5 Ways to Get in the Thanks-GIVING Spirit (like you never have before)

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(This was previously published on Huffington Post, here.)

Most of us who work in the ‘lifestyle’ genre are inundated with the concept of gratitude on a weekly, if not daily, basis.  Gratitude has been linked to everything from improving happiness, body image, sleep, and life satisfaction to decreasing worry, depression, anxiety, and dependence on alcohol, nicotine, and drugs.  (If you don’t know about the psychological and physiological benefits gratitude can have on you, try implementing the What Went Well exercise into your daily life and observe the effects for yourself.) Amidst the inherent stress at Thanksgiving of cooking a meal large enough to feed a medieval banquet and managing the traditional Turkey-day minefields–including in-laws, long percolating confrontations, and inappropriate jokes (by you or otherwise)–it can be challenging to take a step back, put the (spiked) apple cider down, and appreciate the fact that Americans have an entire day off intended solely to observe one thing:  gratitude. Most Thanksgiving dinners I’ve attended, whether in my childhood or as a guest in adulthood, have included that awkward and anxiety-producing preface, whereby each attendant is asked to offer publicly what he or she is thankful for.  This thankfulness round-robin usually occurs just after the main event (where the two family members most at-odds at that particular moment have an all-out throwdown) and just prior to the Thanksgiving gatekeeper proclaiming what everyone’s been waiting for: ‘Let’s eat!’ This prerequisite can be especially unpleasant for introverts such as myself (I not once, but twice, dropped out of Toastmasters).   No matter what I plan to say, I always end up resorting to some iteration of the 3 boilerplate Thanksgiving gratitudes:  family, health, and this meal. But this year, for the first time since having a family, we are hosting Thanksgiving at our home.  To honor the the essence of Thanksgiving, but in a way that is more personal and thoughtful–at least for me– I came up with 5 new creative ways to express gratitude on turkey day to get into the Thanksgiving spirit.  Try 1 or 2 for yourself this year.

1.  Gratitude tree. Place a small synthetic tree, cut branch, or sticks neatly arranged into a vase.  Cut ribbons in various colors 4-5 inches wide.  You should have enough colors of ribbon to give your tree a festive look.  Set out a sign next to the tree that instructs your guests to pick one color of ribbon and tie that one ribbon onto the tree for every one thing he or she is thankful for.  I cut about 10 ribbons for each color giving the guest 10 things to be thankful for.  The end result: a festive and meaningful tree that can also be a beautiful centerpiece.

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2.  Thankful Place cards I made these unique place cards (a how-to coming soon on the blog, no sewing experience required) and included not only the name of my Thanksgiving guests, but also a line for them to write 1 thing the’re thankful for each year.  Don’t forget to include a pen for each table setting.  Guests can wander about the table taking a peak at what everyone is grateful for (or share outloud) and everyone can take home their card as a gratitude reminder for 2014.

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3.  Gratitude Messages This idea might be my favorite.  I took mini-envelopes and folded a piece of paper accordian-style cut just big enough o fit into the envelope .  You should have the same number of folds as the number of invited guests so that each guest gets one fold to write on.  Put each guest’s name on the outside of the envelope and place all the envelopes into one basket.  Ask each guest to write one thing they are thankful for for every person at Thanksgiving dinner.  Everyone will write on one space of the accordian message, skipping his or her own envelope.  At the end of dinner, each guest will take home his or her envelope or you can share outloud what everyone wrote.  I think it’s entertaining to have all guests write in all envelopes–regardless of whether they know that person or not.  You’ll be surprised by what new acquaintances will come up with.

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4.  Gratitude Drink Identifiers This idea suits more for a mostly adult Thanksgiving affair, particularly where not everyone is well-acquianted.  I set out gift tags and ribbons (or you can use string) and a sign that instructed guests to write on the tag 1 thing they are grateful for.  The tags are tied to each person’s wine glass (instead of glass identifiers) and act as a great conversation starter.  Funnier gratitudes work well here and this can be especially fun for a dinner that has various single people in attendance.   At the other end of the spectrum, if you do have lots of kids with various sippy cups and bottles, it is also cute to get them involved and, instead of tying the tag to a champagne glass, secure it to the sippy cup (as you might know, sipply cups do get confused more often than you’d think!).

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5.  Homemade ‘I’m Thankful for You’ Gifts I love the idea of making a homemade gift for your Thanksgiving guests with an ‘I’m thankful for you’ tag.  These can include candy apples (recipe coming soon on the blog), chocolate chip cookies, english toffee, chimichurri rub, jam, or brittle to show your love and appreciation for the fabulous individuals in your life.  These can also be made and wrapped well in advance of Thanksgiving and, if you have kids, grandkids, or nephews and nieces to help–major plus.

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All of these ideas embrace what George Washington, who first formalized Thanksgiving as a national holiday, proclaimed to be most important:  “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.  And, whatever harmful effects that 3rd piece of pumpkin pie might have on your waistline will be offset by the cascade of psychological and physiological benefits of expressing gratitude–and that fourth glass of (spiked) apple cider.

Happy (gobble) Thanksgiving (gobble, gobble)!

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xx Jessica

 

Have you taken a look yet at the holiday cards I made using HP’s newest product, Sprout?  Also, check out what my fellow creators came up with for the holidays using Sprout:  Inmyownstyle and Faccidesigns.

 

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November 20, 2014 - 7:12 pm

Kungphoo - I love getting into the holiday spirit :) This was a great post to read thank you for all the tips!!

November 21, 2014 - 3:47 pm

Nick #thisyearinmusic - Wow, this is such a simple and effective way to make name places.

November 21, 2014 - 4:37 pm

Bren - I love your table setting and all the Thankful inspiration. This year I made a glitter “Give Thanks” banner and framed “I am Thankful boards” to celebrate the season. brendid.com/thankful-dry-erase-board-diy-printable/

November 21, 2014 - 6:12 pm

Robin (Masshole Mommy) - Those are all great ideas. I love the gratitude tree!

November 21, 2014 - 6:25 pm

Heather - I love the place cards! I love how you’d decorated your tables. Very nice!

November 21, 2014 - 7:11 pm

Cat @ therusticwillow - I’m so happy to see someone focus on the meaning of the holiday instead of just “pretty” decorations or delicious foods. Incorporating pretty, delicious, and thankful is perfect.

November 21, 2014 - 7:24 pm

Bella Vida Letty - You have one of the most beautiful blogs I’ve come across. I love how you have so many photos to show all of the details.

November 21, 2014 - 8:09 pm

Kungphoo - I like those thankful cards.. that is something different i have not seen.

November 21, 2014 - 8:21 pm

vidya sudarsan - What lovely way to say thanks! I can only imagine how happy the guests will feel when they see these personalized name cards.. very creative!

November 21, 2014 - 8:46 pm

WordPress.com Support - thanks dear! xx

November 21, 2014 - 9:36 pm

Fran - These ideas are great!! I’m looking forward to doing some new things this season!

November 21, 2014 - 9:39 pm

Stephanie Keeping - I love that the ribbon idea!! Such a simple, neat, creative idea!

November 21, 2014 - 10:46 pm

Camille - Love the sewing on the name cards- such a great idea especially to keep little ones busy! Pinning it!

November 22, 2014 - 12:40 am

The Foodie Affair - I love all these ideas, especially the placecards. So festive and homey!

November 22, 2014 - 2:47 am

Sharon (@crazykids6) - I think those are all amazing and outstanding and I can’t imagine anyone not loving it

November 22, 2014 - 3:32 am

Nicole Keener - The decorations really look beautiful and classy as well

November 22, 2014 - 3:39 am

Daniele Holmberg - What gorgeous photos! I love your ideas to get in the holiday spirit! :)

November 22, 2014 - 5:46 am

Kama - Wow i love the tag idea. You can set that up with inspirational quotes!

November 22, 2014 - 8:19 am

Lubna Naz - Wow, every idea is superb. All looking beautiful. I will sure try the cards. Thanks

November 22, 2014 - 9:04 am

Joanne - OMG, I LOVE the ideas you have here!
Those thankful placecards are AWESOME!
Will totally do that for Thursday!

https://www.youtube.com/riceandspamchannel

November 22, 2014 - 7:09 pm

Melissa Smith - These really are some great ideas! Especially since everyone usually has Christmas on the brain instead.

November 22, 2014 - 9:06 pm

Joanna Sormunen - What a beautiful and heartfelt idea! It would be lovely to sit in a table and a place card like this! Thank you for the idea!

November 30, 2014 - 9:03 pm

Thanksgiving Recap » fat vegan baby - […] (1) I loved the hand-sewn placecards that greeted each guest at our table and that everyone took home.  See more of them here. […]

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