50 Thanksgiving Traditions

From turkey trots to gratitude journals, these traditions will make your holiday unforgettable.

Discover heartfelt Thanksgiving traditions that celebrate the essence of gratitude, family, and community. Thanksgiving is a special time of the year when families and friends get together to celebrate the blessings of life and make memories that will last for generations. 

These traditions underscore the spirit of unity and gratitude through classic culinary delights and celebratory feasts, as well as inspiring acts of generosity and demonstrations of gratitude. Join us as we explore selfless acts of volunteering, the excitement of yearly Turkey Trots, and the coziness of reunions with loved ones during this season. Whether it’s making homemade decorations, sharing personal tales around the table, or embracing cultural customs, each tradition adds a distinct thread to the fabric of Thanksgiving.

Family Thanksgiving Traditions

Image sourced from hitherandthither


Hosting Family Reunions

Gather your loved ones from far and near for a heartwarming Thanksgiving family reunion. Reconnect, share stories, and create lifelong memories that will be cherished forever. Whether you are at home or traveling to a special location, the bonds of family grow stronger when you join together in the spirit of gratitude.

Here is a great example of hosting a family reunion from hitherandthither.

Image sourced from lifeslittlesweets


Taking Family Photos

Capture the happiness and love of your Thanksgiving gathering with an enduring family photograph. Immortalize the moment, filled with smiles and merriment, as generations celebrate this special occasion together. These photographs will evoke fond memories of each Thanksgiving spent with your family.

Here is a great example of a Thanksgiving family photo from lifeslittlesweets.

Image sourced from livingly


Gratitude Sharing

Thanksgiving is the ideal time to express gratitude for your bounties in life. Gather around the table and share what you are grateful for. Whether big or small, each expression of gratitude fosters a sense of unity and appreciation among family members, resulting in a deeper bond and mutual understanding.

Here is a great example of gratitude sharing from livingly.

Image sourced from fumbledreturns


Playing Touch Football

Participate in touch football and other outdoor activities to embrace the spirit of friendly competition. It’s a delightful way to keep the entire family active and entertained while creating memories of joy and harmony that will last a lifetime.

Here is a great example of playing touch football from fumbledreturns.

Image sourced from imperfecthomemaking


Making Handmade Thanksgiving Cards

Encourage creativity and thoughtfulness by having each family member create their own Thanksgiving card. From colorful turkeys to heartfelt messages, these handcrafted cards express your love and gratitude in a unique and profound manner, making each family member feel cherished.

Here is a great example of handmade Thanksgiving cards from imperfecthomemaking.

Image sourced from Rome Monuments


Visiting the Graves of Loved Ones

Thanksgiving is a time to remember and honor the cherished people in our lives who have passed. Visit the graves of loved ones and leave flowers as a token of remembrance and love. This tradition serves as a poignant reminder of the continuity of family ties and the enduring memory of the deceased.

Visiting the graves of loved ones to leave flowers from Rome Monuments.

Image sourced from theperfectgiftshack


Watching Thanksgiving Movies

Embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving by spending some time cuddled up in front of the screen watching some of the best movies about the holiday. These films, which range from uplifting comedies to emotionally resonant expressions, are perfect for bringing the whole family closer together while also providing an additional dose of nostalgia.

Here is a great example of watching Thanksgiving movies from theperfectgiftshack.

Image sourced from Adima Vd Does


Starting the Day with Brunch

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving morning brunch with your family to get the holiday started. Savor the delectable dishes, engage in lively conversation, and express your enthusiasm for the day that lies ahead. This tradition offers a relaxed and pleasurable beginning to the holiday, setting the stage for a day filled with camaraderie and enjoyment.

Image sourced from bhg.com


Creating a Family Gratitude Jar or Journal

Create a family gratitude jar or journal in which each member can record daily acts of gratitude in the run-up to Thanksgiving. Reading these entries aloud during the holiday feast reinforces the importance of gratitude and develops family bonds as you celebrate the blessings you’ve shared throughout the year.

Here is a great example of a gratitude jar from bhg.com.

Image sourced from twigandolive


Family Hikes or Nature Walks

On Thanksgiving, embrace the natural world by embarking on a family hike or nature walk. Whether in a nearby park or on a beautiful trail, the tranquil setting provides an opportunity for meaningful conversations and appreciation of nature’s marvels, fostering a stronger sense of family unity.

Here is a great example of a family on a nature walk from twigandolive.

American Thanksgiving Traditions

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Turkey Pardoning

As a distinct Thanksgiving tradition in the United States, the President pardons a lucky turkey from becoming a Thanksgiving meal, symbolizing mercy and compassion. This gesture dates back to the 1940s and has since evolved into an endearing tradition that captures the nation’s spirit of generosity and appreciation.

Here is a great example of turkey pardoning from mashable.com.

Image sourced from freepik


Having a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

As part of Thanksgiving traditions in the United States, families gather for a delicious meal that includes the signature roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. This cherished meal fosters a sense of togetherness and affords an opportunity to appreciate the delicious food and wonderful company.

Image sourced from The Buzz Magazines


Watching an American Football Game

Since the late 1800s, when college teams began competing on Thanksgiving, football and the holiday have been inseparable. Today, families across the United States gather around the television to cheer on their beloved NFL teams, a time-honored tradition that adds excitement and camaraderie to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Here is a great example of watching an American football game from The Buzz Magazines.

Image sourced from Run Washington


Turkey Trots

Families in the United States participate in turkey trots, fun runs, and other races conducted in various cities on Thanksgiving morning. It is a healthy way for families and communities to gather together, burn some pre-feast calories, and donate to charitable causes, thereby promoting health and a spirit of generosity.

Here is a great example of a turkey trot from Run Washington.

Image sourced from DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images


The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an iconic event that captivates the nation with its enormous balloons, marching bands, and scintillating performances. This New York City tradition, which dates back to 1924, is a must-see for American families and marks the beginning of the holiday season.

Here is a great example of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade from cbsnews.com.

Image sourced from Pinterest


Breaking the Wishbone

As a lighthearted Thanksgiving tradition, two individuals hold the turkey’s wishbone and make a wish. Afterward, they pull on each end, and whoever ends up with the larger piece has their wish granted, adding a fun and optimistic element to the holiday celebrations.

Image sourced from stocksy


Gratitude Sharing

Beyond the feast and festivities, American families often take a moment to demonstrate gratitude during Thanksgiving dinner. This tradition fosters a sense of gratitude for the love and support of family and friends through the sharing of benefits, accomplishments, and cherished moments.

Image sourced from NPR


Black Friday Shopping

The end of the holiday purchasing season is signaled by the infamous Black Friday sales, which lure consumers with incredible discounts on the day following Thanksgiving. Shopping sprees in the wee hours of the morning have become a cherished tradition for many, who seek the best deals and delight in this consumer spectacle.

Here is an example of Black Friday shopping deals from NPR.

Image sourced from hauteofftherack


Celebrating Friendsgiving

In addition to spending time with their families, many people in the United States observe “Friendsgiving” with their closest friends. Thanks to this casual get-together, friends are able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together. This celebrates friendships as well as the extended family dynamic, which makes the holiday even more meaningful.

Here is a great example of Friendsgiving from hauteofftherack.

Image sourced from lifefamilyfun


Giving Back to the Community

Americans are encouraged to give back to their communities on Thanksgiving. Volunteering at soup kitchens, donating to food drives, and participating in charity events are ways that Americans embrace the true spirit of the holiday by assisting those in need and spreading kindness across the country.

Here is a great example of giving back to the community from lifefamilyfun.

Canadian Thanksgiving Traditions

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A Second-Monday-of-October Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving, unlike its American counterpart, takes place on the second Monday of October, making it an early commemoration of gratitude. This tradition gives Canadians an early start on Thanksgiving, as they gather with family and friends to celebrate the bountiful harvest and the splendor of autumn.

Here is a great example of Canada’s early Thanksgiving from sixtyandme.

Image sourced from Foodgressing


Enjoying Unique Canadian Delicacies

Traditional dishes for Canadian Thanksgiving include tourtière, a savory pork pie, and poutine, a delectable combination of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. These delicious treats add a distinctly Canadian flavor to the festive table, tantalizing the taste buds and reflecting the country’s rich culinary heritage.

Here is a great example of unique Canadian delicacies from Foodgressing.

Image sourced from TSN


Watching the Canadian Football League

As part of a longstanding Canadian Thanksgiving tradition, families watch the thrilling Canadian Football League (C.F.L.) Thanksgiving match. As fans cheer for their favorite teams, the game inspires a sense of national pride and friendly competition, adding an additional layer of excitement and camaraderie to the holiday celebrations.

Here is a great example of Canadian Football from TSN.

Image sourced from walmart.com


Decorating Homes with Maple Leaves

During Thanksgiving, families honor Canada’s emblem by adorning their residences with lovely maple leaves. Whether it involves handmade decorations or real autumn leaves, this simple but meaningful tradition pays homage to Canada’s national symbol and adds a touch of natural beauty to the festive atmosphere.

Here is a great example of maple leaf decor from walmart.com.

Image sourced from Foodology


Canadian-Themed Thanksgiving Potluck

In order to honor multiculturalism, many Canadian families opt for a Thanksgiving potluck featuring dishes from various regions. From Indigenous-inspired dishes to French-Canadian delicacies, this diverse and inclusive approach to the holiday meal nurtures a sense of community and appreciation for Canada’s rich cultural tapestry.

Here is a great example of a potluck from Foodology.

Image sourced from funmoneymom


Enjoying Fall-Themed Desserts

During Canadian Thanksgiving, Canadians indulge in the season’s delectable flavors by consuming desserts with an autumn theme. From apple crisps and pumpkin pies to butter tarts and cranberry treats, these mouthwatering desserts honor the autumn harvest and leave diners feeling satisfied and happy.

Here is a great example of a fall-themed dessert from funmoneymom.

Image sourced from christnow


Giving Thanks for the Harvest

Thanksgiving is rooted in the agricultural history of Canada and is a time for Canadians to demonstrate gratitude for a successful harvest. This central motif cultivates a sense of gratitude and respect for nature’s gifts by reminding individuals to value the bounty of the land and the labor of farmers.

Here is a great representation of giving thanks for the harvest from christnow.

Image sourced from PR Peak


Participating in Community Events

Thanksgiving in Canada frequently involves participating in community events that foster a sense of togetherness and benevolence. From food drives and charity fundraisers to parades and festivals, these events create a spirit of community and generosity in neighborhoods and cities.

Here is a great example of participating in a community event from PR Peak.

Image sourced from Pinterest


Watching the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade

The parade is a unique Canadian Thanksgiving event that takes place in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario. This bright and lively event celebrates German-Canadian culture with traditional costumes, music, and colorful floats. It adds a touch of cultural diversity to the holiday celebrations.

Image sourced from To Do Canada


Participating in Corn Maze Events

As the weather cools, families enjoy outdoor activities such as maize mazes during Canadian Thanksgiving. These interactive experiences provide a fun-filled day of navigating the maze’s twists and turns, creating cherished memories, and an appreciation for the splendor of the autumn countryside.

Here is a great example of a corn maze event from To Do Canada.

Fun Thanksgiving Traditions

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Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts add an element of excitement to the Thanksgiving celebrations. Create a list of clues that will lead participants around the house or outside to solve riddles and uncover concealed prizes. This interactive holiday tradition encourages teamwork and friendly competition while bringing pleasure to people of all ages.

Here is a great example of a family scavenger hunt from parents.com.

Image sourced from esthrmend


Photo Booth with Thanksgiving Props

This tradition captures hilarious and heartwarming Thanksgiving moments. Backdrops or frames are decorated with holiday-themed elements such as turkey hats, pumpkin masks, and autumn leaves. Family and friends pose in amusing styles for the pictures, preserving the day’s memories.

Here is a great example of a Thanksgiving-themed photo booth from esthrmend.

Image sourced from Linda Young


Thanksgiving-Themed Board Games or Trivia

Thanksgiving-themed board games or trivia are a fun way to spend the day with family. From games to trivia quizzes that test your knowledge of Thanksgiving facts, these fun activities spark friendly competition and camaraderie, making the party even more memorable.

Image sourced from discovermagazine


Thanksgiving Story Slam

At a Thanksgiving story slam, everyone gathers around the table and takes turns telling their most memorable holiday stories. From funny mishaps to touching moments, these personal stories bring people together and make them laugh, making the celebrations feel warm and personal.

Here is a great representation of a Thanksgiving story slam from discovermagazine.

Image sourced from Church of Jesus Christ


Creating a Thanksgiving Playlist

Thanksgiving playlists emphasize feelings of gratitude and togetherness. It doesn’t matter if the songs are old classics or today’s top hits; music has the power to unite people and evoke a range of emotions as you enjoy the day with your favorite melodies.

Here is a great representation of playing Thanksgiving music from Church of Jesus Christ.

Image sourced from Deseret


Singing Together

This is a great way to bring families closer together. Sing your heart out to holiday classics or any other favorite melody, creating a vibrant and enjoyable atmosphere that encourages everyone to participate and display their vocal abilities. 

Here is a great representation of singing together from Deseret.

Image sourced from holidaycardsapp


Sending Thanksgiving Greeting Cards

Greeting cards are a common way to express gratitude and well wishes on Thanksgiving. Although it is less common today, some families still send heartfelt cards to their loved ones, extending their gratitude and love. Personalized messages and thoughtful designs make these cards cherished mementos.

Here is a great example of a Thanksgiving greeting card from holidaycardsapp.

Image sourced from handylittleme


Making Thanksgiving-Themed Projects

Crafts with a Thanksgiving theme are a great way to unleash your creative side. This participatory tradition gives everyone the opportunity to exhibit their artistic side while also contributing a unique touch to the holiday decor. Participants can make anything from handcrafted thank-you cards to decorations inspired by the season.

Here is a great example of a Thanksgiving-themed project from handylittleme.

Image sourced from Patch


Pumpkin Pie-Eating Contest

A pumpkin pie eating contest can be a fun way to spice up dessert time. Set a timer and watch as people try to eat through their pies before the time runs out. It’s a fun and messy practice that makes sure everyone laughs and the meal ends on an enjoyable note.

Here is a great example of a pumpkin pie-eating contest from Patch.

Image sourced from happyhomefairy


Thanksgiving-Themed Costume Contest

Hosting a costume contest with a Thanksgiving theme is a fun way to encourage creative thinking and imagination. Guests can dress up in costumes relevant to the celebration, such as pilgrims, turkeys, or anything else. This is a fun ritual that gets everyone engaged and helps set the tone for a memorable and joyous Thanksgiving feast.

Here is a great example of a Thanksgiving-themed costume contest from happyhomefairy.

Thanksgiving Dinner Traditions

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Roasting a Whole Turkey

The centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner traditions is a succulent whole turkey that has been seasoned and roasted to golden perfection. This traditional main dish signifies the beginning of a festive feast that brings the family together in anticipation of an unforgettable meal.

Here is a great example of a whole roasted turkey from easyweeknightrecipes.

Image sourced from halfbakedharvest


Serving Classic Sides

The Thanksgiving classics — creamy mashed potatoes, flavorful stuffing, and tangy cranberry sauce — are essential to the meal. These traditional sides go well with turkey and bring back memories as people of all ages get together to enjoy the familiar and comforting tastes.

Here is a great example of classic sides from halfbakedharvest.

Image sourced from Betty Crocker


Trying Out New Thanksgiving Recipes

Even though traditions are important, some families also like to try new things during Thanksgiving. Trying out new and different recipes adds a bit of fun to the meal by adding flavors no one expects and letting everyone find new tasty surprises.

Here is a great example of a new Thanksgiving recipe from Betty Crocker.

Image sourced from hellowonderful


Having a Separate Kids' Table

The kids’ table at Thanksgiving dinner is a time-honored tradition where children can share laughter, connect with cousins, and enjoy a meal tailored to their preferences. This special arrangement enables adults to catch up and enjoy their own conversation while ensuring that the dining experience for the younger members of the family is memorable.

Here is a great example of a separate kids’ table from hellowonderful.

Image sourced from munchkinsplanet


Using Fine China and Special Table Settings

Thanksgiving is a special holiday, so many people bring out their best dishes and set the table in a special way. The elegantly set table adds a bit of style and makes the atmosphere more celebratory, making the meal a real feast of thanks and appreciation.

Here is a great example of a Thanksgiving table setting from munchkinsplanet.

Image sourced from hubpages


Saying Grace

During Thanksgiving, the whole family usually says grace or takes a moment to give thanks before digging into a big meal. The act of saying grace is a recognition of all the good things that have happened during the year and it captures the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

Here is a great example of a family saying grace from hubpages.

Image sourced from SprintSet Energizing Weight Loss


Sharing Recipes and Cooking as a Group

Thanksgiving dinner is an opportunity for families to pass on treasured family recipes from one generation to the next. Cooking as a group fosters a sense of community and cooperation, as each member contributes their culinary expertise and ensures the meal is prepared with care.

Image sourced from NPR


Incorporating Dishes from Different Cultures

Thanksgiving dinner traditions frequently feature dishes from a variety of cultural origins, which serves as a celebration of both diversity and heritage. The celebration is made even more memorable by the fact that a variety of traditions are represented at the same table.

Here is a great representation of different cultural dishes from NPR.

Image sourced from bloglovin


Baking and Decorating Cookies

From pumpkins and turkeys to leaves and acorns, let imaginations run wild decorating the cookies with colorful icing and decorations. This enjoyable and tasty tradition not only fills the home with delectable aromas but also provides quality time for family bonding, culminating in a bowl of sweet treats that symbolize the holiday spirit.

Here is a great example of baking and decorating cookies from bloglovin.

Image sourced from celebrationsathomeblog


Having a Dedicated Pie Bar

After the savory delights of the main course, it is customary to serve a dessert buffet with a variety of sweet indulgences. Desserts such as pies, cakes, and cookies adorn the table, enticing guests to indulge in a variety of delectable treats and making the conclusion of Thanksgiving dinner exceptionally satisfying.

Here is a great example of a dedicated pie bar from celebrationsathomeblog.