Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be all about the grub. Here are a few active traditions to adopt with your family.
We get it. Traditionally Thanksgiving is all about turkey, potatoes, fat pants and pie. It’s a time to gather with relatives you haven’t seen since last November and stuff your faces at the dinner table together.
This year, why not be the person to get your family out of the same old rut? If you frame new activities as new additions — not changes — to your family’s traditions, they may be more well received. And better yet, they may carry on for years to come, establishing healthy patterns for future generations in your blood-line.
1. Get Outside and Compete
No matter the ages and abilities of your family members, hosting a family triathlon has something everyone can enjoy.
Some people may walk the final lap, laughing and talking and enjoying the moment, while others may dominate with a six-minute mile. Your 65-year-old mom may be a cycling goddess and your 5-year-old nephew may still use training wheels. The point is, you’re moving together as a family! And it doesn’t have to be traditional swim-bike-run tri. Pick three “events” and go for it.
Start by choosing a course that’s challenging but still doable for everyone. If you’re doing the traditional tri sports you’ll need a body of water, a bike route and a trail to run (or walk!) on. If you don’t have a backyard pool, check out your neighborhood gym. If you live in a place where swimming this time of year just isn’t possible, sub in a different sport, track and field event or just make it a two-sport activity. When choosing the biking and running routes, look for streets that have little traffic or better yet a park that has none at all.
From there, set goals for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels and then let participants decide what level they wish to compete at. Depending on the course, beginners may only swim four laps while advanced participants may swim 24. To make the event feel more official, have everyone wear race numbers and use location tracking apps like MapMyRun and MapMyRide.
If someone doesn’t want to or isn’t able to race, have them man the transition areas or be the designated event photographer. Then let the games begin.
If the triathlon scene isn’t your thing, that’s OK. The point is to get out and get active together. Instead, participate in a Turkey Trot, play flag football in the backyard, hike or go fishing as a family.
2. Give Thanks
America has one “official day” each year dedicated as the day to stop and be grateful. In so many ways, Americans spend the holiday weekend doing just that. Some spend hours reminiscing with family and friends about their many blessings. Others reenact parts of the country’s heritage, celebrating the origins of Thanksgiving that trace back to the pilgrims’ first harvest festival.
Everyone has something to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving consider starting a tradition of recording your family’s blessings. Ask family members to come prepared with something they want to share, or have them take a moment after dinner to write on a notecard left by their plate.
Afterward, gather up the cards and keep them in a box or book to be brought out again year after year. Or make a running list on a scroll of paper that you leave on display through the New Year.
If there are young kids in your family, involve arts and crafts in the tradition. The kids can make leaves cut from colorful paper on which everyone can write what they are grateful for. Then, paste the leaves onto a paper tree trunk displayed somewhere in the home.
And carry your gratitude practice on after the holiday, but starting a gratitude journal practice. Here’s how.
3. Give Back
If this year you want to do something meaningful together (which doesn’t include shopping on Black Friday), find ways to give back.
Around the holidays, homeless shelters around the nation see an influx of volunteers, which means your chance of helping out may be slim unless you’ve already made arrangements to do so. But feeding the hungry isn’t the only thing you can do to give back.
As a family, consider additional ways you can use your personal skill sets, time or resources to contribute to your community and world. Ideas include:
- Donating blood
- Fundraising for a family in need
- Helping a nationwide charity with local roots like Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army or the Make-A-Wish Foundation
- Offering free childcare to a friend or family member in need
- Volunteering with your church
- Organizing a neighborhood cleanup
Whatever you decide, get out, give thanks and give back. Happy Thanksgiving.