How to Turn “Turkey Day” Back Into “Thanksgiving”


As a holiday, Thanksgiving seems to become less and less visible each year. Between the marketing that focuses completely on The Food, and getting smashed in the middle of Christmas and what-has-now-become-the-Halloween-season, Thanksgiving has, by default, really just become the front runner for Black Friday.

We could argue about who is to blame for this, but rather than waste our time wading into that negativity, we can instead just choose to be more intentional about how and why we celebrate on that day.

On that note, I have something special to share with you today, that is dear to my heart. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition my family started, several years back, and which my husband and I will be continuing in our own household. This year, we’re getting to enjoy sharing it with both sides of our family…and with you, if you so choose!

We call it The 12 Days of Thanksgiving. Beginning 12 days prior to the holiday (or 13, if you like a buffer day, like me), we begin a list of things for which we are grateful.

On Day 1, we list 1 item.

On Day 2, we write down 2.

Day 3, 3 things.

Etc.The 12 Days of Thanksgiving + printable

By the time we hit Day 12, and have written down 12 things, we each have a whopping 78 items for which we are thankful! There are big things, little things, sweet-memories-kinds-of-things. Then, the really fun part – reading them out loud together as a family. We generally share our lists after Thanksgiving Dinner, and let me tell you, this has become the highlight of our Thanksgiving Day.

I LOVE this tradition, for several reasons. It brings a spirit of thankfulness to the forefront of our celebration, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but for nearly two weeks prior to the actual holiday itself. In order to amass a list  of 78 distinct items that conjure up gratitude in your heart, you have to go beyond the typical family, friends, and food list. You have to truly spend some time thinking about all the abundance in your life. And, that will humble you, as well as multiply the gratitude. It turns Thanksgiving into more than a day – it becomes a season, and one which, hopefully, becomes a habit.

Making these lists adds a real depth and richness to our holiday – instead of just feasting and then falling into the Black Friday ads, we get to truly take some time to pause, and be intentionally grateful. As we read our lists out loud to each other, it brings to mind dozens of events, people, and blessings that we have known, and reveals to us just how much we really have. It’s a literal recap of God’s goodness throughout the year.


Now maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “You know, it sounds like a good idea, but it’s just not for us. We’ll all be at Aunt Stacie’s, all day on Thanksgiving, and there will be 25 people there…it’s crazy, and it’s just not going to work.” This tradition is flexible! For instance, if you have a very large group and don’t exactly have a full six hours to spend reading lists together, then you can simplify – each person can choose just 12 things to read aloud. Or ten, or twenty. Whatever! Make it your own, and make it work for your situation.

And, even if you don’t feel that sharing your list with others is a possibility, I absolutely encourage you to do it on your own, just for you. Just because you’re not going to read your thankfulness list aloud with a group does not mean you can’t keep one! In fact, that’s how this tradition was spawned in the first place…by keeping a personal gratitude journal. One of the beautiful aspects of a project like this is that you will have a physical, written record…something you can go back to, throughout the coming year, and read through. It will probably be impossible to NOT be encouraged.

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable


I usually use one of many notebooks around my home to record my list. BUT, if you prefer dedicated space, I have created a FREE printable for you to use! It has each a space for each day, plus the right number of lines for that day’s gratitude list. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy! Now you won’t get lost wondering how many you’ve already written, and how many you’re supposed to do today…and, oh yeah, what day AM I on? {Happens often in a traditional notebook…ask me how I know….} Aaaaand, it’s undated. Meaning, you can use it Every. Single. Year. No adjustments needed. Enter your info below to grab it!

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable




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