Tree of Thanksgiving

My Gratitude Tree; A Thanksgiving activity that doesn't involve turkey or shopping.
 Being a late November baby, Thanksgiving always held a special place in my heart.
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.
This year, all of the talk of box stores being open on Thanksgiving has irked me, but I won't go into a long rant over it. Instead, I'm sharing my November gratitude project. The photos, materials and basic gist of it are listed farther below. Maybe you're like me and enjoy immersing yourself in messy ritual, or you just need something to keep the kids out of the kitchen.

 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. 
    Voila, a Halloween tree for my beastie to enjoy. After Muffie passed in early October, we left the tree lit for her.  Halloween came and went. I took down the few spooky ornaments and realized I liked the orange and purple glow. Also, I just really dislike putting things away to drag them back out a a few weeks. This is the same rationale that leaves my studio a perpetual disaster and our bed unmade.

  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
  ~Put up your tree! (You know you want to.) Or better yet, just leave it up all year. I think every holiday should get its own tree, anyway.
~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. 

 ~Write a word or two on each leaf to represent one thing on your list. The important thing is that you know what it means.  ~Decorate your leaves. After they have dried, poke a hole in the tip of the leaf or stem with the needle or sharp pencil and thread the leaf or ornament hook through it.
 ~Hang your leaves on the Thanksgiving tree. :-)
 Side note- They don't all have to be leaves. My husband refuses to make leaves and insists he will make a hand turkey. As long as there are several gratitude notes on it, I think it will be our tree topper. For now, I have Muffie's leaf up top. <3

 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,
D. Renée

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