Make this Thanksgiving extra special with these family-friendly ideas.

By Emily VanSchmus
November 10, 2020
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You may not be having the typical big Thanksgiving celebration this year, but there are still plenty of ways to safely connect with your family and enjoy the day. If classic traditions—such as roasting a huge turkey or hosting a gathering of extended family and friends—aren't in the cards, it might just be the perfect time to start a few new traditions.

Whether you’re hosting an outdoor Thanksgiving dinner or having a small celebration at home this year, consider picking up one (or two) of these family Thanksgiving traditions.

Credit: Courtesy of Etsy / ReeceDesignWorks

Personalize the Table

One of the perks of having a smaller Thanksgiving celebration is that it’s easier to go all-out on table decorations when you have fewer places to set. Make personalized place settings, or buy a small set of matching place card holders. We’ve rounded up 6 of our favorite Thanksgiving table decorations to help make your small celebration feel even more special, including this grateful place setting card ($4, Etsy).

Watch the Macy’s Parade 

The organizers of this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will replace the crowd-lined streets of New York City with a virtual event. The new format is bound to offer a fresh perspective on the famous American tradition that, over the years, has featured sky-high balloons, the Radio City Rockettes, and Santa himself. Before the event starts, brush up on fun trivia about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Credit: Alice & Lois

Start a Gratitude Jar

A gratitude jar is one of our favorite family Thanksgiving traditions that can easily last the whole month of November. This DIY gratitude jar is easy to make, and even easier to fill. Use our free printable to decorate your jar, then set out pens and paper so your family can write down the things they’re grateful for all month long. At Thanksgiving dinner, remove the papers and read them out loud together. 

Get the free printable

Volunteer with the Family

Some families embrace Thanksgiving as a time to practice gratitude, and incorporate volunteering into their holiday celebrations. Volunteering at soup kitchens is a time-honored way to express our thanks and give back to the community. But if pandemic restrictions have affected such programs in your community, find out whether local organizations are holding no-contact food drives. You can also choose one of these 7 easy ways to volunteer from home.

Send Thanksgiving Cards

If you're missing being with your usual crowd for the big meal, use our free printable Thanksgiving cards to write heartfelt notes to family members and friends who can't be with you this year. Or write a note to each person who will be attending dinner, leaving it at their place setting to read before the meal begins. 

Pull Apart the Wishbone 

Since the days of the Etruscan civilization in ancient Italy, people have been pulling apart the forked bone from a turkey, chicken or other fowl and making a wish. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered England, and the English brought it to America. Even if you’re not preparing a whole turkey this year, you can still participate in the tradition: Find an artificial set of wishbones ($16 for a set of six, Etsy) and let everyone in on the fun. 

Credit: Alice & Lois

Make a Gratitude Tree

This holiday tradition doubles as a fun Thanksgiving craft for the kids. Cut out leaf shapes from colorful cardstock, then punch a hole and tie string through each one. Have each family member write something they’re grateful for on a leaf before hanging it on the tree (we made ours by adding a few sticks and branches to a plain vase). This DIY gratitude tree is a fun way to teach kids about the spirit of the season. 

Try a New Recipe

Since Thanksgiving already looks different this year, it’s the perfect time to try out the new recipe you’ve been eyeing. Or mix things up completely with a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu. Or try a new side dish or two. 

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