"Encourage family members to jot down ways God has blessed them. Younger children can draw or cut out pictures from magazines. Read these together and give God thanks each day or set aside time on Thanksgiving Day."
Celebrating Thanksgivings as Christians
In the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated by people of every religion and background – that is part of what makes it such a wonderful holiday! For those looking to integrate some Christian traditions into Thanksgiving, here are several suggestions to use at church and/or home.
1. Act it Out
Read the story of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Remind your children that Jesus was pleased with the one man who returned to give thanks for being healed. Provide rags for bandages and let your children play the roles of the lepers and Jesus.
2. Make Some Noise
Look up the story of the Israelites’ celebration after the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt (Nehemiah 12:27-46). Talk about the instruments they used and the two great choirs that marched atop the walls to the temple; a joyous, active "thanksgiving" that could be heard "far away" (Nehemiah 12:43). Put together a home grown band using real or handmade instruments. Practice joyful praise songs and march around the "walls".
3. Read a Book
Share a book that expresses gratitude and thankfulness. For example, consider Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place teaches a great lesson in thankfulness. Share Corrie’s story, pointing out her struggle to be "thankful in all things." She even thanked God for fleas in her barracks. She later learned that the fleas kept the guards away and allowed Corrie and others to study the Bible undisturbed.
4. Create a Chain Reaction
Make a "God is Good" chain. Gather scissors, stickers, pencils, crayons, glue and construction paper. Cut the paper in strips and ask your kids to think about the many ways God is good. Have them write or draw these attributes on the strips, then connect them to form a chain and hang it in a place where it will remind your family of God’s goodness.
5. Make a Blessing Basket
Place a pretty fall basket containing a pencil and pad of paper in an easy-to-reach location. Throughout the month, encourage family members to jot down ways God has blessed them. Younger children can draw or cut out pictures from magazines. Read these together and give God thanks each day or set aside some time on Thanksgiving Day.
6. Trim a Tree of Thanks
Draw and cut out a large paper tree with lots of loose leaves in autumn colors. Mount the tree in a prominent place and put the leaves nearby in a box with glue and markers. Ask your family to write things they are thankful for on the leaves, filling the tree by the end of the month. Consider the following question: "If I could keep only the gifts I’ve thanked God for today, what would I have?" Ask younger children: "What do you want to thank God for today?" Encourage your family to add to the tree daily.
7. Create Scripture-themed Place Cards
Have the children make a place card for each place setting on the Thanksgiving table. On one side, write names of guests and family; on the other, type a Scripture verse about being thankful. Let each person read a verse before the blessing.
8. Encourage Sharing
Place a paper leaf at each place with an "assignment" written on it. Each person adds to the festivities by completing their assignment. Assignments might include:
- Read Psalm 100
- Share a Thanksgiving memory (use this on several paper leaves)
- Sing a Thanksgiving song (good for preschoolers)
- Lead the group in a praise chorus (have copies of the lyrics available)
- Say the blessing for our meal
9. Let your Lights Shine
Give an unlit votive candle to each person. Begin by lighting your own candle and thanking God for specific blessings. Then, continue the process around the table until all the candles are lit, making sure to keep the flames away from small children. Lead your family in a candlelight service of thanksgiving.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.