Share on Facebook

9 Meaningful Thanksgiving Traditions You’re Going to Want to Steal

Do you have a beloved Thanksgiving tradition or ritual? Or perhaps there is one you'd like to start? Read on to be inspired by these brilliant traditions.


Catching leaves

Years ago, my sister and I started our own Thanksgiving ritual. After Grandmama’s enormous dinner, we’d go out to the big southern red oak and wait for the wind to blow, which it almost always did there on Thanksgiving. Then we’d tear out after the leaves as they twirled to the ground. According to Appalachian folk wisdom, catching just one was sufficient to ward off a cold for the winter, but we figured the more we caught, the healthier we’d be. These days, after my husband and I clear our table, we take our sons outside under the big red oak and wait for the leaves to dance. —Lenela Glass-Godwin. Following these Thanksgiving etiquette tips for hosts and guests should always be Thanksgiving traditions.


Go for the gold

My father organizes what we’ve come to call the Thanksgiving Olympics and all 25 family members and friends who gather at my parents’ house that day participate. Dad plans the games, such as shooting a basketball, pitching pennies in our yard, or doing a word scramble. Everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving Olympics memory is when my mom, who never played a game of basketball in her life, sank all three of her shots. We cheered like crazy. And let’s not forget the prizes. We cover the table with goodies such as a tin of popcorn, a box of chocolates, stationery, and toys for the kids. I am so thankful for my family, but especially for my mom and dad and for everything they do to make the holiday so special. —Kathleen Sturm


Put it on the table

Every year, each person at the table uses a permanent marker to write one thing he or she is thankful for on the white tablecloth. After Thanksgiving, we wash the cloth on the gentle cycle and put it away until next year, when we bring it out and do the same thing. It’s fun to see how people change, and it’s a powerful way to remind us what the holiday is all about.—Megan Brewer. Try whipping up one of these 23 easy Thanksgiving side dishes that every guest will love. If you can’t have Thanksgiving at home this year, try out one of these chain restaurants that are always open on Thanksgiving. 

iStock/Courtney Keating

Take it outside

The family of my husband started a tradition in 1957 that I thought was crazy when I first heard of it: a picnic. That’s right—turkey and all the trimmings outdoors in the open. Turns out it’s loads of fun and a welcome breath of fresh air after the summer heat has kept us indoors in air-conditioning. We set up camp along a creek near where we live in Arizona, and friends and family stop by. It seems as if something exciting always happens. There have been rainouts, a flu epidemic, and the unforgettable Thanksgiving of 2000, when the wind blew so hard that tables overturned and the bird flew! The dogs feasted that year. —Karrie Brunson. Keep your sanity intact this year with these 16 tricks for hosting a happy Thanksgiving.

iStock/John Archer

A beautiful chain

I’ve improvised a new tradition, the Thanksgiving chain. Each person receives strips of colored paper, on which they write things for which they feel thankful. Then we go around the candlelit table, reading them aloud in turn. After we do, we link our strips to form a paper chain. —Katherine Gregor. If you like adding Thanksgiving traditions, try these 10 fun Thanksgiving games for kids.


Leftover party

I am one of seven siblings. My oldest brother was the first to marry (almost 40 years ago) and my mother, wise woman that she was, told him not to come home for Thanksgiving, to go and create his own tradition. And so we each did the same and she saved us from having to bounce between multiple family gatherings. Instead, we created “Leftovers, Pie and Beer”—the day after Thanksgiving when we all gather (there are 54 of us now) to, you guessed it, eat leftovers and plan our Christmas gathering. —Melanie Fadrowski. Unfortunately, sometimes little (or not-so-little) goofs can also be Thanksgiving “traditions.” Here’s how to fix these 15 mistakes you’ll probably make on Thanksgiving.

iStock/Steve Debenport

Make a wish

My grandmother’s sister always made a wish before Thanksgiving dinner. Her wish: “We wish we will be all together again next Thanksgiving, maybe just a little better!” After her passing, my cousins and I continued this wish, and we continue it to this day. —Angela Cardinale. Hosting? Get your hands on these products that can fix any Thanksgiving emergency. 

iStock/Lisa Thornberg

Two celebrations in one

Thanksgiving is always family time. My birthday sometimes falls on Thanksgiving and my Mom would put a big bow on the turkey for me. I have always preferred pumpkin pie to birthday cake no matter if my birthday is on Thanksgiving or not. —Elizabeth Bramkamp. Memorize these funny Thanksgiving quotes to share around the dinner table as Thanksgiving traditions.

iStock/gordana jovanovic

Spread the love

We as a family choose a special person from our senior community that we know has no family to share Thanksgiving with and invite them to share our dinner and story telling. We all sit around the table during dessert and tell a story that made an impact during this year. We take a family picture and include the “new” addition to the family. We pack a basket with leftovers and other goodies. Later we deliver our Thanksgiving picture framed and wrapped. —Marina Castle Kelley. Speaking of Thanksgiving traditions, here are some things you never knew about the Macy’s parade.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest