Three ways to add more meaning to Thanksgiving

Of all American holidays, Thanksgiving appears to be the one that remains truly about family, togetherness and a value we all believe is important, gratefulness. Yet as with every other holiday and celebration, the positive can easily be pre-empted by focusing on things that have little to do with the celebration. Television anyone?

If you'd like to bring a bit more thoughtfulness to your celebration, here are three simple ways to do it:

  1. Instead of purchasing a Thanksgiving centerpiece, the day before, gather your family (and friends if they're up for it) and head outdoors. Wherever you live, whether in the woods, the city or by the beach, if you search, you're sure to find some natural items that can grace your table. Don't go with preconceived ideas. Maybe you'll discover leaves, branches, berries, flowers, rocks, or shells? Each family member can take a small bag and collect what he or she wants. (Be sure to do this legally!) On the way home, you might stop at the grocery store and pick up a few gourds, nuts or seasonal fruits or veggies to add. At home, you can work together to build a centerpiece or each person can create his or her own. Maybe you'll have enough to decorate several tables throughout the room. The idea here is not to put together a masterpiece worthy of Martha Stewart, but rather to share an activity that is healthy, fun, creative and brings everyone together. Who knows, maybe the hunt will become a new family tradition. And speaking of traditions, add one more. The day after Thanksgiving, return what you took from nature or compost the remains.
  2. Instead of setting a matchy-matchy table, ask each guest to bring a plate (or place setting) from their own home. Suggest that they choose a plate that is special. Then before or after you eat, each person can tell the story of their plate. Maybe it was inherited from a grandmother who brought it with her when she immigrated. Or perhaps it was a ten cent bargain purchased the year the owner had very little money. The content of the stories is much less important than the sharing.
  3. Before the dinner starts, light a candle for family or friends who have passed away. Have anyone who would like to, offer a remembrance or anecdote about the person or say why they are grateful the person was in their life. Place the candle on or near the table where you will be celebrating and allow it to burn throughout the meal. We hope you'll find, as we do, that there is something comforting in this small act of remembrance.

How do you make Thanksgiving memorable? We'd love to know.  

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are a mother-daughter team and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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