Each year for Thanksgiving, I have tried to incorporate different gratitude activities for the family. As the kids got older, the activities evolved from turkeys traced around their hands, with something they are thankful for on each tail "feather", to now we just have everyone jot down something they are thankful for on their place card and then we all drop it in the Gratitude jar. Up until last year, we all then drew one card out of the jar, then read it, then had one of the kids or nieces or nephews lead us in a pre-dinner prayer. But, last year, my husband in the spur of the moment announcement, decided all those thoughts written down on cards, should be kept anonymous. I was horrified! Every year, I looked forward to sharing those moments of thankfulness with our extended family and friends...and hearing the sweet things my kids would only secretly write at Thanksgiving. But, in the end, I acquiesced to my husband's intuitive decision.
A year later, I am cleaning at the hunting cabin, and getting ready for a flurry of holiday activities, hunting and guests. I dumped out the old Gratitude Jar, and all the cards written on from last year. I am moved to tears as always, as I read all the touching things people have written. And then out tumbles one card, written are the things that person/child is not thankful for. It was personal and sad. I read it to my husband, and he firmly said " I told you not to have those read last year, and you shouldn't be reading them now!" I didn't know.... Honestly, it has been a tradition for so long, I took it for granted. So starting this year, after we write, and pray, then eat, I probably will have all the kids do a little bonfire burning of the gratitude cards (maybe later, when they can make s'mores?). That way, the idea of offering up a personal thanks or thought before Thanksgiving can stay between each person and God!
I also liked my daughter's idea of writing 3 things about each person on their place card, then people have to find where to sit, based on the description! If I know far enough in advance who all will be there this year, I might write three things I am thankful for about each person coming--- family or friend, or visitor, on their place card. Either way, this is a great gratitude practice for me as a hostess, mother, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, aunt, etc even if done mentally while shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning up.
My inspiration for the Gratitude Jar came from the Wisteria Catalog. Fearing breakage from my 3 roughhouse sons, I decided to make my own affordable version, in case of breakage!
Here are my top 3 options:
1) Go to your local Box Store or Dollar Store and buy a flat surfaced jar. Or if you live in the big city, you can head to a Heavenly I-hear-Angels-singing craft store (like Michael's or JoAnns). Take aforementioned jar to your local engraving business. For our town, it is the same store that prints our Booster Club shirts, engraves the school trophies/medals/plaques. I paid less than $20.00 for the engraving. If you have a host of engravers to choose from, then knock your socks off comparing prices!
2) Purchase a glass etching kit online and stencils at a Craft Store, and etch the glass yourself!
3) Grab a Ball canning jar off the shelf, or any old empty pickle jar, etc. Wash it. Head to your local box store or craft store and pick up scrapbooking stickers, and stick on the words: Gratitude, Thanks, Merci, Gracias. You get the idea!
You can make your cards to write on out of any scraps of paper you have around the house or office, or you can get fancy and buy card stock at a craft store or scrapbooking store. You can also order them from Etsy; some for as cheap as $5 that you can instantly download the template for and just print at home yourself - check out all these cute ones!
Photography by ShannonKaye Photography.