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Over this past week, I have received several calls inquiring about recipes and food safety as it relates to traditional Thanksgiving meal offerings. I was able to share some creative and healthier options for side dishes, as well as proper cooking temperatures for turkey, and ended those conversations with, “I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

The word itself brings to mind thoughts of food, family and more often than not, overindulgence. But it got me thinking about the word Thanksgiving and how much thanks I have been giving. Eating aside, this holiday is rooted in gratitude and I for one want to be intentional about being grateful this year.

Thankful activities for the whole familySaying grace with thanks. If your family always says grace before beginning the meal, you can easily create a thankful tradition by asking each person around the dinner table, in turn, to express their thanks for something that has occurred over the past year.

Pass the gratitude basket. Give everyone a sheet of paper and a pencil. Then ask each person to write down one thing that makes them feel grateful and put it into a basket. Pass the basket around the table and have everyone read another person’s paper, followed by the group guessing who wrote it.

Thanksgiving show-and-tell. Ask everyone to bring along something that reflects what they are thankful for that year. Then each person, in turn, can share it with the group and tell their story. It might be an item, a photo, a song or any other item that illustrates their point.

Thanks all around. Assuming your Thanksgiving table is filled with close friends and family, and not guests who are meeting one another for the first time, go around the table and invite each person to say why they’re thankful for the person sitting next to them. It can be the person on their right, left or even both sides.

Make a Thanksgiving scrapbook. Create a holiday scrapbook that will be more cherished as the years pass. Take a blank scrapbook and each year put in photos of the family and friends gathered that year; photos of all of the food served; add notes about special things that happened that day; recipes for the dishes and notes about who created each dish. Ask each person to write in the book what they are thankful for that year.

Thanks for the memories. Take out the Thanksgiving scrapbook and leave it within easy reach for everyone to enjoy reading and discussing favorite memories from past years.

Create a thankful mural. Cover a wall with a large piece of paper. Give everyone crayons and ask them to draw pictures and words for those things for which they are grateful.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about ways to express how much we have to be thankful for. In my job with Cooperative Extension, I am asked very often what it is that I do. In a nutshell, my goal is to enhance and possibly change perspectives in relation to food, family and overall wellness. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I hope you will shift your focus to viewing gratitude like a food group — essential for life. And in doing so, allow thanks-giving to become a verb and a way of life, not just a yearly holiday.

Andrea Sherrill is an extension agent in family and consumer science with the N.C. Cooperative Extension service in Iredell County. Questions about food safety or nutrition can be sent to Sherrill at andrea_sherrill@ncsu.edu or to news@statesville.com.

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