Starting New Thanksgiving Traditions

Posted by Ashlyn Stanley, Legacy Campus Student Pastor, on Nov 18, 2022

Starting New Thanksgiving Traditions

This year is my first Thanksgiving where traditions have changed. I got married this past July and as the holiday season approaches, I know things will look different. My family recently moved, so we’re no longer a short 20 minutes away. But that means that this year, I get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my in-laws and start some new traditions!

There’s a weird grief as well as anticipated excitement. My husband and I are now a family of our own. We’ll rotate holidays with each of our families and begin to build our own traditions.

My parents’ families each get one big holiday a year. One gets Thanksgiving, the other gets Christmas and we alternate the next year. Regardless of who got what for a given year, my cousins would all be there along with my grandparents, too. If it was my mom’s family’s turn to host Thanksgiving, we’d all go out to the lake my grandparents live on (where my parents now live, too). Nearly 30 of us would arrive and spend the week together, enjoying lots of games and family time. My grandparents would have their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren present. If it was my dad’s side of the family, 12 of us would gather for Hallmark movies, puzzles, and lots of food and leftovers.

I’ve cherished these moments deeply over the years. Every year feels familiar. We dress up, take family pictures, play games, watch movies, stuff our faces and all enjoy being in very close proximity to each other, just long enough that we can wait for another year. We use paper plates, we all contribute different dishes, and each grandma has a special rendition of turkey soup so we can cherish all the leftovers.

This year will be different.

A key phrase I use with my students, or at least that I practice, is to “flip the script.” I refuse to focus on what I’ll be missing this year. This isn’t a Thanksgiving that I don’t get to spend with my family. This Thanksgiving I will get to celebrate with my favorite gift this year, the Stanley family.

My challenge to myself and others this Thanksgiving is to flip the script and try something new. This may be the first year since a beloved family or friend passed, and it feels different. This may be your first Thanksgiving with a new baby. You may be like me, in year one of marriage and new holiday rhythms. Or maybe you’re just ready for a change.

How can we make the holiday our own? What’s something new we can do? Here are a few ideas:

1. Do a recipe or food swap.

Our staff shared some new holiday recipes with each other. Try reaching out to a neighbor or friend and have a Thanksgiving swap. You can both make a double portion of your favorite dish and swap the extra with one another.

2. Watch a Christmas movie.

Everyone has opinions on when Christmas celebrating can start, so this may be controversial… but you could choose a favorite movie of yours and share it with your kids. If a family or friend passed away recently, maybe you watch their favorite movie to remember them. Let Thanksgiving be a day of thanks to reflect and be thankful for a life you cherished.

3. Invite someone new to join you.

We all know someone whose family lives far away or who may be new to the area. Make them part of your Thanksgiving dinner. Life in a new town can be tough, and community is essential. Don’t let others go it alone.

There are so many other traditions you can add. If you’ve gone through a change recently and this holiday season is tough, flip the script! Let’s be thankful together and make the most out of the beautiful life we’ve been gifted.

Talk with your family, neighbors and friends ahead of time, and make plans to try something new this year! After all, there is wisdom in not getting stuck in our ways.

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