Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Creating Family Traditions: Thanksgiving Hospitality

  • 2005 22 Nov
Creating Family Traditions:  Thanksgiving Hospitality

Share with God's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:13

  • The Guest List:  Be sure to include a few people around the table who have no family close by and nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving Day.
  • The Menu:  When you're planning your meal, call each guest and find out what one or two personal favorite Thanksgiving Day foods are.  Do your best to serve one of each guest's favorites with your turkey.
  • The Centerpiece:  What will grace the center of your table each Thanksgiving season  Make both the decision and the execution an opportunity for family fun!  Your project can be as simple or complex as you choose.  Be creative.  For instance, make pilgrim salt and pepper shakers, a papier-mache turkey, a dried flower arrangement, or a cornucopia filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. 
  • "Thank You" Place Cards:  For every person at the table, fold one unlined 3" x 5" index card in half.  Write each person's name on the front of the card.  Decorate with Thanksgiving stickers or stamps or anything else you think of!  On the inside write a personal message starting with a phrase like "I'm thankful for you because. …"  Make each message personal and specific.  For example, "I'm thankful for you because you knew just what to say during those rough times this past summer" or "Thank you for always remembering my birthday."
  • A variation on the them:  Use larger cards and have each member of the family write a message to everyone at the table.  Each person will have a written hug from everyone else.  It's fun to know what others appreciate about you – and it's good to slow down and tell people what you appreciate about them!

Two Kernels of Corn

After dinner dishes are cleared away, but before dessert is served, place two kernels of dried Indian corn in front of each person.  This corn represents the first Thanksgiving:  The Pilgrims had survived a very difficult winter and were thankful that God had brought them through. 

Pass around a little basket.  The person who holds the basket shares two blessings he or she is thankful for.  There may not be a dry eye in the house after the basket has made its journey around the table.

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  John 1:16

Thanksgiving at the Dobson's – by Shirley

Thanksgiving is given major prominence in the Dobson home.  It marks the beginning of the holiday season and the happy gathering with relatives who live close by.  When the day arrives, excitement and anticipation fill the air.  Wonderful mouthwatering aromas of turkey, dressing, and apple pies float from the kitchen as family members arrive.  A new jigsaw puzzle is placed on the card table with a pot of hot coffee nearby.  Various lawn games are set up in the backyard and a spirited basketball game is soon organized on the driveway.

When dinnertime is announced, we gather around the table and Jim reads a Scripture.  Everyone takes the hand of the person sitting next to him or her and Jim prays a prayer of thankfulness to God.  After the traditional meal has been eaten and the table is cleared for dessert, two kernels of dried Indian corn are placed beside each plate.  I explain that this represents the first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims came to America and endured such a difficult winter and how grateful they were to God for bringing them through.  A little basket is then passed around and as each kernel is dropped into the basket, we describe two blessings for which we are most thankful.  The comments invariably focus on loved ones, expressed with deepest feelings and appreciation.  By the time the basket returns to where it started, people are usually crying.  It happens every year.  It's a time of affirmation when we share our need for one another and thank God for the family He has given us.  This experience becomes more meaningful each year because of the inexorable march of time and its effect on the older generations among us.  We have been painfully aware in recent years that some special people are now absent from the family circle, Jim's parents and my uncle.  But we are grateful for each member of our small family who has survived another year.

I am reminded at this moment of a prayer expressed by Jim's father during the final year of his life.  We had been to Kansas City for a visit and were on the way to the airport at the end of that pleasant vacation.  Jim asked his dad to say a prayer before we were separated.  I'll never forget his words, spoken in the car as we approached the airport.

He said, "Lord, we have enjoyed being together so much this past week, and You have been good to make this time possible.  But Lord, we are realistic enough to know that life moves on, and that circumstances will not always be as we enjoy them today.  We understand that a day is coming when the fellowship we now share will be but a memory to those who remain.  That's why I want to thank You for bringing love into our lives for this season, and for the happiness we have experienced with one another."

Two weeks later, my father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack from which he never recovered.  And his final prayer is his legacy to us today.  Circumstances will inevitably change; nothing in this life is eternal or permanent.  But while God grants us breath, we will enjoy one another to the fullest and spread our love as far and wide as possible.

Thanksgiving at the Dobson home is an occasion for the celebration of that philosophy.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.  1 Timothy 2:1

"I'm Thankful For … "

Can the family guess what Dad is thankful for in twenty questions?

The person who is "It" – in this case, Dad – thinks of one thing he is thankful for, and the others try to guess what it is by asking him simple questions:  Is it a person?  Do I know that person?  Male or female?  Is it something that happened?  Did it happen this year?  Was I there when it happened?  If the group doesn't guess the blessing Dad has in mind, Dad wins the round!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  Psalm 100:4

Who's Giving Thanks?  We're All Giving Thanks!

After Thanksgiving dinner, give every person a piece of paper and have them write down three things they're thankful for.  lace the papers in a basket.  Draw them out one at a time and have the crowd guess whose blessings have just been read.

Calling All Critters:  Decorate a Christmas Tree for Your Furry Friends

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Matthew 6:26

After the Thanksgiving dishes are cleaned up and while the football teams play on, welcome the Christmas season by decorating your first tree – for the birds and squirrels in your neighborhood!

Spread the newspaper over your work area and arrange the ingredients for your gifts:

  • Meat tray of ground suet
  • Bowl of birdseed
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Peanut butter popped corn
  • Peanuts, unshelled & unsalted
  • Strips of colorful yarn
  • Crumbs from stale bread
  • Emptied orange halves
  • Pinecones
  • Cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Fifteen-inch pieces of floral wire
  • Stale doughnuts
  • Plastic knives

Now your gift-making can begin! 

  • Mix the ground suet with seeds or crumbs from stale bread.  Fill the empty orange (or grapefruit) halves with the mixture.  Attach pipe cleaners at three places around the edge.  Join them at the center, twisting them together to form a hook so you can hang this feeder on a branch.
  • Spread peanut butter with the plastic knives on the pinecones and then roll them in birdseed.  Attach a pipe cleaner as a hanger.
  • String cranberries, popcorn, and raisins on pieces of floral wire.  Bend the wire and attach the ends to form a circle that you can hang on the ends of a branch. 
  • Tie peanuts along a piece of yarn and tie onto the tree.
  • Tie stale doughnuts to the tree with yarn or pipe cleaners.

Have fun watching God's creatures enjoy your gifts to them!

Excerpted from "Creating Family Traditions:  Making Memories in Festive Seasons" © 2004 by Gloria Gaither and James Dobson, Inc.  Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.  Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Gloria Gaither is a many-faceted communicator – speaker, teacher, award-winning lyricist, recording artist, and performer.  She is also the author of numerous books and magazine articles.  She and her husband, Bill have their own magazine, Homecoming.  Gloria and Bill are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of five grandchildren.

Shirley Dobson is a chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and a member of the Focus on the Family board of directors.  An award-winning author of several books, Mrs. Dobson is recognized for her contributions to women's concerns, Christian organizations, and the institution of the family.  Shirley and James Dobson have two grown children.