How to Teach Children the Meaning of Thanksgiving

Being the Thursday blogger for Ay Mama!, I am fortunate enough to get to write on Thanksgiving.  I have to say this is my favorite holiday because it’s all about getting together as a family and eating delicious FOOD! 

You would think that being a vegetarian would make this holiday a tough one for me, but it’s not. Thanksgiving is more than just a great turkey.

This year has been extra special for me because with Coop and Cole in school, I got to participate in fun Thanksgiving events like Indian Day and watching Coop’s Thanksgiving play. 

In the past, we have not really focused on the true meaning of Thanksgiving with the boys, but this year, I made an effort to really explain the holiday.

Here are some great tips I found on how to teach children the meaning of Thanksgiving.

  1. Explain the ancient origins of the harvest festival to your children.  In ancient times, people of many cultures (including the ancient Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Egyptians and Chinese) gave thanks to their god or gods for a successful harvest, and some of the traditions associated with modern Thanksgiving celebrations have their roots in these ancient festivals.
  2. Discuss the roots of the American Thanksgiving celebration.  Native Americans shared seeds and taught the pilgrims how to grow their crops.  In 1621, near the end of the Plymouth colony’s first year in America, the settlers gave thanks for a plentiful first harvest.  The pilgrims and the Native Americans celebrated together and everyone feasted on geese, ducks, deer, corn, oysters, fish and berries. 
  3. Explain when ‘ and why ‘ Thanksgiving became an official holiday. In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving should be a national observance. To some degree, this was a way to brighten the spirits of the American people, who were dealing with a great deal of difficulty and deprivation. 
  4. Explain that one aspect of Thanksgiving involves gratitude for having enough food to eat, and encourage your children to help you buy groceries for the food bank, or make a donation to a local soup kitchen. 
  5. Talk turkey. The wild turkey is native to the eastern states and northern Mexico, and while it probably wasn’t served at the first Thanksgiving feast, it has become a symbol of the holiday. 
  6. Offer your children some relevant books. Many books that discuss the Thanksgiving traditions from a variety of different perspectives are available for readers of all ages.
  7. Let your children help with preparations for your Thanksgiving meal, and encourage them to make appropriate decorations. This gives you an opportunity to discuss the symbolism of many objects associated with Thanksgiving, and to share family traditions with them as you prepare the feast together.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading Ay Mama!

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