Thanksgiving Traditions – New and Old

thanksgiving day toast with family and friends

Thanksgiving Day is nearly here. A day full of food, reflection and gratitude. No matter if you celebrate with a large crowd or on your own, there is room on the menu for healthy traditions. With hearts full of gratitude, we present our top five ways to combine new and old Thanksgiving traditions.


  1. Create Place Cards (with a Twist) – Even if you don't plan to assign seats at your Thanksgiving table, place cards make guests feel welcome and help new guests learn the names of distant relatives. Why not make a place card for each of your guests this year? To really spread the Thanksgiving spirit, add something extra to the inside of each place card - a reason that you are grateful for each guest. Taking the time to document your gratitude will add a serving of that warm-and-fuzzy feeling for you and your guests, alike.

    Bonus: If you have little ones, let them in on the fun. If your kids are eight or older, ask them to make the place cards. For children younger than eight, make this a family project. Let your kids gather the supplies and practice their letter-writing skills.

  2. Share a Meal (and a Connection) – Even if you eat Thanksgiving dinner with the same folks year after year, there is likely a lot you don’t know about each other. Consider adding an icebreaker to your Thanksgiving meal to get the conversation flowing. During your meal try playing Two Truths and a Lie to uncover hidden facts about your family and friends. Or, you can invent your own game.

    Bonus: Ask the youngest members of your group to come up with an icebreaker that helps build connection. You’ll be surprised by their creativity!

  3. Make a Thanksgiving Wish (Come True) – Have you ever made a Thanksgiving wish by battling over the turkey’s wishbone? Making a wish using a wishbone is a tradition that's older than Thanksgiving Day itself! But you don’t need a wishbone to make a Thanksgiving wish. Allow each of your guests to anonymously write a wish on a slip of paper. Put all wishes in a bowl and read them out loud, one by one. See if you can guess who wrote each wish. 

    Bonus: Go a step further by granting someone else’s wish this year. Pick your favorite charity and ask your guests to join you at an upcoming volunteer event. Or pool together some money to donate to your cause this Thanksgiving. Here at the Y, giving back is in our DNA. Consider joining us for an upcoming volunteer event, supporting a family through our Holiday Angels program or supporting us on Giving Tuesday. Gratitude is best when we pay it forward.

  4. Parade (Around the Block) – For many families, Thanksgiving is not complete without a parade. You might watch a parade on screen or take in the sights and sounds in person. But have you considered having a parade of your own? This parade doesn’t need to have giant balloons or lots of fanfare. Just a quick walk (or march) around the block between dinner and dessert will do the trick. Put down your fork, step away from the table and get your body moving. 

    Bonus: Allow the youngest members of your group to plan the parade. Let them lead you and your guests on the "parade route" or hand out props to use.

  5. Watch (and Play) Football – Thanksgiving Day might as well be called Football Day, in many homes. Professional Football, College football – and how about backyard football? Playing your own football game is a great way to get your body moving before or after your Thanksgiving feast. If you don’t have the time or the space for a full game, tossing around the ball in your yard or at a local park or parking lot will keep you moving just the same. 

    Bonus: If members of your group are unable to play football, show them how to make a paper football to play inside. Paper football is perfect for all ages and abilities. Traditions are most fun when they include everyone!