3 Tips for Making Thanksgiving Memorable

As a child, the highlight of making the 45-minute trip to visit my grandmother in Howard County, Iowa, was a chance to drive around the beautiful countryside and watch the Amish tend to their livestock and care for their crops. I was – and still am – intrigued by their commitment to family and their sense of duty.

Each member of the family plays a part in the family’s economic survival, says Dr. John Hostetler in his book, Amish Society.  He writes: “Like most parents in American society, the Amish recognize the teen period as critical. The Amish family needs the help of its teenage child more than the typical American family, and the child feels the family’s need. The young person who works on the farm can understand and feel the contribution he is making to his family.”

Children see their parents working hard and want to help whether it’s feeding cats, gathering eggs or milking cows. Amish children are needed to help inside the house, too. Amish women often get together for a frolic, or a work event that combines socializing with a practical goal. Common frolics include quilting, canning, pie baking and applesauce making.

Like the Amish, we can make preparing and hosting a holiday meal more fun by inviting people into our kitchens. Just the word “frolic” sounds like more fun than work! Here are three tips to consider this Thanksgiving:

  1. Assign age-appropriate chores. When my kids were in pre-school, they each had an apron and chef’s hat. They helped wash vegetables, put plates on the table, etc. Now that they are teenagers, I ask them to peel potatoes or brown hamburger. Maybe your kids could help prepare an adorable turkey-shaped relish tray. After all, kids are more apt to eat veggies when they help with food prep.
  2. Count your blessings. I thought it was corny at the time, but now it is a cherished memory. On my mom’s side of the family, each person sitting at the table expressed thanks for something or someone before we began eating. Counting our blessings helps us focus on what we have rather than on what we wish we had. When my kids were small, I traced around their hands. Then I wrote a word on each paper finger for what they were thankful for… we literally counted their blessings. Now I keep gratitude journal by listing 5 things for which I’m thankful. Even if I don’t write them down daily, I still begin my day with gratitude.
  3.  Focus on fun and games. When I was growing up, my mom and I used to make holiday crafts like a turkey craft at Thanksgiving. (I still have a bag of colorful feathers from my own kids’ turkey crafts.) When I was older, Mom set a timer and we would race to see how many words we could find in a Word Search. As an adult, I look forward to playing cards. What have you done to create wonderful holiday memories? How could you start a new tradition this Thanksgiving?

This holiday I plan to “get my ask in order,” and invite people into my kitchen to help with food prep. Today I’m sharing recipes for a few of my family’s favorite holiday dishes:

Thanksgiving will probably look different for all of us this year as we continue to navigate through the pandemic. “Different,” however, doesn’t have to mean “bad.” I will treasure memories of holidays past while doing my best to create more wonderful memories with those who are gathered near. I wish the same for you!