12 Fun Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas Your Family Can Start This Year

This year's holiday festivities are bound to look a little different in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and social distancing. Yes, you might have to skip a few of your oldest traditions, but that also makes it the perfect time to add a few activities that you haven't before. Explore modern Thanksgiving traditions—and not all are about food: host a post-dinner virtual game night or movie marathon, set up a banner centerpiece, holiday-themed pajamas, make DIY place cards and other decorations with thoughtful inscriptions, set up a video call with your furthest flung loved ones, and much more.

Whether you're celebrating Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving with family, or just as a couple, all of these ideas for Thanksgiving traditions celebrated across the country are sure to help you count your blessings and feel more grateful than ever.

Note: Any decision to hold an event during the COVID-19 pandemic, no matter how large or small, should rely on a risk-based approach. WHO has provided guidance on how such a risk-based approach can be taken. Click here for more details. 

  1. Write down what you're thankful for

In all the fun and frenzy, it can be easy to forget the true meaning of Thanksgiving: gratitude. Dole out black sharpies and, before digging in, invite each guest to write what they're thankful for on a butcher paper cloth laid over the table. Could each person share one or two things they are grateful about?  Why not? What a great way to infuse a dining room with love and gratitude. You can archive the sheets to look back on fondly someday.

  1. Indulge in a pie breakfast

Instead of starving yourself until 3 p.m., start the day right (and expand your stomach a little!) with a pie breakfast. 

  1. Connect with family members far away

In light of social distancing and the coronavirus pandemic, Thanksgiving might look a bit different this year, with many families skipping their big annual gatherings for something smaller. But even if some of your nearest and dearest can't make it to the celebration, they can still join in on the festivities—virtually. Set up a virtual happy hour or a video call before, after, or even during your meal with those who can't make it to the table, so they'll feel like they're there.

  1. Make personalized place cards

Before the big day, send around a guest list and ask everybody to share one thing they love or respect about each guest. Compile the compliments on a place card with each guest's name, so they'll sit and find a heartwarming list of anonymous appreciation. What a heart warmer.

  1. Organize an ornament exchange

For those who celebrate Christmas, invite each Thanksgiving guest to bring an ornament to exchange and kick-off the holidays to keep the joy going right through December.

  1. Watch a classic holiday movie

Stave off turkey coma by gathering together in front of the TV after dessert to watch a classic Thanksgiving movie together: pick the same movie every year, or have fun letting a different family member choose the film each time.

  1. Set up a quick and easy beautiful centerpiece

Are you busy cooking a turkey and all the side dishes? Make your table look as yummy as your food tastes with this reusable Thanksgiving banner in gleaming chrome and stainless steel. To keep your guests entertained while you finish whipping up the big feast, ask them to set-up a show-stopping centerpiece for the table. A quick 2-minute set-up means you can get back in the kitchen and baste that bird.  

RELATED: 12 DIY Thanksgiving Table Centerpieces & Decorations for Adults

  1. Play a game of charades

Get your friends together post-dinner for a good-old-fashioned game of charades, sure to bring on the giggles (and impress you with skills you never knew Nana had). 

  1. Ask everyone to make a Thanksgiving toast

A twist on the popular "everybody say what you're thankful for," encourage each guest around the table to stand up and make their own Thanksgiving toast reflecting on the previous year. 

  1. Dine al fresco

If you live in a climate that will support it, consider eating Thanksgiving dinner outside. Being closer to nature reminds you of what's important—a literal breath of fresh air.

  1. Write down your wishes

If you're like most people, you probably share what you're thankful for each Thanksgiving—but the holiday is the perfect time to also reflect on your hopes and aspirations for the coming year. Gather a few nice branches from outside, cover them with gold, silver, or copper spray paint, and anchor them in a vase or pot with stones at the base. As your guests arrive, invite each person to write what they're wishing for on a tag or card that they can hang on the branches you collected. Not only will you have a striking centerpiece for your table this year, but you'll also hopefully have even more to be thankful for next year.

  1. Decorate Thanksgiving cookies

Another way to keep the kiddos entertained: Before sitting down to eat, set up a cookie decorating station—including freshly-baked sugar cookies in a variety of shapes (think: turkeys, leaves, and pumpkins), mini squeeze bottles filled with different colors of icing, and a wide range of sprinkles—so that the little ones can get to work after dinner. Even sweeter: Not only will the adults get to relax a little longer, but everyone will also go home with a tasty souvenir!


Over the years, many families and groups of friends develop their own special Thanksgiving traditions. We hope these Thanksgiving moments will delight your family year after year as part of your own holiday celebration.

Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas

Source: Oprah