Just writing this post makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! I just love the holidays and I’m all about that hygge. If you are too, then this post is for you!!
We are freaks for tradition. That’s how I grew up and that is how we are raising our kids. Tradition is EVERYTHING!
It’s kind of comical in a way, but we have traditions and routines for even the smallest things. And that is only amplified during the holiday season.
The holiday season really starts for us at the end of September with our eldest son’s birthday. We kick things off with all of his birthday festivities and it doesn’t end until January.
Now the season will be bookended with our new daughter’s birthday – whenever she decides to arrive on either side of her EDD!
I believe that traditions are really the glue that binds us together. Traditions give us something to look forward to.
It’s what gives our kids those special memories. And the photos we take are a measure of how our family changes over time.
They are something to be passed down from one generation to the next and are so very special in so many ways!
Some of these traditions have been passed down from my family of origin and others are new additions since starting my own little family.
I hope that you can find some inspiration here to start your own family traditions or add to your existing plans.
Menu Planning + Grocery Shopping
My mother and I begin talking about Thanksgiving about 2-3 weeks in advance. We have a pretty set spread of traditional family recipes, but occasionally we throw in something new.
We have a shared spreadsheet in Google Drive that we use to track years past and plans for the current year. It’s super helpful for tracking what worked & what didn’t work. And we also ultimately use this as our shopping list.
Over the years we’ve turned our Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip into a bit of a tradition in and of itself. We start the weekend before the holiday at Starbucks to fine-tune our list and discuss game plans over holiday drinks and breakfast.
Then we get to the store and grab two carts – one is usually filled with kids – and start shopping! We shop together for the most part, but usually, divide + conquer at the end when the kiddos have had enough.
From there we head over to her house to put away the groceries and sometimes go out for lunch if the kids aren’t too cranky and we have time.
Note: I usually do a last-minute grocery run or Amazon Fresh order on Tuesday or Wednesday to grab the produce items and any last minute items that we didn’t grab during our big run.
This is NOT one of our traditions, but it’s a great one to start if you’re into this sort of thing. I know my sister-in-law has done this at least once and I have super athletic friends who love it!
These are normally done super early, so you’re done before the holiday really gets going. And you’ve already burned so many calories that you won’t feel guilty about gorging yourself on the holiday feast!
Many also have fun activities for kids, which is great to get them used to being active early on!
We usually turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when it comes on early in the morning. From there we usually move to whatever holiday cartoon specials that PBS has on.
Once those are over it’s on to Football for the rest of the day until after dinner. Then we usually sit down to watch one or two Thanksgiving-themed movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Cooking together with friends and family is where some of the best memories are made. It’s teamwork at it’s finest!
You really have to find a balance to determine who is doing what, when, where, and how. And if you have a small kitchen, then you really begin to understand the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen”!
Sometimes people get a bit frustrated with one another, but what holiday would be complete without just a little drama? And we always make it work in the end!
I just love the conversations that are had over preparing the holiday meal. You can get in on the latest family drama, learn traditional cooking techniques, and simply catch up with people you haven’t seen in ages.
To add to the ambiance I like to play jazz standards in the kitchen while we cook. It’s relaxing & cozy! You can also add in some wine (or mimosas in the AM) for good measure!
Involve The Kids
As soon as GQ was old enough to follow simple instructions, my mom got him started on his very own holiday dish. So for the past few years, he has been responsible for the requisite apple pie.
This is is really a special project for the two of them. Each year she coaches him and helps as needed. And each year he gets better and better!
And last year she got little Logi to help her with the fresh green beans for the green bean casserole!
Getting my boys involved in cooking early is really important to me because I want them to be involved in all aspects of helping in the home. Plus, kids are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in preparing them.
My favorite resource to jump start teaching your kids the way around a kitchen is this brilliant online cooking course called Kids Cook Real Food. It’s really great if you don’t really know where to start. Or are lacking in patience and/or time!
Sure, this is a little Pinterest basic, but it makes things oh so festive! Again, my mom is really the star here since I am always a frazzled mess with the kids and all. But she’s a designer, so it’s totally her wheelhouse anyway!
There are three main components of our Thanksgiving tablescape: dishes, centerpiece, and place setting decor. My mom has some absolutely gorgeous china, but we only bring that out for Christmas. So we use a special green set of dishes for Thanksgiving.
We usually have a nice tablecloth set out with these huge paper maple leaves making it look like they fell right from the tree. And in the middle, we have the centerpiece that we’ve used for years: a classy pilgrim couple with a small turkey. Totally festive and elegant, yet so very simple.
You could go with a nice cornucopia, a lovely wreath, or any number of other Pinterest-inspired tablescape ideas! Just pick something that will become special and memorable for your family.
It’s not really Thanksgiving without counting your blessings and giving thanks. There are so many creative ways to do this these days, but this one is my favorite. And it ties in nicely with the topic above.
For a farmhouse touch, use a roll of craft paper as a table runner and have everyone write a message. The message can be anything about thankfulness like what they are looking forward to, their favorite Thanksgiving memory, and/or what they are thankful for this year.
It’s fun to go around the table and share at least one highlight of the message per person before or after the meal. You can even cut these out and save them for later after the holiday has wound down.
Time To Digest
After the meal, it’s time to wind down and digest. Hopefully, you wore some forgiving pants!
If the weather permits, it’s a brilliant time to take a family walk to breathe in the autumn air and reflect. This is great for digestion!
After that think about a game, a puzzle or a mini movie marathon! There are tons of fun Thanksgiving movies to choose from.
We like Dutch, Free Birds, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Home for The Holidays and Son-in-Law!
It Doesn’t End There
As I mentioned earlier, everything after Halloween is really just non-stop holiday prep and activity. So as soon as the Thanksgiving meal wraps up, we move forward to the next thing.
Now I am not one to let Black Friday eat into my Thanksgiving in any way shape or form. But I know for some families that’s a beloved part of your tradition. So please bundle up, pack your patience, and enjoy yourselves if that’s you.
For me, I prefer to savor the day and let the tryptophan take over after a nice turkey dinner! Black Friday is for Friday!
Even at that, I prefer to snuggle up in my lounge clothes with my babies to eat leftovers and watch movies on Black Friday. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get in a little select online shopping!!
Then we move on to Santa pictures and holiday festival at the mall on Saturday. The lines are short, there are fewer sick kid germs, and you get your photos in time to send out holiday cards!
I usually purchase the matching holiday Hannajams while we’re out because they are still selling at Black Friday prices – best of the season!
Sunday we typically decorate for Christmas and continue to eat leftovers all weekend until they are gone!
Fun Things To Try
So that’s how we do Thanksgiving. But those traditions aren’t for everyone, particularly if you are in a different season of life.
In that case, why not try one of these on for size:
- Friendsgiving – this is great for college kids, empty nesters, expats and everyone else who finds themselves far from family at this time of year
- Volunteer – my aunt & uncle like to dress up as pilgrims and serve the hungry on Thanksgiving – love them!!
- Recipe Swap – have everyone bring their favorite Thanksgiving recipe and everyone can copy/share them
- Appetizer Cookoff – awesome idea to incorporate into your ‘Friendsgiving’!
- Thanksgiving Family Cookbook – I am SOOO doing this one, but maybe not until next year!
There are a million other fun ideas that you can find on Pinterest, but these are the ones that stood out to me.
So it’s my turn to give thanks. I am SO thankful for YOU. Thank you for taking the time to visit here on my site. I hope you know that I truly appreciate you!
Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving and low-stress holiday season! If you need more help, I highly recommend Ruth Soukup’s FREE Holiday Planner. It will walk you through the steps you need to survive November & December!!
If you need more detailed help or are looking to simplify your holidays, then you should consider Allie Casazza’s A Merry Little Christmas mini-course!
And don’t forget to check out all of my favorite things on my recommendations pages for the best things to make your life easier whether it’s parenting, budgeting, family living or blog related. Thanks again for visiting…I hope to see you again soon!!
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