stickers and other fun things to make place cards for the table. Sydney, Max and Logan will cut them out (with a little help from Nana) into shapes like turkeys and maple leaves. We’ll then put each person’s name on them for their places at the table.

sally mahan and fred mahan with their grandchildren
Sally Mahan and her husband, Fred Mahan, are pictured with their grandchildren in 2015.

ADVERTISEMENT - Get 1 Year for $59.99!

Get dressed up for Thanksgiving

I’ve been hitting Goodwill and other consignment stores around town to buy outrageous items for a dress-up chest. I’ve got boas, costume jewelry, several hats (including a safari one!), crazy shirts and more. I also hit the dollar stores, Target and Walmart after Halloween and got a cowboy costume and several other items (wigs, sparkly-framed sunglasses, etc.). I’m betting that the children will love playing dress-up

Thanksgiving Family Portraits

I was lucky enough to find four sets of Thanksgiving pajamas for the grandchildren. I have to say it wasn’t easy. I found three pairs of jammies for the girls, but couldn’t find a single pair for a size 3 boy, except for one on eBay. After a week of bidding against what I think was another grandmother, I won the bid! I seriously felt like I won the lottery! All of the jammies are super-cute and I’m hoping to get some great pictures. We’re also having our first “pajama Thanksgiving,” meaning that everyone (all 15 guests) can wear pajamas or sweats all day on Thanksgiving. We’ll dress up for pictures on Wednesday, but I thought it’d be really fun to just relax in our cozies for football and turkey.

Teach gratefulness at Thanksgiving

Finally, we’re going to ask everyone to write down what they’re thankful for. We’ll then put those in a bowl, and each person will pick one and then guess who wrote it. This is a bit different than past years, when we’ve gone around the table at dinner and each person would talk about what they were thankful for. However, this ended in a lot of tears in my turkey and mashed potatoes. We’d be so moved by what our loved ones were saying that the waterworks would just start. So, I decided while that is beautiful, I think everyone should eat without a lump in their throat.

So, those are some of my plans. I’d love to hear about the special things you do to celebrate Thanksgiving. In the meantime, my warmest wishes for a safe and happy holiday!


In loving memory of Sally Mahan, who passed away leaving behind her beloved husband, two sons and grandchildren.