Why I’m Starting a New Thanksgiving Tradition: The Thankful Tree


…Need I say more?

Life is this one big amazing roller coaster ride that likes to throw curves, and bumps, and thrills, and lulls at us — which is totally fine because that is just part of life, but it can be easy to forget.

It can be easy to forget about not sweating the small things, about enjoying the small things, and really taking the time to slow down and appreciate what we have. Remembering to be thankful is one of those things that I am constantly working on as a mother, wife, and human being. Between the hustle and bustle of a child in school, balancing backyard homestead life with inside home life, working towards a self-sustaining business, and trying to find time in between to simply be with my family, and myself, it can be easy to forget.

The fact that the world around us is moving at an incredibly fast pace and we’re continuously bombarded with advertisements of things that really truly don’t matter, but they make it seem like it matters, makes it hard to slow down and remember the small things.

And when you have an incredibly tough year, financially, it’s hard to remember that even though the struggle is real, we still have some of the most important things money can’t buy. Things like love, companionship, each other, and a new baby only days (hopefully) away. Even though our house is small and has no storage, our cars are old, and we don’t get to go out and do the “latest, greatest thing,” we are still able to eat nourishing foods together at the dinner table, watch movies on the couch, and play outside.

Nevertheless because I’m only human, it’s hard to remember those things in the craze of life. It’s even harder to bring up a child in this ‘Latest and Greatest Convenience’ era and to teach gratitude when the influence of today’s crazy society is every where you look. Gratitude is what fills our heart and soul up, and my hopes is by teaching my children to be grateful in the every day things of life, they will not look for material things to fill them up.

A New Family Tradition: The Thankful Tree

One thing we’ve started implementing to help us remember the small things in life we’re grateful for is to say what we’re thankful for before we eat dinner. We aren’t a religious family but my in-laws always do a blessing before we eat at their house. Andrew actually brought it up one night we were eating dinner at our house and asked Scott to do a blessing. Noticing that it took Scott by surprise, I quickly came up with a “what we’re thankful for blessing.” Now, before we eat dinner everyone gets a turn to say what they are thankful for that day.

Because Andrew is only 4, some of the things he has said he’s thankful for are: seeing his friend Joseph, going to Starbucks, “this beautiful food,” our cat, our chickens, his new toy, and going to the children’s museum. I’ve been rather impressed with him and his ability to think about the things he has enjoyed in the day and to feel thankful for it. When it’s my turn to say what I’m thankful for, I try and show that there are a variety of things we can be grateful for like: being able to get all my work done, the sun shining, a clean house, a good day, etc.

I really want to start implementing simple but meaningful family traditions so I decided to start with a new one for Thanksgiving called the Thankful Tree.

I thought this year would be a great year to start for a number of reasons:

  1. We’re welcoming a new member to our family very soon
  2. Thanksgiving always gets drowned out between Halloween and Christmas
  3. There is always room to show more gratitude

For the most part, I tried to use things we have around in our home.

Here’s a list of what I gathered/purchased from the store:

  • Container for tree; we used a mason jar but you could also use a vase
  • Filler for container; I decided to get sparkly pine cones and red glitter balls to add a little pizzaz to the vase but you could also use rocks or pebbles you gather from the yard
  • Tree branches; we went outside in our backyard and gathered tree branches
  • Craft paper/cardstock; to write what we’re thankful for on
  • Circle paper punch, optional but makes things go much quicker. I got the 2 1/2 diameter one.
  • Push pin; to create the holes
  • Ornament hangers; to attach the cards to the Thankful Tree
  • Leaf stickers, optional but Andrew is more into stickers versus coloring so I thought this would be a fun way to decorate the cards before we hung them up on our “tree”

Our new family tradition: The Thankful Tree. Each night before we eat, we write what we're thankful for and hang it up on the tree to remind us of the beauty of life.

How to Make the Thankful Tree

After gathering all of our supplies (the photo above is Andrew helping me find tree branches for our Thankful Tree), I took the sparkly pine cones and glitter balls and arranged them in the jar along with the branches, using the jar fillers to secure the branches into place.

Using the circle paper punch, I then cut out 30 circles on white cardstock paper. You can also use colored construction paper or have your little one color the white cardstock with crayons. I could have cut them out with scissors but I didn’t have the time or patience to do that being 39 weeks pregnant. This mama wants convenience!

Next, I used a push pin to create a hole at the top of each circle; this will be where I put the ornament hangers through so I can attach them to the branches on the tree.

Keep the pre-cut circles, a pen, ornament hangers, and stickers (if you’re using them) in a ziplock bag near the tree on the table so you have everything together and it allows for easy access (and so you remember!).

Our new family tradition: The Thankful Tree. Each night before we eat, we write what we're thankful for and hang it up on the tree to remind us of the beauty of life.
How We’re Using the Thankful Tree

Ideally I planned to start the beginning of November but life got in the way (surprise surprise, next year I’ll be more prepared) so we started a few days into November. Each night we have dinner at the table (sometimes we don’t because of our schedules) we write what we’re thankful for on the paper and put it on the tree. Before I put it on the tree, Andrew enjoys picking out which leaf sticker will go on each card.

The tree will continue to “grow” with thankful cards as we get closer to Thanksgiving. It’ll be a good reminder for everyone in our family to stay grateful for what we have or what we have been experiencing. I’m also going to allow myself not to freak out if I miss a day or two or five because life happens and it what it is.

Although I’ve been on a journey to declutter, one thing I am going to create is a scrapbook to put all the thankful cards in. I think it’ll be a great way to document gratitude through the years and to see how it evolves as the kids get older. We actually have a scrapbook that we started using one year when we tried to keep a vase and fill it with small happy memories. We made it through one year successfully at that but then life got in the way and we forgot the next few years. I’ll just use that same scrapbook to document our Thankful Tree.

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