Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s an excuse to get the family together and spend the entire day lingering around the kitchen. Hubby and I have hosted Thanksgiving for 8 years running, ever since we moved into our first house. Our massive, dining room table extends to comfortably fit 12 and we could probably cram more in if needed. With our growing families, I’m sure that day is not far off!

With Thanksgiving sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, it is often the forgotten holiday. The minute Halloween is over the stores immediately rotate their inventory to the biggest money-making holiday of the year. Not long after, Christmas music starts playing on the radio and people start pulling out their decorations. When our oldest daughter was born, we decided to build some traditions around Thanksgiving in order to create some novelty and excitement.

Thanksgiving Tradition 1: Breakfast

Thanksgiving day begins with my dad arriving to stuff the turkey and get it in the oven. He comes armed with a chai latte for me (my guilty pleasure) and we indulge in cinnamon rolls and warm beverages. I’m not a big fan of cinnamon rolls so I’m not sure how this tradition even got started, but for whatever reason, one day a year, we have them for breakfast. In fact, cinnamon rolls for breakfast was the very first tradition Hubby and I adopted as a married couple and it is something he and the kiddos look forward to every year.

Two round baking pans filled with cinnamon rolls

Thanksgiving Tradition 2: The Guest Book

Guests generally arrive between 2 and 3. Our Thanksgiving guest book sits prominently on the table every year for our guests to sign. In addition to their name, we ask that everyone describe three things they are thankful for specific to that year (no generic responses like our health – unless of course it is relevant). At dinner, we go around the table and share what each of us wrote.

The book serves three purposes:

  • It’s a good record of who attended dinner that year and which additional guests may have joined our standard crew.
  • It’s a reminder of the events that took place over the year for which we are thankful.
  • And, in true Thanksgiving fashion, it gets everyone thinking about gratitude and the very spirit of Thanksgiving.

It’s also really fun watching the kids’ answers change as they get older. Sophie’s input as a 3-year-old last year was, “I’m thankful for Paw Patrol, Nana and Papa, and Grammy and Poppy, and GG and Papa, and Michelle. Oh, and daddy and you…and Josie.” No need for anyone else to sign the guest book I guess when your daughter rattles off everyone in attendance!

Below is the book we use – you can get your own copy here! It’s a really beautiful hardback book with lots of room for writing, and it even comes with a slipcover to keep it protected for all the years (and dinners!) to come.

A candle and autumn leaves next to a "Giving Thanks" guest book and pen

Thanksgiving Tradition 3: The Menu

We are a family of traditions. My dad makes sure we stick to most of them, especially if they revolve around the dinner menu. Thanksgiving is not a day we veer into creativity and experiment with new recipes (though I have to give my mom credit, she manages to sneak a new recipe in here and there). Our menu consists of the usual suspects: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes.

In addition to the above, every year we serve a unique recipe that has been making its way onto our Thanksgiving dinner table for as long as I can remember. It’s a delicious lime Jello salad and to be honest, I don’t even know where the original recipe came from. This salad is a fan favorite (can it be called a salad if it doesn’t include lettuce?).

A circular green, lime Jello salad with mandarin oranges on a white plate

It is fresh and light, which is the perfect compliment to an otherwise heavy meal. If desired, it can easily be slimmed down by using sugar-free Jello and nonfat cream cheese and Cool Whip – all without greatly impacting the flavor. In fact, I’ve made those substitutions a few times and no one has ever noticed. You can also change it up by experimenting with other Jello flavors, though I highly recommend the lime – you just can’t beat the freshness! I’ve included the recipe below if you’d like to give it a try!

Another delicious recipe that I made for the first time last year, and will continue making from here on out, is the Toasted Marshmallow ice cream over at Scoop Adventures. This recipe is a huge hit – creamy, perfectly toasted, and a mouthwatering compliment to almost any pie.

A scoop of toasted marshmallow ice cream on a chocolate square and graham cracker
Photo Credit: Lindsay Clendaniel of Scoop Adventures

Thanksgiving Tradition 4: The Christmas Tree

I’m going to be honest. I dislike HATE decorating the Christmas tree. It is one of my least favorite holiday tasks. For years, our tree would sit in the corner of our living room for weeks unadorned. Eventually, my mom would take pity on the tree and trek our way to decorate it for me (thank you mom!). Last year, she had the idea of making Christmas tree decorating a Thanksgiving event and thus, a new tradition was born.

After appetizers, but before dinner, we pull out the Christmas decorations. Everyone in attendance hangs at least 10 ornaments. Our kids really get into this and generally decorate more than their fair share. It’s nearly impossible not to feel festive looking through the ornaments as a family, reminiscing on the ones that represent a specific memory or moment in time. This tradition is win-win – the kids have fun making new memories with family and I get a pass on decorating!

A decorated and lit Christmas tree with a rustic burlap bow at the top

Thanksgiving Tradition 5: The Christmas Box

Many of you have probably seen the idea for a Christmas box – it’s all over Pinterest and for good reason. It’s a gift for the kiddos, generally given on Christmas Eve, and includes items such as new pajamas, a movie, a book or two, plus popcorn and hot cocoa – all the makings for a fun movie night!

Rather than save this tradition for Christmas Eve, we pull it out on Black Friday. It’s the first gift of the season and the kids always have a blast opening it. After the exhaustion of hosting Thanksgiving, it is the perfect excuse to have a lazy night-in watching movies with the kids. We always feel a huge surge of Christmas spirit and it kicks off the season in a meaningful, family-centered way!

This year, these are a few of the items we included in our Christmas box:

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your family? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments below!

Lime Jello Salad

Lime Jello Salad


  • 2 small (3 oz) packages lime Jello or 1 large package (6 oz)
  • 2 cans pears
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 tub Cool Whip
  • Canned mandarin oranges, optional


  1. Drain pear juice into a pan and heat on medium. Stir frequently and keep an eye on it - it burns easily.
  2. Add Jello and stir until dissolved.
  3. Put pears into a blender, along with the dissolved Jello and blend. Add the cream cheese and Cool Whip and blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour into a Jello mold and chill in the refrigerator until set.
  5. Run the mold under hot water to loosen the Jello. Turn onto a decorative plate and add mandarin oranges around the edge.

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. When you use a link on my blog to purchase a product, it doesn’t cost you any more than if you were to go directly to the website in your browser. However, I do receive a small percentage of commission, which helps me keep Head of the Homestead running. Thank you for supporting me and my blogging efforts!

Please like & share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enjoy the blog? Please share the love!