Thanksgiving can be a chaotic and stressful time, whether it be hosting a large dinner, entertaining family and friends from out of town or just the knowledge that the countdown to Christmas is on full blast immediately after it’s over. It’s easy to get caught up in all this craziness. Some of us need to take a step back and remember what the Thanksgiving holiday really is all about and give thanks.
The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the Pilgrims’ first successful corn harvest. Native Americans were included in the celebration as they were instrumental in teaching the Pilgrims how to harvest corn and survive. Despite some of the controversy over the accuracy of the original Thanksgiving, the foundation of this holiday is giving thanks to God in times of plenty by feasting and celebrating. Throughout the centuries, many of the traditions of the original Thanksgiving have continued with celebrations and a large feast including family and friends and often “outsiders” that may not have elsewhere to go. The spirit of Thanksgiving is really about expressing gratitude for your good fortune and giving to those that may not be as fortunate.
In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, here are some simple ideas that you can do with your entire family to give thanks this Thanksgiving:
Volunteer – The holidays can be lonely and challenging times for many, including those that are financially struggling, or those that can’t be home for a variety of reasons. Volunteer activities that the whole family can participate in include:
- Visiting a hospital or a nursing home – spend some time with people that are elderly or ill, bring little gifts if you like.
- Sending military care packages to our troops stationed overseas. Here is a great article with ideas and instructions on ways to do this.
- Preparing a meal for a family less fortunate – this could include serving up meals at a shelter or soup kitchen or preparing food in your own kitchen and delivering it to a family in need. Your church or local outreach program can put you in contact with families.
For more great volunteering ideas you can do with your children, click here.
Donate – There are many opportunities to donate things at this time of the year. Many organizations are looking for non-perishable food items, winter coats, toys for children and money. Making an effort to do this with your kids sets an amazing example and teaches them to be grateful for what they have and empathetic to those less fortunate.
Invite people into your home – Not everyone has a family to spend Thanksgiving with. If you know of a neighbor friend, or even a very casual acquaintance who is alone on this holiday, invite them into your home to share in your Thanksgiving. It sends a good message to children and young adults to be kind and accepting. Here are some ideas.
Write notes of appreciation – Encourage your kids to write a note or draw a picture and give it to someone they are thankful for. This could be a teacher, sibling, grandparent or friend. As an adult, you can write handwritten letters to people for whom your are thankful or to long-lost friends to reconnect. This is a good way to express your love and appreciation for the special people in your lives. Notes and letters are a very personal; during this electronic age something handwritten makes them that much more cherished.
Hug your loved ones – Everyone from small babies to elderly relatives can appreciate the touch and gesture of a warm hug. It’s such a small yet meaningful way to show affection and gratitude to the people you care about the most.
Keep giving thanks all year long. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, give back and spread joy. If possible try to keep this spirit of giving all year long. Sharing something each day with your family for which you are grateful is an incredible way to teach your children gratitude and appreciation for all they have, and encourage them to give and share with those that don’t have quite as much.
Do you have your own ways you show thankfulness this time of year as a family? We’d love to hear about it so please share!
For more volunteer opportunities visit The Volunteer Center of East Central Wisconsin.