Start a New Thanksgiving Tradition

As a holiday, Thanksgiving sometimes feels like a mere front runner for Black Friday.

I’ve found I enjoy being very intentional about how and why I celebrate on that day, in order to keep it from feeling buried beneath the hectic pace of the holiday season. What I’m sharing in this post has helped me do that, and maybe it will be just what you’re looking for, too.

Several years ago, I suggested to my family of origin that we fold a new tradition into our Thanksgiving rituals. We called it “The Twelve Days of Thanksgiving.” Beginning 12 days prior to the holiday (or 13, if you like a buffer day, like me), we begin a list of things for which we are grateful that grows exponentially.

On Day one, we list one item.

On Day two, we write down two.

Day three, three things.


By the time we hit Day Twelve, we each have a whopping 78 items on our list. There are big things, little things, sweet-memories-kinds-of-things. For many years, we have shared our lists together after our meal, and this truly has become the highlight of our Thanksgiving Day.

I appreciate this tradition because it brings a spirit of thankfulness to the forefront of our celebration, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but for nearly two weeks prior to the actual holiday itself. In order to amass a list  of 78 distinct items that conjure up gratitude in my heart, I have to go beyond the typical family, friends, and food list. I have to spend some time meditating on the abundance in my life. It’s humbling, as well as joy-giving.

This tradition has turned Thanksgiving into more than a day for me–it becomes a season, one which hopefully becomes a habit.

Creating these lists adds a depth and richness to our family’s holiday—instead of just feasting and then falling into the Black Friday ads, we get to truly take some time to pause, and be intentionally grateful. As we read our lists to one another, it brings to mind dozens of events, people, and blessings that we have known, and reveals to us just how much we really have. It’s a delightful recap of God’s goodness throughout the year.

Maybe you’d like to adopt this for yourself? It is certainly flexible. We don’t always get the chance to gather in an intimate family group on Thanksgiving Day itself. We just pick a different day, and adjust our start date accordingly.

And, even if you don’t feel that sharing your list with others is a possibility, making the list itself is meaningful. There’s a reason we keep gratitude journals—they change us.

If you’d like some dedicated space for this project, I created a free printable a few years ago for my original blog that I’m offering again now. The six page document has space for each day, plus the right number of lines for that day’s gratitude list. (Now you can’t get lost wondering how many you’ve already written, and how many you’re supposed to do today, and what day is it anyway? Happens often in a traditional notebook…ask me how I know.) The printable also undated, so you can use it every single year if you like. No adjustments needed.

Fill out the form below to access the printable and be added to the monthly letter on identity, The Circle.

Meanwhile, what are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? I’d love to know! Share with me in the comments below.

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