My sisters and I recorded a podcast this week about holiday traditions (coming up in a couple weeks!).

As we recorded, I started to get that little mound of worry in my chest that comes during the holiday season: How will I manage it all this year? How can I be prepared so I can really enjoy the season…and remember the true meaning of it all?

I made a vow with my sisters that I was going to take a minute to assess:

Which traditions do I have my heart set on? Which ones can we let die out? How can I manage my time best this year? (I have in mind some more sentimental gifts this year, and those ideas take a lot more work…)

I am in the midst of that process right now.

I have a list of “must do’s” as well as “choose-to-do’s” and for some reason this is making me feel more in control. When we get right down to the nitty-gritties, there really isn’t a whole lot that we HAVE to do. What do we, as a family, like best? What do we want to get rid of?

But I’ll tell you one thing I definitely “choose-to-do” because it brings in the spirit of the holidays more than most things we do: our traditional THANKFUL TREE.

Because really, when you’re thinking about what you’re grateful for rather than all those “duties” weighing you down, everything seems so much brighter.

All kinds of studies have shown that gratitude is the biggest factor that brings happiness in life.

So….my one remaining helper got busy with me the other night adding leaves to our traditional Thankful Tree.

Just look at that smile that comes from remembering all the things we have to be GRATEFUL for!

I need to write on one of those leaves how thankful I am for that smile.

Family Traditions for Thanksgiving

Thankful Tree History & a Tutorial on How to Make your Own

Run in a Turkey Trot

(or join ours…you can sign up now over HERE!)

Have your mother-in-law assign all the food for people to bring to Thanksgiving dinner to alleviate stress when you’re you’ll be helping to host the Turkey Trot the same day, and invite as many of those loved ones over to celebrate gratitude at your house with a giant meal (can’t wait!)

(Ok, no specific post about that one, but lots of Thanksgiving posts HERE.)

What do you do to celebrate gratitude in your family?

Also, I’d love all kinds of ideas as to how to simplify the holidays. What are your thoughts about that?

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  1. Love it!!
    How have you navigated holiday season now that you have married kids, and having 2 families combined and share kids! I’m just going into this phase and would love to know the good, bad and ugly😂

    1. I think this works SO differently for every family, but in ours I think we are lucky that so far it seems like both sides are pretty chill. Abby and Max are both the oldest so it was easier to adjust to holidays, but Carson is the youngest and they already have things set for holidays. So we have changed and morphed into what works each year. This may be a little trickier once grandkids start arriving, but we are trying not to be too greedy;) And they are great at sharing. Good luck as you figure out how to navigate! I guess my advice would be get ready to not have your kids around as much (boo hoo!) but make it fun when they are, and be happy for them that they get to have two families to love on them.

  2. Hi Shawni – I read about this thankful tree on your blog a couple years ago and decided to try it with my son, who was three at the time. The activity helped us begin to teach the concept of gratitude to our son and to refocus ourselves around gratitude after a some very difficult losses. We did the thankful tree again last year when he was four and we will do it again this weekend. It’s fun to see how his thinking evolves — and we are excited for his baby brother to participate when he is a bit bigger. (Side benefit – also a great way for him to practice fine motor skills, which doesn’t typically interest him very much!) Friends and siblings have admired the thankful tree when they come to their house and have started their own. Thank you for so generously sharing your parenting wisdom – you are spreading goodness far and wide. I am thankful for this blog!

    1. Oh Liz I appreciate this so much! Thank you for your kind words and I’m so glad you are enjoying this tradition that we love so much! Isn’t it beautiful the power gratitude has to heal hearts?

  3. I *FINALLY* made a gratitude tree for each of the two families with grandkids that live near us. they were pretty excited about it – hope it helps! I’ve wanted to do it for years, and just stopped what I was doing one day, AND DID IT.

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