Thanksgiving is coming up. Are you ready? Our community’s first post-Harvey Thanksgiving may look a little different than holidays past. Maybe your home is undergoing reconstruction or you’ve have had to move to a different home. Maybe your holiday decorations and dishes and other special items are damaged, destroyed or just gone. Maybe your finances are short this year or you don’t have a kitchen, so a traditional Thanksgiving Feast isn’t in the plans. Or maybe you’re just feeling sad or discouraged and not “up to” celebrating this year.
So, what is there to do? Ready or not, Thanksgiving Day will be here soon. I know that our celebration will be very different this year. Yet I am encouraged by the words of 1 Chronicles 16:34. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.”
This verse reminds me that Thanksgiving isn’t about a turkey filled with delicious cornbread stuffing made just the way my mother made it, with pecans and sausage and sage. It isn’t about my pretty tablecloths and dishes and decorations that were destroyed by the storm. It’s about something that is so much more permanent. A hurricane can take away all our things, but God’s goodness, His love and His amazing grace endure forever. And with this in mind, we can live every day with an attitude of gratitude – and pass it along to our kids.
Here are some fun activities that you can use to teach your kids about the real meaning of Thanksgiving. And they might help you get into the spirit of the holiday, too.
Thanksgiving Jar – You will need colored paper, a pen or marker and an empty jar. Take a few minutes every day between now and Thanksgiving Day to sit down together as a family and take turns naming something for which we’re thankful that day. Each person names one thing. Write it down on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. Preschoolers can draw pictures or you can write their words for them. On Thanksgiving Day, dump all the slips of paper out and read them all out loud. End with a prayer of thanks to God for His enduring love.
Thanksgiving Prayer Chain – You will need strips of paper, a pen or marker and clear tape. Talk with your children about people in your lives for whom you are thankful. Write the names of the people, each on a separate strip of paper. Help your child make a loop of the first strip and attach the ends with tape. Then slip the next strip of paper through the first loop, attaching its ends with tape. Continue until you have a chain of Thanksgiving. Use the Thanksgiving chain to guide family prayer time each day, thanking God and praying for the people named on the chain.
Thank You Cards – You will need index cards, crayons, markers, envelopes and postage stamps. You might also add stickers for an extra “fun” touch. Talk with your children about people who have helped your family and for whom you are thankful. Invite them to make Thank You cards for those people. Encourage them to use their own ideas about ways to draw or decorate their cards. When the cards are finished, help your child put them in envelopes. Address the envelopes and go together to the post office to mail them.
Donuts – Make a special visit to the donut shop or make simple donuts together at home. Make sure your donuts have holes in the middle. As you enjoy eating the delicious donuts together, talk about how thankful you are for the donuts – AND the holes! Talk about how great it is to have all the good things that God gives us (the donut) and not to have to worry about what’s missing (the hole).
Thanksgiving I Spy Game – This game is played just like the regular “I Spy” game, but it has the added feature of spying things for which we’re thankful. For example, my favorite coffee mug that survived the storm is blue. So I might say, “I spy with my little eye something blue.” When the other players guess what it is, I say why I’m thankful for that thing.
Game of Thanksgiving Things – This game works well with older kids and adults. You need index cards, pens or markers and plenty of slips of paper. At the beginning of the game, everyone writes “prompts” on the index cards. The prompts are about being thankful. For example, you might include prompts like “The thing I was most thankful for when I was three years old was …”. A famous person who once lived for whom I’m thankful is …” “The first thing I’m thankful for in the morning is …” Encourage everyone to be creative in coming up with prompts.
Once the prompts are finished, put them in a basket or bowl on the table. Choose someone to be the “reader”. The reader chooses a prompt and reads it aloud. Everyone writes his or her answer on a slip of paper, folds them and passes them back to the reader. The reader reads the prompt again and then reads each slip of paper. The player to the reader’s left guesses who wrote an answer. If he’s right, he continues guessing. When he misses, the play goes to the next player on the left. When all the answers have been guessed, the last player becomes the reader.
T-H-A-N-K-F-U-L Game – You need 8 squares of paper on which you have written the letters in the word, “thankful”, 8 sheets of paper and several pens or markers. Hide the squares before the game begins. Depending upon how many players you have, individuals or teams can hunt for the hidden letters. When the letters have been found, each team or individual completes the following thankful list using the letters they found to make new words, like this:.
T – I am thankful for t_____________ because God is t____________.
H – I am thankful for h____________ because God is h____________;
A – I am thankful for a____________ because God is a____________;
Continue the pattern until all the letters have been used.
I hope these ideas can bring some fun, joy and maybe even some new traditions to your family’s celebration this year. Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving