“There shall be ‘a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God…’”
~1789 Congressional Proclamation
Thanksgiving – the one holiday that’s uniquely patriotic, American, and Christian. A day for celebrating faith, family, and freedom.
It’s the favorite holiday of many, and the one so many bend over backwards to get home for. It is, however, kind of ironic that it’s so strongly associated with coming home today. Because the celebrants of the very first Thanksgiving were far from their native land and separated from their loved ones – by the death that had ransacked their community during that difficult year, and by the distance between them and the family and friends they left back in England.
Thanksgiving is a special day to consider our many blessings, focus on them, and give thanks back to the Giver of all good things.
We Can’t Out-give the Ultimate Giver
Over and over again, we’re told to give thanks. Even some who don’t focus on biblical living focus on gratitude, at least around Thanksgiving.
Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to us. And certainly not to our children. But we can be inspired by the gratitude shown by heroes of days gone by, and transfer that same attitude of gratitude to our children.
And scientists tell us that gratitude may be one of the simplest ways to stay healthy and cheerful.
The Harvard Medical Letter said that those who wrote down exactly what they were thankful for each day had fewer doctor visits and exercised more than those who didn’t.
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, the head of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center, once stated that “if thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”
So be thankful every day – not just on Thanksgiving. Write it down. Talk about it.
One way to encourage this on Thanksgiving is to put 5 kernels of corn at everyone’s place setting, and go around the table 5 times, letting each person share what they’re grateful for.
Perhaps this is the true reason people are so anxious to get home for Thanksgiving… because it’s the one day that is primarily focused (hopefully) on gratitude and thankfulness. And sadly, so little of the rest of life is.
Remember Where It All Began
Our family has a special connection to life in Plymouth in 1620-21, because several of our ancestors were on that rickety ship that made its way across the stormy Atlantic in the fall of 1620.
A few years ago, a Mayflower replica docked on the shores of Lake Huron. It had been decades since I’d seen it on my childhood trips to Cape Cod.
So when I saw the replica, which had the same dimensions as the boat that crossed the Atlantic, I was really quite horrified that such a tiny thing housed so many people through the hardships of that trip. The suffering must have been unbelievable.
It was only about 100 feet from bow to stern and about 25 feet wide at its widest point, but it carried 102 passengers in addition to 25 to 30 officers and crew. Imagine having 130 people crossing a stormy ocean in a wobbly boat that was probably about the size of an 1800 square foot house.
We always felt our children should know and understand the significance of the sacrifice made by those who took that voyage, signed the Mayflower Compact, and began an upstart country in the dangerous wilderness of an unknown continent.
Who knows where any of us would be without them?
Fortunately, aside from food, Thanksgiving hasn’t become commercialized the way Christmas has.
But unfortunately, the big retailers are trying their hardest to make that happen. I urge you to keep this holiday “pure” and focused on God, family, gratitude, and contentment… And save your shopping for Black Friday (or forego the craziness altogether!). No matter how good the deals look on those Thanksgiving Day sales.
Don’t miss this opportunity you have once a year to focus on the things that really matter in this life. The trade-offs aren’t worth it.
Family Bonding Activities for Thanksgiving
Plan now – today – for the memories your Thanksgiving will bring, beyond cooking and eating, even beyond football and the Macy’s parade.
Your position as Mom means you’re the heart and the soul of your home. So don’t shove this onto the back burner, because for the day together to be meaningful, someone needs to do a bit of advance prep.
And remember the saying, “The family that plays together, stays together?” Of course, there’s also the other version of the saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” I recommend both.
Here are seven ideas to get you started:
1. Thanksgiving Trivia Game
A terrific option to play around the table. If you have a larger group, play as teams. Otherwise, as individuals. Either way, you’ll want the moderator to be a non-participant.
Use facts from history, and from today. Examples include: “Who was the first governor of Plymouth Colony?” or “How many people came over on the Mayflower?” or “On average, how many people fly the day before Thanksgiving?”
If playing in teams, you’ll obviously want to keep the teams as equal in size as possible, with an even distribution of younger and older children.
Set up teams on opposite sides of the room and give each a bell or buzzer – or simply have them yell “Turkey!” when they’re ready to answer. They huddle till they decide on the answer. If they answer correctly, they earn a point.
If the first team gets it wrong, the opposing team gets a chance to answer. And if they get it right, they get the point.
If you prefer, you can group the questions into categories, and have category winners instead of overall winners.
For smaller families, you could hand out paper and have each person write down all their answers, and then do a second round where they hand their papers to the left and that person corrects them. You could have a moderator read questions, or you could post all the questions on an empty wall with various point values, Jeopardy-style, and have the moderator be in charge of the wall. Or create your own variation.
Don’t let anyone take the game too seriously. This is supposed to be a fun time!
Include prizes if you want.
2. Who am I?
This could become part of your trivia game, or be played separately.
You’ll use historical figures, such as Minister Elder Brewster, John Alden or Captain Miles Standish.
Put the name on the card, pin one to each person’s back, and have them ask other people questions that have yes/no answers to figure out who they are. This works best in groups of less than ten, and also in groups fairly knowledgeable about Pilgrim history.
Otherwise, you can incorporate this into your trivia. Describe the person, and end with “Who Am I?”
3. Myth or Fact?
Can you distinguish Thanksgiving myths from facts? Most people probably can’t. Research and write down at least 10 common Thanksgiving myths on index cards or paper, and put them in a box or basket. Naturally, you’ll need to include some facts too.
Mix them together in a shoebox. Everyone takes turns drawing out a paper and reading it out loud. And the rest of the group yells out whether it’s a myth or fact.
4. Stick the Feather on the Turkey
A Thanksgiving variation on the old favorite, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”…
Decide ahead of time where on the turkey everyone will aim to place the feather. You’ll need a blindfold, a large picture of a turkey, and a feather for each player. Put 2-sided tape on the back of each feather. Blindfold one player at a time, spin them a couple times, and direct them to where the turkey is (left, right, up, down, straight ahead). The winner is the one closest to the correct placement.
5. Gobble, Gobble, Cook Me!
A Thanksgiving variation on “Duck, Duck, Goose”…
Players sit in a large circle. One player starts out as the turkey. He goes around tapping each person lightly on the head, saying, “Gobble” or “Cook Me.”
As long as the turkey says “Gobble,” he’s safe. But once he says “Cook me,” the selected person gets up and chases the turkey around the circle. The turkey escapes by getting around the circle and sliding into the cook’s spot. But if the cook catches him, the turkey must sit in the middle of the circle for a round. The cook becomes the next turkey.
6. Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt
Weather permitting, this outdoor game can be a lot of fun. Give each team a list of fall items to find. The team that finds everything first is the winner.
7. Spoons, played to a Thanksgiving theme
Instead of spoons, use Popsicle sticks with turkey pictures adhered to one end, or some other variation on the Thanksgiving theme.
So, get ready, get set, get rolling… Thanksgiving is in 10 days, so plan now to make it the best one yet. I hope and pray it is a wonderful bonding time for you and your family.