November is here with the grey branches of maple trees reaching heavenward and once-vibrant fields of wildflowers wielding frost-burned tufts in unison. It’s a season of transition. In November we transition from seventy-degree afternoons to snow-laden days with woolen scarves and tightly laced snow boots.
It seems appropriate that this month of transition is also culturally known as the month for giving thanks. We are often most desperately in need of reminders to practice gratitude when the tides are shifting in our lives. November has always felt like a changing of the tides for me.
November is the time when the kids bound from the bus wearing feathers in their hair and carrying paper Pilgrim hats. Pumpkins and hay bales adorn neighborhood stoops. Our hearts overflow with gratitude for what is good, and all the while, we brace ourselves for the onslaught of winter.
As we aim to establish this month as a time for giving thanks in our home, I’ve been combing through resources in search of some family-friendly Thanksgiving traditions. I’m sharing some of my favorites today. Our family is strongly steeped in tradition at other times of the year, but what better holiday to richly embrace than a holiday built around giving thanks?
Here are seven very practical ways to practice giving thanks this month:
Decorate small stones with either paint or a Mod Podge painted over tissue paper. These stones are reminders to give thanks and can be used in this way: Pass a stone around the dinner table, and the person holding the stone thinks of a reason to give thanks; share them with friends and include a note about why you’re thankful for that person; write words on the stones and collect them in a jar to show what you are grateful for as a family.
Gratitude Crosses are a great way to remember that we are most thankful for the work of Christ in our lives. Purchase a gratitude cross kit or make one on your own using foam or paper cut-outs according the attached link. The premise is this: Decorate a small cross with reasons to give thanks and hang it as a decoration. Get as creative as you wish.
This is a fun idea for the outdoor lovers, and it’s a great way to collect many reasons for gratitude. Either create a tree silhouette and tape it to the wall or use real tree branches in a vase or pot. Tape or hang paper cut-out leaves on the tree and write reasons to give thanks on the leaves. This link for a Thankful Tree is a helpful example.
For families who thrive on activities instead of crafts, Gratitude Games are a great tradition to remind everyone that it is a season for giving thanks. The link above is designed to help families give thanks together by playing Pick-up Sticks and giving thanks based on the color of stick.
Give Thanks Garland
If a gratitude tree isn’t your thing, or if your toddler insists on pulling the tree over and chewing on the branches, make your own Give thanks garland and write your reasons to give thanks on the leaves.
Embark on 30 Days of Gratitude
The 30 days of gratitude printout will guide you in a way to practice gratitude every day of the month. We’re called to give thanks in all circumstances, and this tool is a useful way of applying the call to our lives daily.
Spread the Joy
Consider inviting friends over to share in the traditions. Host a neighborhood fall picnic on a sunny evening. Write notes to friends and tell them why you’re thankful for them, and intentionally aim to give thanks for those who live under your own roof. It’s easy to overlook those closest to us.
Gratitude is more than just something we do. It’s also an attitude of the heart. Practice gratitude by internally giving thanks as you proceed throughout your day. Gratitude journals have been a popularly promoted practice off and on throughout the past two decades and for good reason. Fixing our eyes on reasons to give thanks holds the power to transform even the bleakest November day.