|My Gratitude Tree; A Thanksgiving activity that doesn't involve turkey or shopping.|
But as I grow older, holidays change. Family gets spread out across the country, life gets busy, I don't eat turkey or even go shopping with the hordes the day after, so sometimes the day can seem like an empty chore. However, tradition and ritual are so important to me.
Almost every holiday has deeply symbolic roots that are incredibly nourishing and restorative. The past few years, a new irreverent tradition surfaced in our home after the obligatory family meals, which were largely spent avoiding meat while trying not to make our mothers feel badly or too annoyed. We plop down on the couch to enjoy a vegan "turkey" loaf with all the traditional sides prepared without animal fat and a viewing of the insanely bad "ultimate low-budget experience..horror / comedy" Thankskilling. (I can neither recommend this film nor warn against watching it. It all depends if you're easily offended and your level of tolerance for terrible dialogue, performances, special effects, and plot, but it is quite an experience.)
Although our new tradition is kind of fun, it's not exactly in the spirit of Thanksgiving.
|Muffie napping under the Halloween tree in October.|
It started from a bittersweet and sad place. Long story short, my 14 year old maltese, Muffie, was terminally ill in late September. She always enjoyed sleeping under the Christmas tree, so I put up our artificial tree with orange and purple lights.
As a daily exercise, I write down things I am grateful for in a journal. Since I am eternally in love with fall foliage ( my heaven will totally be a warm autumn day in the Blue Ridge mountains ) I got the idea to instead write on paper leaves then hang them on the tree.
Here's a little breakdown in case you want to try it out.
Construction Paper ( If you don't have paper colored like fall leaves, use paint, markers, or crayons. Have fun!)
~Pencil ~Scissors ~Needle ~Markers ~Glitter ~Glue or a Container of non-toxic
~Whatever The Hell You Want To Decorate With It's Your Leaf
~Thread, Yarn, or Ornament Hooks
~Fold sheets of paper in half and tear or cut down the middle, then fold the halves vertically again.
~Draw the halves of your leaves. Cut them out. Place the leaves around the bottom of your tree.
~Write a list of things, people, places, experiences, etc., for which you are thankful.
If you or your kids find it hard to be specific, think of the last really great day you had, recounting it like a story and take notice of every detail. Start with the "trunk", leading to limbs, branches and then leaves. Just like trees, our blessings are often rooted in others. They grow and branch out into other good things.
~Hang your leaves on the Thanksgiving tree. :-)
The act of just writing out a gratitude list is great, but this activity really gives you time to focus upon and truly appreciate the boon of each leaf you decorate. There are also added bonuses to this project. Not only will you be reminded of the things your leaves represent every time you look at them, but the act of taking the leaves down when you decorate for Christmas gives you time for reflection once again.
If you try this project or have any other Thanksgiving traditions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
In Artwork & Play,