#naphopomo 2013, day 23: our holiday tradition - the thanksgiving garland


I've mentioned before that I've historically experienced a bit of unease around the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, mostly related to wanting to do it right for our American daughter, but not really knowing how, having never grown up with Thanksgiving in my Trinidadian home (nor, of course, did Marcus grow up with the holiday in his British home).  Last year, however, I decided to stop trying to study it so much -- I think the reason it wasn't feeling right was because I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do, as opposed to turning it into a day that feels right for our family -- and we began our own little Thanksgiving tradition that worked out really well.

My thinking was this:  I love the idea of Thanksgiving being a way to officially begin the Christmas season (which is a holiday I cherish a lot).  I wanted to come up with a tradition that made the day more meaningful than simply a large meal and sports (especially since we're not a huge sports family); however, I felt like having everyone announce what they were thankful for might unnecessarily make people feel like they were being put on the spot, especially if we had friends over who might not know each other well.  

So instead, I came up with our Thanksgiving garland.

First, I buy a garland that's fall-like, but not so fall-like that it doesn't work for Christmas, as well (I got the one above on sale at Michael's, but you can certainly make one with twine and pinecones and twigs and so on, if you're not as hopelessly un-crafty as I am).  The trick, however, is to make sure it's somewhat spindly -- not full and lush like Christmas garlands often are.  Then I place it on our fireplace mantel.

Next, I purchase a bunch of gift tags and a pen, leaving them in a bowl nearby.


On Thanksgiving (and the day after, when we have our family Bubble and Squeak day), I invite people to write what they're thankful for on a tag, and simply tie it to the garland:


The only rule is that there are no rules:  folks don't have to sign their tags, they can put everything they're thankful for on one tag, or use a single tag for each expression of gratitude.  They can tie it to the garland wherever they can find a space.  If they think of something else later in the day, they can go grab another tag and add it -- they don't have to announce that they're doing it.  There's no ceremonial reading of the gratitude tags, or anything -- it's just an invitation for our family and guests to have a moment of mindfulness of what it is that they're grateful for.

The garland remains on our mantel for the next couple of weeks, and anyone who comes over during that time can grab a tag and add a gratitude note if they like.


Last year, after a couple of weeks, the garland was full of tags.  Then, when we we put up our Christmas tree, we simply moved the garland to the tree (leaving all the tags on it), and filled the space left on our mantel with a bona fide, twinkle-lit Christmas garland.

At the end of the season when we take down the tree, I save all of the tags that Marcus, Alex and I wrote and glue them into my journal.  Then next year, we start all over again, reusing the garland, but adding all new tags.

And that's it!  It's a simple little tradition, but one that finally makes the Thanksgiving holiday feel special to us in an authentic way.  Feel free to steal the idea, if you'd like to -- it's a lovely way to make the seasons (both Thanksgiving and Christmas) feel full of gratitude.

The photographs above were taken as part of #NaPhoPoMo (National Photo Posting Month) -- a shot a day for the month of November.   You should join me:  it's a lesson in stopping and looking, improving your photography skills, and appreciating the beauty and light around you. 

Click here to see who's participating (and sign up your own blog, if you'd like!).  And if you tag your photos with #NaPhoPoMo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Google+, your image will automatically be seen here.  I hope you join in the fun - and I can't wait to see what you capture.