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Giving Thanks: Traditions to Try with Your Family and Friends

By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer

Almost every Thanksgiving dinner includes a few minutes before the meal for prayer or words of thanks. Many families take turns going around the table and having each person share one or more things that they're thankful for. But there are lots of creative ways to count your blessings that will make your Thanksgiving celebration even more fun and memorable. Here are eight new traditions to start this year.

Countdown to Turkey Day

Have children create turkey bodies from paper plates and colorful feathers from construction paper. Hang the un-feathered turkeys on the refrigerator or wall and add a feather every day until Thanksgiving. Even better, help each child write something they are thankful for on the feathers. Before Thanksgiving dinner, they (or you) can read the feathers aloud.

Write a Thankful Note

After dinner, while you're waiting to get hungry enough for dessert, pull out a box of blank thank-you cards. Each family member can choose one (or more) person in their lives (a teacher, friend or neighbor) and write them a note letting them know that they are appreciated. Have enough stamps on hand to get all the notes ready for the mail the following day (or make a plan to hand deliver them).

Have an After-Dinner Adventure

Anything you can do to keep the whole family from flopping down in front of the TV after your Thanksgiving meal will be a healthier option. A round of flag football in the backyard is the cliched choice, but that only works with adults and teenagers. If you want to include everyone, even small children and grandparents, plan a neighborhood walk instead. Plot the route ahead of time to make sure it's not too hilly. If anyone complains, remind them to be thankful for a full belly and strong legs!

Adopt a Grandparent

If you have an older family friend or neighbor who you know will be alone on Thanksgiving, invite that person to join your family celebration. If you know he or she likes to cook, ask your "grandparent" to bring a favorite family dish, or find out what his or her favorite holiday food is so you can add it to your menu. Have your new friend share holiday memories and traditions with you and your guests. Who knows, maybe you'll get a great idea for next year!

Recite an Alphabet of Thanks

If there will be children at your Thanksgiving gathering, challenge them to count their blessings along with their ABCs. See if each child can come up with something they're thankful for for each letter of the alphabet. For older children, you can make it into a game where each person writes down what they're thankful for and then shares with the group. Anyone who chooses something that's not on anyone else's list gets a point. Whoever ends up with the most points wins the first slice of pie after dinner!

Play Thank-Charades

Instead of just sharing the simple things everyone is thankful for, ask your family to write them down on small slips of paper then take turns acting them out in a game of charades after dinner. You'll get to celebrate giving thanks while laughing along with each family member's acting antics.

Choose a Charity

Ask family members to nominate a charity to support during the coming year. Most teens and adults will come to dinner with a smartphone or tablet, so make use of technology to do a little after-dinner research. Check Charity Navigator, GiveWell or CharityWatch to find out which charities do the most with the money they bring in. Or ask family members to do research ahead of time and make a short presentation about why their favorite charity is the most deserving. If your family budget won't accommodate cash donations, research local groups who need volunteers, instead.

Create a Family Cookbook

Ask everyone to bring a favorite family recipe to share that includes who first made the dish and any special memories it brings up. You can save these recipe cards in a box or scrapbook, or, if you have a web-savvy family member, create your own page that you can share with everyone. In future years, you can use Thanksgiving as a time to make favorite family recipes.