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5 Family Thanksgiving Traditions to Start This Year

Your Thanksgiving day doesn't need to be centered around food and football only. Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family. Here are five family Thanksgiving traditions you can start this year that your kids will want to carry on for years to come.
family taking selfie at thanksgiving dinner table
Updated: December 1, 2022

While Thanksgiving day may focus on food and football, I am determined to give it more meaning in my life. Now that I’m married and have my own family, I love the idea of creating traditions that we can do as a family starting at Thanksgiving time. Here are some ideas for fun, relaxing and educational traditions you can start with your family this year.

More: 10 Ways to Give Thanks This Thanksgiving


Before my husband and I even had a child, we always believed in the power of giving back during the holiday season. It’s a value we both share and want to pass on to our children. While it’s important to spread the love all year long, this time of year is especially difficult for some. You never know what someone is going through and how you could help.

Here are some ideas for volunteer work you can do as a family on Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season:

  • Go to a soup kitchen and help serve a meal. While you’re there, spend some time getting to know the people. This can be a great lesson in gratitude for children of all ages.
  • Build hygiene kits to hand out to the homeless so they have necessary toiletries and snacks to get them through the next few weeks. It’s an excellent opportunity to teach your kids about giving back and a lesson in the importance of proper hygiene.
  • Go to the grocery store and let your kids pick out canned goods to be donated. You can also have your kids help clean out the pantry and bring a donation to your local food bank. You can visit Feeding America to find a local food bank near you.
  • Decorate shoe boxes and fill them with little games to deliver to kids at local hospitals. Not all kids are able to spend the holidays with their family if they are sick and in the hospital. Building kits with your kids will teach them in valuable lesson.

Participate in a Turkey Trot or go for a walk together as a family on Thanksgiving morning

For as long as I can remember, my family has always started Thanksgiving morning on an active note. My dad and I would join friends and hundreds of others at our town’s yearly 5k Turkey Trot. It was a great way to jumpstart a day focused on food, and there is always such a positive and happy energy buzzing around these races. Everyone is looking to break a sweat and enjoy each other’s company and even the spectators are eager to cheer you on. You definitely do not have to be a runner to join in on the fun, there is always an option to walk. Get the little ones involved and sign them up for the kids’ fun run. Or have the kids create signs to cheer on their mom, dad or relatives who might be running.

participate in a turkey trot

Create a new family recipe

While the Thanksgiving staples will always remain, it’s nice to create a recipe that you can carry on as a tradition and make every year. Without fail our Thanksgiving recipe that will never change and will be present on the table every year is a cranberry apple crisp. My mom started making it when I was a young kid and I don’t remember a Thanksgiving without it. Now that I am an adult I have spent a few Thanksgivings away from my immediate family and I have made sure that our cranberry apple crisp has made it on the buffet line. I hope to continue the tradition of the cranberry apple crisp with my kids or create a new recipe with them, so when they are old enough they can look forward to it and make it with their families.

More: 11 Awesome Thanksgiving Activities for You and Your Family

Here are some ideas for recipes you can incorporate into your Thanksgiving spread this year and carry on as a family tradition:

Share what you are thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner

We live in a age where there is no shortage of bad news everywhere we look. Use Thanksgiving as a day to focus on the positive things in your life and to appreciate all the things we have to be thankful for. Thanksgiving dinner is a great time to go around the table and have everyone share what they are most thankful for. It is always fun to hear everyone’s different answers, and it may even get your shy child talking and participating!

Spend quality time together on Black Friday

I’ve never been one to partake in the craziness of Black Friday. Rather than indulge in the Black Friday Shopping, spend it with each other. Spend the day cuddled up on the couch watching your favorite movies, stay in your pajamas all day or play your favorite games. Get out of the house and go to a movie. Go for a family hike if the weather permits; we always loved going for a hike the day after Thanksgiving. If you are celebrating Christmas, go cut down a tree as a family and spend the day decorating for the upcoming holiday.

Looking for virtual ideas for 2020? Check out 8 Virtual Thanksgiving Activities for Families.

Kaitlin Crehan

About Kaitlin

Kaitlin is a Certified Holistic Health Coach who, for the last 12 years, has encouraged… Read more

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