5 Ideas To Bring the Thanks to Your Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. But I find it’s so easy to get obsessed with all the food and totally neglect to celebrate what this holiday is actually about: gratitude, abundance, life! So, for those of you who want to make this special occasion more meaningful, consider these creative ways to get the thanks going at Thanksgiving.
1. Transform your place cards into mini gratitude notes
Write your guest’s name on one side of the card, as usual. Then on the reverse side, write your personal ode to that person: what you appreciate about him or her, how this person has given you something to be grateful for. (I suggest you first draft your sentiments for each person—and give yourself time to think about it all—before committing pen to place card.)
2. Share a tale of giving and receiving
In any flourishing system, there is some giving and some receiving. Thanksgiving—which celebrates the harvest and the concept of sharing a meal (the original potluck, if we believe the apocryphal tale of the first Thanksgiving)—exemplifies this cycle: the land receives water, sunshine and care and in time gives us its fruits. Between courses, go around the table and ask your guests to share a moment from this past year when they felt especially grateful to receive and/or to give.
3. Revel in the bounty
As everyone is enjoying their more-than-abundant meal, ask your guests to talk about other ways in which their lives have been particularly bountiful. To encourage participation and inspire more ideas (and not put anyone on the spot), be the one to start this go-round of appreciating life.
4. Show and tell it forward
Email or text your guests several days in advance of dinner, asking them to think of one thing they would like to do this year to make the world a better place—whether something to do for a particular person, a particular organization or whatever. Ask them to write it down and bring something reminiscent of the impending good deed—such as, a picture of the person they intend to help or a print-out of the place’s website (this helps make the concept more tangible). Then at some point near the end of the meal, ask for volunteers to share their plans and thoughts. Expect to be blown away by the amount of infectious goodwill this little idea can generate.
5. Create a self-appreciation "time capsule" station
This concept is a bit more ambitious but worth the creative effort: Pick a spot enough out of the way to give your guests time to reflect, and stock it with paper, pens, envelopes and a pouch (or container of some kind). In advance of dinner, write up a set of instructions for them to read, along the lines of this: “There are many people in each of our lives to be grateful for…not the least of which is yourself! Where would you be without you? Time for some written self-adulation: Go on, give yourself some love! When done, seal your letter in an envelope, address it to yourself and place it in the pouch. You will receive this letter by mail at some future time…hopefully, when you least expect it.”
Then, after dinner as your guests are milling about (but well before they’re getting ready to leave), ask each one to stop by your makeshift writing station, read the directions posted and follow suit. Then you, as host, will slap a stamp on each envelope and put the pouch away for several months. (Don’t forget where you’re storing it.) Write yourself a reminder months in the future to mail them. Your guests will be delighted to receive their self-love letter, and more often than not, the letter will arrive just when some of your guests could use a little love. Chances are, you’ll get to hear all about it!
I hope you’ll want to try at least one of these ideas at your Thanksgiving dinner. If you do, please drop me a line and let me know how it went—or write in the comments to get a whole dialogue going.
Here’s wishing you a very thankful Thanksgiving!