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My fingers are crossed that you are able to gather with your loved ones this year in person to celebrate Thanksgiving—to honor your family traditions and find fellowship around the table. If you would like to use the opportunity to share stories and begin preserving some of your delicious family history, here are three simple Thanksgiving memory-keeping ideas, complete with ways to make them manageable and fun.

Thanksgiving activities that help you preserve bits of your family history


Notice I said “start.” Too often we let things we really want to do fall by the wayside because they seem overwhelming. Don’t think about creating a heritage cookbook or worry about getting every single recipe your family has ever cooked! Instead, try one of these approaches to put your family on the path to preserving your best recipes:

Why not write down recipes for every dish at this year’s Thanksgiving meal? Take a few pictures of prepping the dishes, what they look like when they are finished, and a few of the family around the table enjoying them? When the time eventually comes for you to make a recipe book, you’ll have wonderful photos at the ready. And because you are beginning with a finite number of recipes—those for this year’s menu only—your task is manageable enough to take on without worry

Make your recipe gathering a group endeavor. Send a blank recipe card (or a digital template for them to print) to every member of your family and ask them to record the recipe for their favorite Thanksgiving dish or meal. Important: Tell them where to return it, and provide a deadline (trust me, you’ll never get them back otherwise).

Consider upping the ante and asking not just for a recipe, but for your loved ones to also write up a favorite story associated with that food. It’s not just the provenance (that this was Aunt Betty’s stuffing, for example) that make a passed-down recipe special, after all—it’s the memories and traditions associated with it.


This one is so easy and it’s sure to become your newest Thanksgiving tradition. It can be as basic as handing out pens and small pieces of paper to your guests, asking them to write one specific thing they are grateful for (as well as their name and the date), then storing them all in a mason jar until next year. There are so many ways to soup this one up.

Consider having each participant read theirs aloud, sharing a bit of a story with all those gathered before dropping their paper into the jar.

If your family does this annually, pull out random slips from previous years and share what was recorded—while this is sure to be touching, hopefully it will also prompt even more story sharing and reminiscing together as a family. Consider preserving everyone’s notes of gratitude as a section in your annual family photo book.


Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to interview your mom, dad, or another family elder about their holiday memories, as it’s usually a time when generations gather together in one place—and nothing sparks visceral recollections like the smells and flavors of childhood foods!

Like with the recipe preservation project above, it’s super-important that you don’t get caught up in the idea that this is too big a task to take on. I promise this is something you can do even if your shopping list is long and you plan on getting up at the crack of dawn to get that 15-pound turkey in the oven! A few ways to make a family history project like this practical:

Is there a younger family member or non-chef in the family who might want to take the reins? Ask them to be the ringleader, bringing a list of interview questions designed to elicit Thanksgiving memories; setting up the voice recorder on their phone; and generally ensuring that everyone gets to participate.

If you’ve got a large clan and the football game’s on, too, consider setting up a quiet area especially for brief interviews to happen and be recorded without interruption.

A fun—and efficient!—idea: Designate pairs of people who can interview one another, so you are not burdening one person to handle all the logistics. Two siblings, for instance, may be able to jog one another’s memories of shared experiences; and a grandmother might have fun sitting with a grandchild to talk about how times were different “back then.”

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