Don’t you love Thanksgiving? Of course, the food is amazing, and I love the football. But it’s much more than that.
Thanksgiving is the one holiday that, for the most part, hasn’t been polluted by commercialism. You gather as a family and enjoy each other in a relaxed setting, without all the distractions of, “What gifts am I gonna get?” or, “Are you gonna like what I bought you?”
At the Casey home on Thanksgiving, we even dress a certain way—not formal, but very respectful. It’s a day to remember our many blessings and humbly show our gratitude.
Some of the most humorous times for our family are around the dinner table, because that’s everyone’s turn to gang up on Dad. They all chime in, saying, “All right, Dad’s gonna ask us, ‘What are you thankful for?'” Or, “What’s your most embarrassing moment?” But it’s all good, because I’ve learned how to take their jokes—and give a few back here and there.
Once we get past that, everyone gets a chance to recall the blessings from the past year.
Later, we’ll go out and look for the most colorful leaves, or rake the leaves into a big pile and let the grandkids go crazy.
Eventually, we’ll gather for a family photo. Over the years, those photos become a treasured visual record of our family, and some years they even become our Christmas card. (More on that in the coming weeks.)
These rituals are more than just a mindless routine we go through every November. Traditions instill meaning and build unity for our families.
I hope you’ll put a little extra thought into the matter of family traditions this year. Keep the old ones going, and maybe add some new ones. It might be raking leaves, a family photo, a touch football game, some prepared questions or a family history lesson. Make sure to involve everyone, from the youngest to the oldest.
And if you’re going through a difficult time or you can’t be with your children, make the most of whatever opportunities you do have, and remember to count your blessings. Even in tough situations, if we stop and think a minute, we still have a lot to be thankful for.
What unusual or special Thanksgiving traditions do you celebrate with your family? Are you adding or changing any this year? Join other dads in the discussion either below or on our Facebook page.
Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey
- Brainstorm with your family about a new Thanksgiving tradition you could begin. For example, before or after dinner, the whole family walks to the park together. (Make sure it’s something the kids will enjoy.)
- At the dinner table or at some other time this weekend, “interview” your child and other family members with interesting questions to spur discussion—like these from RJ Jaramillo at singledad.com.
- Have each family member recall his/her earliest Thanksgiving memory—starting with the oldest person and moving to the youngest.
- Enjoy an outdoor activity with your children, no matter what the weather is like.
- Start making plans for the days after Thanksgiving—how you’ll make this holiday season as meaningful as it can be for your family.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.