It started out as a simple tradition years ago. . . a deep hope inside of us that the grace and peace of the holiday season would be more than just a commercialized routine for our children.
I don't think when I was a child that I ever understood the meaning of Thanksgiving. Like really understood it. Sure, I read stories about the Pilgrims and the Indians, but it wasn't until I was well into my adulthood that this became a holiday that mattered to me for the right reasons.
But now it's one of my favorites!
It's a time of year that gives us permission to slow down and notice the little things in life. It arouses us to stop taking for granted the gifts that are right in front of us. And most importantly, it inspires us to see the abundance in everything we have. . . just waking alive up this morning is a gift that 100,000+ people did not have in the world today.
So, in wanting to make sure that my own children really understood the significance of this holiday, we decided to start a new family tradition years ago . . . A Tree of Gratitude or "A Thankful Tree."
Every year our tree has looked so different, but that's been half the fun of it!
One year, we collected branches from outside and arranged them in a large pot by our front door. Another year, we made tree branches from brown paper bags and placed them in random vases around the house.
This is what our tree looks like this year:
It's kind of hard to see the entire tree, because it's in our hallway and that makes photographing it a challenge, but I hope you get the idea :)
To make it, just tape random pieces of scrapbook paper together, and cut out the shape of a tree. It can be big or little― it doesn't matter! And once it's finished, tape to the wall and enjoy.
Your leaves can be made out of anything: colored construction paper, paper bags, or old scraps. You can cut them out free-hand or use a template like this one. Sometimes, I will even buy packs of pre-cut leaves off of ETSY, but usually the kids and I just cut circles from scraps of left-over paper in the bin.
Our family has come to love this tradition so much― that now our tree stays up year round, and we add leaves to it every week throughout the year.
Because our tree stays up year round, we would never have enough wall space for all the leaves year after year, so at the beginning of each school year― we strip the tree bare and start over.
We take all the leaves off the wall, and place them in a scrap book, and this is my favorite part, because it serves as a tiny snapshot into our lives that year.
Whenever the kids look back through the book, it's always funny to hear them laughing about the things they wrote...like, "Today I'm grateful for my thumbs" or "the way funny houses with blue roofs make me giggle."
Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving tradition for your family? If so, we're always on the hunt for new ideas, so we'd love to hear about it :)