I freaking love Thanksgiving. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been my favorite holiday. There’s the food (get in my belly, starchy sides!), no gifts involved (except for the cute hostess gifts people bring to my house), and, as a person with no religious affiliation, I appreciate that Thanksgiving doesn’t have one either; it means anyone who wants to celebrate can do so without any side eye or self-consciousness. I have to admit, too, that another reason I’ve always liked Thanksgiving is that it feels like such a mature, adult occasion, what with all the red wine and brown and gold decor.
Curiously, once I became a mom, my affection for Thanksgiving only intensified. You’d think that once you have kids, the MOST FUN HOLIDAYS ON EARTH 🎉like Christmas, Hanukkah, or Halloween would take center stage. Even Easter and Valentine’s Day are bigger deals for most families with kids thanks to candy, costumes, candy, handmade cards, candy, the Easter Bunny, candy, and more candy. For me, though, Thanksgiving will always be my #1 boo — especially now that I’m a mom. Here’s why.
Kids don’t expect gifts!
Are your kids spoiled? Because my kid is totally spoiled. I mean, he’s not spoiled rotten, but it’s safe to say he has entirely too many toys. And whenever he sees anyone with a gift-wrapped package, he automatically assumes it’s for him (unfortunately, he’s usually right). I get it, people like to buy gifts for kids, and gifts bring joy yadda yadda yadda. But it’s also really refreshing for kids to make much ado about a holiday — and connect with friends and extended family — with no anticipation of gifts whatsoever.
It’s a great opportunity to teach (and practice) gratitude.
Speaking of spoiled kids — wait, I’m kidding. Sort of. To be completely honest, I’m not great at practicing gratitude. I’m a working mom (with ADHD, to boot) and it’s easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day minutiae. Less easy is remembering to just slow down, take a deep breath, and appreciate everything I have to be thankful for. Enter Thanksgiving. Whether you spend a week writing down everything that makes you #BLESSED or just have a discussion over dinner, Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for you and your kids to reflect on all you have — and this can be an especially important conversation to spark before the gift-centric winter holidays.
It’s also a great time to start a hard conversation.
When I was a kid, my only Thanksgiving-related concerns were calculating how many paper turkeys to make and my never-ending struggle to correctly spell “cornucopia.” And while I’m still super into TG crafts (seriously, hand turkeys never get old), our generation of parents is much more cognizant of the not-so-nice origins of the holiday. Okay, sure, some pilgrims and Native Americans broke bread — and wild game and root veggies — at a feel-good dinner party, but over yonder there was definitely some genocide going down. Obviously, you don’t need to get into any gory, age-inappropriate details, but if you think your kids are ready, Thanksgiving is a chance to explore together topics like racism and inequality.
You can make it your own.
I guess this is the case with all holidays, but TG traditions really run the gamut. A homemade turkey dinner may be the most popular Thanksgiving tradition, but nobody says it has to be your tradition. Some families center their day around meal prep, others go out to eat. You can build your day around a turkey trot, a double-feature at the movies, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in your PJs, or working at a soup kitchen. Some families devote the day to a family art project or decorating for Christmas. You do you.
That reliable three-day weekend.
Most holidays fall on a specific date and therefore a different day each year, but I like that you can always count on Thanksgiving to happen the fourth Thursday of November, which means you always get a three-day weekend after. And unlike winter or summer breaks, which seem to drag on forever, a holiday plus three extra days is the perfect amount of time to be stuck at home with your little turkeys. Bonus: if you host and prepare a big spread, you’ll likely have enough leftovers to last all three days. Sandwich city, babies.
Can you name a holiday that doesn’t result in your kids making it rain with candy? I can, it’s Thanksgiving! Yes, yes — candy is fun. But you know what’s not fun? Dealing with an overtired toddler who’s just had a sugar crash – and finding chocolate smashed into the couch cushions. Also not fun: Trying to ration the amount of candy your kids get in the days, or even weeks, after Halloween, Easter, or Valentines Day. (And I see you, Christmas stocking full of Snickers from Grandpa!) Sure, there may be a single sugar crash after that helping of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, but I’ll take one plate of sweetened squash over days upon days of M&Ms crashes THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Paper turkey crafts.
Did I mention how much I love these things?