Thanksgiving — complete with food, football and festivities — is the unofficial kickoff to the American holiday season. A day of gratitude is just the ticket to starting off the merriest time of the year.
But a spirit of gratitude shouldn’t be confined to Thanksgiving, nor should the spirit of Christ be celebrated only at Christmastime. Here are a few traditions to help your family keep Christ at the center of the entire holiday season, including Thanksgiving.
1. Volunteer at a food bank
Before your family sits down to a large Thanksgiving feast, take the kids to a local food bank to prepare food for those less fortunate. Seeing families who struggle to put food on the table will help kindle charitable feelings in young people and can inspire them to show more gratitude for their blessings. Serving others is also an outward expression of that inner gratitude and gives kids a chance to show Christlike love to others.
2. 30 days of gratitude
Some people begin a “30 Days of Gratitude” challenge at the beginning of November. In this challenge, individuals or families write down one thing they are grateful for every day, sometimes posting their ideas on social media or displaying them in the home. This exercise helps focus families on gratitude and contentment all month long.
But even if you didn’t begin the challenge weeks ago, you can start a couple days before Thanksgiving and finish on Christmas Day. Giving thanks long after Thanksgiving will help focus your family’s minds on the Savior and His gift to them.
3. Thanksgiving Dinner for needy families
This tradition can require a lot of work and planning but is highly rewarding. Join with local food banks, schools or church groups to identify and provide turkey dinners for needy families in your community. Depending on your level of commitment, you can pick up a couple of extra cans of vegetables to donate or organize a complete food drive. The traditional Thanksgiving feast is an important part of celebrating Thanksgiving for most families, and providing this important tradition for others is a great way to help your family share Christlike love with their neighbors.
4. Begin scripture study of the life of Christ
This year, Thanksgiving lands on Nov. 27—29, just days before Christmas. Use this window to instigate a month-long study of the life of Jesus Christ. The spirit of Christmas is really the spirit of Christ — his love and generosity — and studying His life during the holiday season will enrich the entire experience. Make the life of Christ the center of family scripture study for the month and see how it shapes your family’s attitudes at Christmastime.
5. Christmas decorations with reading of Luke 2
Before you begin Christmas shopping, take some time on Thanksgiving to deck the halls. Pull out the Christmas tree, hang the stockings and display nativity sets. As you do, read the account of Christ’s birth in Luke 2 and invite family members to share their thoughts and feelings about the gift of Jesus Christ’s life.
I love the 30 days of gratitude idea. I’m planning to do something similar next year.
This year my daughter made a beautiful centerpiece called a Thankful Tree at activity days – it’s so simple: cover a mason jar with burlap, put florist’s foam inside, and stick a small tree branch in it. I’m going to save it for next year and each day of November we’ll write something we’re grateful for on a cardstock leaf and hang it on one of the branches.