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I don't know about you, but in years past, the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Years sometimes have been a blur of busy activity that goes by without my ever feeling as if I have really slowed down and taken the time to consider the purpose behind the festivities or impressed that purpose upon my children.
Due to multiple deaths and separations in our extended family over the last ten years, our family dynamics have changed significantly. Time with our children is fleeting and family is a fragile treasure. I want to make the most of these celebrations, building memories that will last into my children's adult years and allow us to savor the significance of what we are celebrating.
If you are looking for ways to make your Thanksgiving celebration a little more meaningful, here are some ideas that we have used in the past or are planning to use this year.
Read a Thanksgiving Proclamation
It was in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln first set aside the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise. A great way to celebrate this holiday today is by reading Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation. Here is just an excerpt:
Wow! Can you imagine how different our nation could be if our president and citizens had this attitude (and were not afraid to voice it publicly).
We can start in our homes, cultivating this attitude of prayer for our nation in our hearts and in our children's hearts and I can think of no better time than on Thanksgiving Day.
To download the entire proclamation, scroll to the bottom of the article.
Make a Tree of Thanks
Something we've done in the past is to create a tree of thanks to display. This is a practical way to cultivate an attitude of thanks in the days or weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
There are lots of versions of this idea on Pinterest, but here's what we did.
Start with a sketch of a tree. You can enlist the kids' help in coloring or painting it. (We used acrylic paint.) Make it as large or small as you want.
Next, make paper leaves (enough for each person in the family to have several) and place them in a jar or basket. Each day, encourage family members to write on a leaf something for which they are thankful and tape it to the tree.
That's it! Pretty simple.
To download the leaf template, scroll to the bottom of the article.
Remember the "First" Thanksgiving
Our American tradition of a day set aside to thank God for His care and provision originally began with the Pilgrims, of course! So what better way to celebrate than to remind our children of this heritage.
Before using the TruthQuest history guide in our homeschool, I always "knew" that the Pilgrims' significance came from forming one of the first lasting colonies in America. However, Michelle Miller (author of TruthQuest), points out that their impact was so much more!
Whether you simply talk about the first Thanksgiving and what the Pilgrims were celebrating or read a book about it together, remembering the past and reminding our children (and ourselves!) of the great spiritual and political heritage the Pilgrims passed on to us is such a wonderful way to bring meaning to our Thanksgiving holdiay celebration!
Share Thanksgiving Poetry
Whether you encourage family members to write their own or simply find one to share, reading poetry at your Thanksgiving celebration is another simple way to add meaning to the day and build traditions.
For a searchable database of poems that are in the public domain, try www.poets.org. I found this poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. For a printable version, scroll to the bottom of the article.
Reach out to Someone in Need
Know of someone who will be celebrating Thanksgiving alone? Invite them to your celebration.
Do you know of a person or family suffering hardship (whether financial, physical, or spiritual) right now? Do something special for them.
Here are some ideas:
There are so many people hurting in this world and never-ending possibilities of ways we can bless them and let them know they are not alone. You never know when meeting someone's physical needs will open the door to meet a deeper spiritual need if there is one. Not to mention, these acts have a great, lasting impact on our children!
Memorize or Read Scripture Around the Table
Since becoming involved with the National Bible Bee three years ago, we have realized the importance of making scripture memorization a regular part of our lives. We have already reaped such wonderful fruit from this investment.
Encourage each family member to choose a portion of scripture that deals directly with thanks or is meaningful for them and memorize it. Before the meal begins or when everyone is sitting around the table together, take turns reciting this scripture.
Once, when our older children were much younger, my mom assigned them all a portion of scripture (I think from Psalms) that she wanted to them memorize for Thanksgiving. Even though it's been years ago, they still remember that day and portions of their assigned verses.
Here are a few scripture suggestions:
Sing Hymns of Thanks
Tara and I love to fill our homes with music. It's part of our Appalachian roots. ;-)
We both have fond memories from childhood of family reunions with all the (great-) aunts/uncles, cousins, and extended family (too distantly related to accurately trace the connection) gathering around my great aunt's ancient, out-of-tune piano with guitars and voices blended in harmony and singing hymns and gospel songs until dark.
Music is a wonderful way to build lasting family memories and praise God for His gifts! Although we have never personally done this for a Thanksgiving celebration, I think I'm going to suggest it this year. Here are some songs I'm considering:
These are just a few ideas. I'm sure there are so many other ways to make this day special and meaningful! If you have any ideas to share, I'm always looking for new ones!
To download all of the free printables from this post, click on the image below.
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