This year my kids want to share the holiday with their friends, so we came up with 3 creative ways to do just that!
Since I began experiencing holidays as a mom, Thanksgiving has been my least favorite. It’s by far the most labor-intensive, since the big meal features a half-dozen dishes requiring a lot of prep and various oven temperatures and baking times. For years it’s been a holiday I’ve dreaded, bringing little relaxation or family time but lots of stress.
Last year things were different. I scaled way back on the meal, took a friend up on an offer to fry a turkey, and intentionally spent as much time as possible simply enjoying the day with my family. It was such a revelation that doing the same thing this year is a no-brainer … but as I started talking with my kids about Thanksgiving plans and options, something interesting happened.
My kids all expressed a desire to include their closest friends in our Thanksgiving plans. They were undeterred when I explained that most families have their own Thanksgiving plans and traditions. Our conversations last year about the meaning of Thanksgiving and showing gratitude for the people you love by enjoying their company really sunk in. So I set aside my initial instinct to reject the idea of involving friends — some of whose parents I barely knew — and instead, we started brainstorming some ideas include for how we could include friends in our Thanksgiving celebration as way to express our thanks for the gift of their friendship. Here’s what we came up with.
1Share the sweetness
Most of my kids’ friends have their own traditions for Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share a part of ours with them. Since the kids are out of school the day before Thanksgiving, we’re going to spend the day baking our favorite Thanksgiving desserts and delivering them individually. The kids are each so excited to share their own personal favorites with their friends, and I’m excited about the opportunity to double everything so dessert for our own Thanksgiving day is covered.
2Share the gratitude
My daughter Sienna’s closest friend moved away over the summer, and she’s been missing that friend keenly this year. She decided that for Thanksgiving, she wanted to write her friend a letter expressing how thankful she was for their friendship and how much she was missing it. My other kids quickly jumped on board with this idea, all naming friends who lived too far to visit often and planning the letters they would write and what they would say. For my part, I knew that the only way to make it happen would be to put it on the calendar. We chose the Friday before Thanksgiving, since the oldest four are out of school and Thanksgiving prep won’t be in full swing — and to makes sure the letter writing doesn’t get lost in the sauce, we decided we shouldn’t do it at home. Instead we’re going to pick out stationery at a store, write the letters at the library, and mail them before we return home.
3Share the feast
One of my sons has a friend whose family doesn’t have any solid plans for Thanksgiving, and he really wants to invite them over. But with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, our house will already be full to bursting. I hated to disappoint my son, though, and even more, I hated to give him the idea that sharing a meal in thanksgiving for each other is something we only do when it’s comfortable.
So I started thinking outside the box. We don’t have much space indoors, but we do have a gorgeous park right across the street with plenty of space and many picnic tables. Why not turn Thanksgiving into a picnic? Sure, a lot of the family will prefer to sit inside at the dining room table, but the kids and cousins and friends would love nothing more than to enjoy turkey-and-cranberry sandwiches in the sunshine without having to worry about pesky things like volume control or napkins. Will it be unconventional? Probably. But will it also be a memory to cherish? Absolutely.
And that, after all, is at the heart of what Thanksgiving is all about — spending time with your loved ones, creating new memories, and cherishing the time you’re so grateful to have with them.