Sharing Our Favorite Thanksgiving Family Traditions

Nov 19, 2019Relationships + Faith

There are so many things to reflect on this year, and Thanksgiving is much more than just eating really good food and having a food coma afterwards. There are traditions that comes with Thanksgiving that we all have grown up with.

Even if the times have changed or traditions aren’t kept up with due to circumstances, it is amazing to carry on those same traditions you grew up with into your new family.

Lianna’s Thanksgiving Family Traditions

I honestly love Thanksgiving and Christmas, just the holidays in general after Halloween. Not because of what I can get but how I can give and reflect on the goodness that God has brought me. 

It is so crazy how nowadays people just want more and more when they have everything they need. I’ve always thought it was so ironic that Black Friday happens the day after Thanksgiving. We give thanks and gratitude on Thanksgiving then go out and buy the hottest deals at the stores. 

This subject of Black Friday is not something that I am mad or upset about. I actually think it is quite funny and useful because most people are off on that Friday after Thanksgiving and need to get some Christmas shopping done.

People have traditions of camping out early at the stores after having Thanksgiving meals, so they can get the best sales. However, I do think it is important to make sure that people in the family, especially young children, understand the meaning of Black Friday.

Black Friday are meant for getting the best deals for meaningful presents, but not to just to get everything that you want that you may already have. Just so you can get more and more and never have enough. 

But, my parents did not (and still do not) like shopping on Black Friday. I think mostly because they did not want to lose us in the big crowds and I can understand that because my sister and I were so young. But, nowadays, I do not think I would like to shop on Black Friday just because I get very overwhelmed with a large amount of people around me and feel like I cannot breathe.



My Thanksgiving traditions includes two Thanksgiving: a Thanksgiving lunch with my grandma and grandpa on my mom’s side and a Thanksgiving dinner/snacking at the Peña’s on my dad’s side. 


Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house

The Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house was much more simple but still so much fun. My grandma would have us over at her house early at 10:30 or 11 to help her finish up for lunch. My aunt and uncle were there along with my family (my mom, dad, my sister Amarissa, and me) and my grandparents. 

We would sit around and wait impatiently for the food to be done. While the ladies would finish up in the kitchen, my grandpa, my dad, and my uncle would sit and watch the football games or the Thanksgiving parade. Of course, my sister and I would just play with each other, with toys or with imagination. 

When the food was done, my grandma would walk out and ask for everyone to hold hands in the living room and to pray a Thanksgiving prayer, mostly consisting of thanking God for the past year. Then, we would say Amen and rush to the kitchen and serve ourselves for lunch.

While we are eating, we would go around the table and each say one thing we were thankful for this year. Then, enjoy each other’s company and being with family. So simple but one of my favorite memories.

Thanksgiving is so special to me because my grandfather was able to spend one last Thanksgiving with us before he passed away on December 9, 2017 due to cancer. He shared with all of us that he was ready to go home to the Lord and he was thankful for the time he got to spend with us.

It was the most emotional Thanksgiving I have ever had because this was true thankfulness that we all had with my grandpa because we knew he was about to pass away very soon.


Thanksgiving with the Peña’s

As for the Peña’s on my dad’s side (in case you did not know, my maiden name was Peña), it is a little more crazy and fun. In the past, we would go to Alice, Texas which is a little town outside of Corpus Christi, maybe about a 25-30 minutes drive from our house.

We would go to Alice to visit my dad’s extended side of the family and there are more cousins than I can count. We would still be full from lunch, so most of the time, I wouldn’t eat anything than a snack.

All the cousins would play outside for a long time because the weather is still great even in South Texas. The adults would be inside or outside the little blue house, talking and catching up. 

But, nowadays, since we are all so busy trying to get the entire extended family together at one time, we all get together at one aunt’s house, either my Aunt Blanca or my Aunt Margie (my dad’s sisters) to celebrate just the Peña’s clan.

This includes my 4 uncles, 4 aunts, my parents, my grandpa Peña, and 10 cousins total, including my sister and I. And this still doesn’t include our cousins’ boyfriends/girlfriends as we got older at the time. 

So, that is a lot of people in one house. We would have to have multiple tables set up, of course, we would sit at the cousins’ tables and the adults sat at the adults’ table.

Then, us cousins would go and play outside (or inside, depending on the weather) and play the game we made up called “Family”. It is so funny now writing this, but we would all play a role of a family, like mom, dad, sisters, and brothers and act out everyday family life.

Here is the family tradition that I love for Thanksgiving. But first, let me brag on my aunt Margie for a second. She is such an intentional person that loves her whole family and purposefully creates space for meaningful moments that turn into beautiful memories. This is why I say this.

A few years ago, while we were eating, she announced to the tables and had us pick up a few popcorn kernels and say what we are thankful from this past year and put it in a jar. She stated it is so they can see the “thankful kernels” fill up the jar after many years. I definitely want to do something like that in my family one day… 


David’s Thanksgiving Family Traditions

My favorite Thanksgiving traditions are very unique and special even if they have changed over the many years. Ever since my parents divorced, we had to adjust to having multiple thanksgivings celebrations during the week.

Even while my parents were still together we would still have multiple thanksgivings meals but it was very different. We would have thanksgiving celebrations on my mom’s side of the family first then we would have thanksgiving celebrations with my dad’s side later on that week. Every year for Thanksgiving we would try to have the same traditions that remained consistent over the years even if the family circumstances changed. 


Thanksgiving With My Mom’s Parents

On my mom’s side of the family there were 13 cousins, 11 of them were boys and then there was my 2 sisters to offset the balance as best as they could. However, we all got along very well and had lots of fun during the holidays. All 21 of us; siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would meet at a family members house (usually the largest home out of everybody) that hosted the celebrations. 

Each family member would be responsible for bringing a portion of the meal so that we could all eat and be merry. Every year my grandparents would bring the turkey, dressing and party platter of Chick-Fil-A nuggets their grand-kids. Yep, you read that right!

Once we all arrived all the cousins would go out in the backyard to play while the adults would prepare the meal. We would play football, baseball, basketball or just throw the ball and run around like crazy people until we were covered in sweat and dirt from head to toe. 

Before we sat down to eat the meal, we could gather around the table and my grandpa (GrandBarry Landrum) would lead us in Cotton Mather’s prayer,

“Thank you Lord for happy hearts in rain and sunny weather, thank you for the food we eat and that we are together.”

We would also recite Psalm 103 and we would all recite after him. He would then close it with a prayer of his own, asking God to bless the food and the family.

I absolutely loved seeing the whole family around the table, holding hands and praying in unison as one big family. After the prayers, we would line up and devour the nuggets and delicious Thanksgiving food. 

After we ate the delicious meal, my aunt would call us in the living room and share the family games that he came up with and all of us would play together.

One of my favorite games that we play was the turkey gobble game. My aunt would split the family in half. One half would stay in the living room and the other half would go into another room. The family members in the other room would line up and do their best impersonation of a turkey gobble without showing their face. 

The family members in the living room would try to guess the names in order that they heard them. The person with the correct order would usually get first dibs for desert. It was the most fun game that really stands out for me and really brought everyone out of their shell and it filled the home with lots of laughter. After a few more games, we would all sit around and watch football and talk for hours. 


Thanksgiving With My Dad’s Parents

The next day or two after my mom’s side of celebrations, my family would travel to my grandparents home on my dad’s side to begin the celebrations there.

My aunt and uncle would travel to my grandparents home with their family as well. We would all meet and greet each other and the cousins would have fun talking and watching movies while the adults made dinner. My dad’s side of the family is about half the size of my mom’s side so there was usually more room to wiggle around the house. 

Before the meal, my grandpa would round the cousins up with his loud boisterous voice. We would all gather around the dinner table and say a prayer to bless the food and the family.

After the prayer we would all line up and fill our plates up with the delights of thanksgiving. Every year, all the cousins would sit at one end of the table and on the other end of the table, the elders sat. 

There would be so much discussion going on at one time. The cousins would have their own conversations and the adults would have theirs. My grandpa loved to talk and get the whole tables attention and tell his stories about politics, the market, and weather. We all would catch up for a few hours at the dinner table and have fun enjoying the presence of family. 

When the meal had concluded, my grandma would make her way to the grand piano that sat in the room close by the dinner table. She would play from the baptist hymnal and other songs that was on her mind and we would all sing songs together while my grandma led us.

We all sounded pretty good I think for not practicing much but once a year. Both sides of the family had unique and fun traditions that carry on even to this day. 

Keep Your Favorite Traditions Alive

Traditions are very important during the holidays because they are an experience from the past being passed down to the next generation. Our family strives to keep alive our traditions so that we have something to look forward too and are able to pass them down to our kids and generations to come. 


Share with us your favorite family traditions in the comments below!

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Thank you for reading,


David & Lianna Bond

Co-founders of The Simple Mission

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