This coming weekend is Thanksgiving (in Canada)! 🙂 As you encourage your family to give thanks for the blessings of the year, here are 8 types of things you might like to do! This is a post specifically for those of us moms who aren’t always able to accomplish elaborate “ahead-of-time” plans or for those who like to keep things simple while involving children and/or teens. 🙂
“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy Name…”
from Psalm 92:1 KJV
A flashcard story about the Pilgrims which my mom would tell often at Thanksgiving to her Sunday School children began with this verse. She would say it like this…
“It is a good thing. It is a good thing to give thanks. (Well, that tells us that it is a good idea to be thankful. But to Whom?) It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD.”
- Sing together a psalm of praise to God as part of your morning or evening family devotions. There are many psalms which have been set to music in recent years and you likely already know some of them! 🙂 It is not enough just “to be thankful” – we need to direct our thanks TO Someone. Often our culture wants to thank themselves but that never results in true, lasting joy! There are many songs written TO God in the Bible and the Book of Psalms contains a large portion of them. (Other parts of the Psalms include songs about God but point #1 suggests that you look for one which speak to God with a grateful heart.)
- Decorate your dining area and entrance area over the Thanksgiving weekend with reminders of the beauty and abundance of natural things God has made for you to enjoy! Specific simple and easy ideas can be found at the end of this post. You don’t have to do this ahead of time but rather, decorating can form a part of your activities for the weekend and then you can leave the decor up for a while afterwards. In Canada, we don’t have Christmas decorations to put up for a number of weeks so we don’t have to feel pressure to get everything “looking like Thanksgiving” while we’re still “doing school and keeping the house tidy” during the week before. 🙂
- Pray: Sing a table grace together before a special meal. The one illustrated here (on right) is based on a traditional prayer and sung to the tune of “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” (the Doxology).
- List things to be thankful for. This can be done in different ways…
- Go around the table during a mealtime and each person lists one thing he or she is thankful to God for. (This activity could be repeated at the next meal.)
- When I was very young, I was sometimes given a bunch of catalogue/magazine/calendar pictures to cut from and glue onto a floppy paper plate to show what I was thankful for. Example: pictures of people, clothing, dishes, etc. from old Sears’ catalogues, food from grocery flyers or seed catalogues.
- Children (or adults) could draw or colour a page of things they are thankful for. You can download this Free Thanksgiving Printable (click on right) as an example. It is a one-page pdf.
- When I was a teenager, we were invited to bring items we were thankful for into our church before the service time to display in the sanctuary. I think our family brought some garden produce but I remember doing a couple of posters on a Thanksgiving theme which were put up by the doors. (One had 3-D construction paper fruit/veggies on it with a Bible verse I think and the other one had a Pilgrim boy and girl (I had made 2-D from construction paper) with a typed copy of a Thanksgiving hymn.)
- Similar to these ideas, children or teens might also like to write a piece of poetry or simply copy, highlight, or count the number of things in a poem related to thanking God. Here is an example:
An old prayer used in schoolhouses is attributed to Margaret Sangster (1838-1912) or to a old contest to find additional verses to her poem. This prayer poem believed to be in public domain. (Please correct me if this is incorrect.) I have found a few similar variations on it.)
“For sowing and reaping, for cold and for heat,
For sweets of the flowers, and gold of the wheat,
For ships in the harbors, for sails in the sea,
O Father in heaven, our songs rise to Thee.
For parents who care for us day after day,
For sisters and brothers, for work and for play,
For dear little children, for animals out there,
O Father, we send Thee our praise and our prayer.
For teachers to guide us so patiently on,
For fun with our playmates when lessons are done,
For shelter and clothing, for every day food,
We bless Thee, our Father, the Giver of good.”
5. Listen to good music in the background which reminds you of God’s goodness while preparing your special meal or cleaning it up afterwards. Aim to keep the T.V. and other distractions off for a day. Focus on real life with what is right around you.
6. Go outside. Take at least some of the chatter outdoors weather-permitting. You might need a jacket or a sweater. Sit down – on a rock, a stump, a lawn chair, a bench; bring out a kitchen chair or an old quilt to sit on if you need to. Think of your backyard as your living room for the afternoon and visit or read storybooks out there. Children can play happily near you. Go for a walk or hike together. You might need an umbrella or rubber boots if it’s to be a light shower. If it is dry, give a brown paper lunch bag to young children so that they can have fun collecting fall leaves and other “stuff” they find. When I was growing up, traditionally our family would ride in a wagon back to my grandparents’ hardwood bush and roam the trails, collecting leaves and crabapples. And while you’re out enjoying the fresh air, why not take a family photo?!
7. Leftovers – Could you put a quick picnic together with turkey sandwiches and pickles and then watch the sunset? Try cleaning up the turkey into bite-size pieces for sandwiches or pot pie or soup while it is still warm. You can make future meals easier if the meat is all ready to use and poultry seems to be easier to chop when it isn’t cold.
8. Foods – There are a few ways to make large meals such as Thanksgiving or Christmas (or even ordinary suppers) easier to prepare. (You already know about prepared-for-you convenience foods or using frozen peas and corn but I’m meaning about the other ways to make home-prepared food easier.) I learned some of these tips from my mom and grandma while growing up and some tips from a couple of ladies when I was in university who had to make things easier in the kitchen because of their physical challenges.
- pumpkin pie – it’s really OK if you haven’t made a crust! Make your pumpkin into pumpkin soup or baked custard to serve in bowls instead (with whipped cream or ice-cream). Roast the pumpkin like mentioned below and scoop it out of its shell; then boil it a bit more with a small amount of water and mash it to be a finer texture. For “soup”: In a “two-handled” (4qt) cooking pot which is 1/3-1/2 full of mashed pumpkin, add about 1/2 cup sugar + some spices and milk to look soupy (eggs are optional) and cook it on the stove until very hot. For custard: add beaten eggs to the sugar, milk, spices, pumpkin mixture and put all of it into a baking dish to bake in a regular oven for about 20-30 minutes. (Spices: We use cinnamon (a few shakes or so) and allspice (a shake or so) and maybe a wee bit of cloves and/or ginger.)
- poultry dressing – if you bake it (e.g. for 30 minutes) OUTSIDE of the turkey, then you don’t have to make the dressing before you put the turkey on. To begin the food prep in the kitchen, just get that washed/cleaned turkey in the roaster with an onion! You can make dressing whenever you find the time (and children also can help to tear up bread into pieces). The dressing that our family makes uses fresh/normal bread, not dried out. (We don’t add butter either.) We add fresh apple pieces, parsley, onion, salt, and sometimes sage. After it’s mixed, we add enough milk to moisten it and put it in a greased cake pan. But the kids can make that while we’re busy with veggies because it’s so easy and easy to clean up.
- salads – we use a bread knife to chop the greens and then wash and/or spin them. We add any vegetable/fruits to the bowl but leave the salad dressing off of the salad until just before serving (or serve it in a pourable container). This means we can make a salad whenever we get a moment to do so.
- potatoes – if we’re planning to mash them, potatoes are something we might peel and chop a day ahead and store on our countertop, covered with water in a bowl. I usually don’t have extra fridge space. (Neither did the pioneers. Neither did the farm wives preparing to feed tables of threshers at harvest-time.) Otherwise, potatoes could be simply baked after poking them – sometimes wrapped in foil and sometimes just left as a full, poked potato on an oven rack – this means “no dishes” 😉
- carrots – we might so the same as potatoes or choose baby carrots or garden-fresh carrots (which don’t need peeling). Ditto for turnip. We used to slice and mash turnip but in recent years, prefer an easier cubed version which cooks in honey, butter, and nutmeg (and water of course). It’s ready-to-go when we’re getting the hot food to the table.
- cranberry sauce – we add a spoonful or so of something sweet (e.g. sugar or honey or syrup) to frozen or fresh cranberries and cook it in a saucepan until it looks saucy like jam. It’s not very messy to clean up. Some years, we just pulled out a jar of fresh red or purple jam or jelly instead.
- squash and pumpkin can be baked in the oven without cutting or peeling it first. Poke it (on the top) a few times with a knife or a peeler tip to allow steam to escape. Put down a layer of foil if it will get messy inside your oven. But if you peel and take the seeds out later when the baking is done, it will be MUCH easier and quicker to do so. (The downside is that you can’t roast the pumpkin seeds to be as tasty.) The flavour of the flesh seems to be better and again, you don’t get as many dishes to wash. A large squash or a small-medium-sized pumpkin takes about 60-90 minutes at 350 degrees Celsius in a regular oven to bake nicely.
Decorating for Thanksgiving: Some Simple Ideas
- Print little Bible verses on wood for signs within your decor. Scrap wood is OK. If using scrap wood, we might put a “wash” on it with a teaspoon of non-toxic craft paint mixed with a half-cup of water in a disposable cup. It makes it look stained and is fast to dry. Then we can use a black pen or marker on that to write or print.
- Leaf prints – remember these from childhood? Rub the side of a peeled crayon on paper over a leaf so that it reveals the pattern of the edges and veins. Use fall colours such as red, orange, brown, green. Use several different kinds of leaves. Children love making these! Depending on the size of paper you provide them, they could make enough for placemats under plates for a Thanksgiving dinner or breakfast.
- Waxed leaves – we used to do this when I was young – You (as the adult) take a coloured leaf which hasn’t dried out much yet, put it between wax paper (on both sides of the leaf), and insert this into an old, folded teatowel. Then you take an iron on low heat and carefully press it on the teatowel in order to melt the wax onto the leaves. The leaves are then preserved for a longer time period without crumbling.
- If room permits on your table (or anywhere else in your decorating area), arrange things like waxed leaves, bits of birch bark (not peeled from a tree – find it on the ground!), clean twigs (no creepy crawlies), little pumpkins or gourds, and/or fall mums (in vases or pots).
- Cut coaster-sized squares (to put under glasses on your table) from burlap and remove a few strings to make it look like a fringe. Children like removing the strings but you might have to instruct them to count how many strings get removed.
- Make placards for the table. Collect pine or spruce cones. Glue a piece of felt on the bottom of them to help them sit upright. Make or find business-card size Bible verses on the theme of Thanksgiving. (You can use verse stickers on cardstock if you had those on hand.) Use gum or tape to stick a different verse card to each pinecone. You could add names or leave it just as verses. Read the verses at mealtime. Dispose of the pinecones afterwards (or try growing your own trees from the seeds).
- Fold table napkins in an easy but different design that you know of or discover.
Decorating makes events look special and valued by your family, and it does not have to look like an adult did it all! Making your own decorations is one way to involve your family into thinking about being thankful for all of the blessings which God has provided!
Have a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend! 🙂
O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever.
Praise ye the LORD.