8 Old and New Thanksgiving Traditions to Make the Day More Memorable

Make Thanksgiving extra special with these family-friendly ideas.

Whether hosting your first big family Thanksgiving or having a small celebration at home, there are plenty of ways to connect with your family and enjoy the day. This year, we're going all-out with fun Thanksgiving activities.

Even with familiar ways of celebrating—such as roasting a huge turkey or hosting a gathering of extended family and friends—it's always a perfect time to start a few new Thanksgiving traditions. These family-friendly ideas are good for all ages and family sizes. So whether you're cooking dinner for two or twenty, consider picking up one (or two) of these sweet ways to make Thanksgiving even more special.

Personalize the Table

thanksgiving place setting with wood that says grateful
Courtesy of Etsy / ReeceDesignWorks

Going all-out on table decorations will make each guest feel welcome and special. Make your personalized place settings for a large group, or buy a set of matching place card holders for a smaller group if you have the budget. We've rounded up our favorite Thanksgiving table decorations to help make your celebration feel even more festive, including this grateful place setting card ($4, Etsy).

Watch the Macy’s Parade

Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade so you can see the sky-high balloons, the Radio City Rockettes, and Santa himself from the comfort of your couch. There are always a few surprises and exciting performances from current Broadway musicals.

Start a Gratitude Jar

family thankful jar with colorful cards
Courtesy of Alice and Lois

A gratitude jar is one of our favorite family activities that would be a wonderful new Thanksgiving tradition. It can even last the whole month of November. This DIY gratitude jar is easy to make and even easier to fill. First, create a label (or have your kiddos do it) for the jar, then set out pens and paper so your family can write down the things they're grateful for all month. Then, at Thanksgiving dinner, remove the papers and read them out loud together.

Volunteer with 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. Incorporating this new Thanksgiving tradition into your holiday will bring everyone a feeling of thankfulness.

Send Thanksgiving Cards

colorful turkey-themed Thanksgiving cards designed by Laura Palmer
Carson Downing

Thanksgiving cards are a popular way to send love to those who can't be at the big meal, and for some families, it's turned into a favorite new Thanksgiving tradition. Or if you're having a big crowd, write a note to each person who attends dinner, leaving it at their place setting to read before the meal begins.

Pull 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 (or you want everyone to get in on the fun), you can still participate in the Thanksgiving activity: Find an artificial set of wishbones ($16 for six, Etsy) and let everyone in on the fun.

Make a Gratitude Tree

finished gratitude tree in vase with hanging paper leaves thanksgiving
Courtesy of Alice and Lois

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

It's not Thanksgiving without the classics (stuffing, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie) but it's always a good time to try out that new recipe you've been eyeing. This year, start a tradition of bringing a new side dish to the annual festivities. Or mix things up completely with a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu!

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