NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Thanksgiving takes on a new meaning when the whole family prepares for the celebration. When Thanksgiving rolls around, most families enjoy spending time with loved ones. For Christian households, this holiday takes on a spiritual emphasis and includes recognition of the source of the blessings they enjoy year-round — a loving God.
This year, throw out the idea that the Thanksgiving kitchen belongs only to Mom and Grandma. Every member of the family, both young and old, can pitch in to prepare the food and create an atmosphere that will make your celebration memorable.
CALLING ALL COOKS
When you think about Thanksgiving, it is the food on the table that comes to mind first. The first rule for a successful family feast is to relax! Involving children in food preparation takes longer and generates more of a mess, but it is the best way to spend the whole day together. Try these ideas for getting the family off the couch and into the kitchen:
— Make a snack first. Cooking (and waiting to eat) makes everybody hungry, so make a batch of munchies that will not ruin everyone’s appetite. Children can toss these ingredients into a big bowl: Bugles corn snacks (miniature cornucopias), candy corn, sunflower seeds or peanuts, pretzels, and a box of Chex or Crispix cereal. Offer this mix along with a bowl of fruit as the premeal snack options for the day.
— Let everybody help prepare at least one menu item. Preschoolers need tasks that keep them far away from hot stoves, such as crumbling bread for stuffing or bread pudding, peeling bananas for fruit salad, or dumping adult-opened cans (without the lids) into mixing bowls.
Young school-age children can measure ingredients, hand-mash potatoes, wash produce, shuck corn, snap green beans or read recipes aloud to you. With close supervision, these children can use a hand mixer or slice soft fruit with a table knife.
Older children can knead and roll out dough, gather and measure all the ingredients for a simple recipe or peel potatoes. At the start of the day, print the menu on a chalkboard or post it on the refrigerator. Next, ask your older child to help you plan the cooking schedule you will need to follow in order to make everything hot and ready to eat at dinnertime. Let her monitor the kitchen timer and keep mixing bowls and measuring spoons washed for each new stage of baking.
Preparing the meal includes periods of downtime while food is in the oven. Use this time to decorate the dining area together:
— Make place mats from large sheets of construction paper. Young children can draw turkeys, pilgrims, fruits and vegetables, or anything else that represents Thanksgiving. Older children carefully can print names of family members and guests on place cards.
— Fill a cornucopia with small gourds, garden vegetables and nuts. Use it for your table’s centerpiece.
— Set the table. There are plenty of jobs to go around, including laying the tablecloth, placing plates and silverware, folding napkins and setting out trivets and serving spoons.
— Dress the part. If children have made pilgrim hats or Native American headdresses at school, invite them to wear their costumes during the meal. As you work, talk about the historical aspects of Thanksgiving your children have learned this year.
Your day will be busy, but do not forget to cultivate gratitude in the following ways:
— Place a Bible on the dinner table. Use colored strips of paper to mark 1 Chronicles 16:8, Psalm 95:2, Psalm 100, 2 Corinthians 9:15 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Throughout the day, ask a child to choose a verse and read it aloud.
— Place photographs of loved ones inside the cornucopia. Invite your children to choose a picture and say one thing they love and are grateful for about that person.
— Make conversation as you work in the kitchen with these “foods for thought”: How does God care for our family? What is your favorite way to say thanks to God?
WIDEN YOUR CIRCLE
Extend your celebration beyond your immediate family:
— Invite an international student for the meal. In advance, ask her to give you the recipe for a dish that represents her culture.
— Study how Thanksgiving is celebrated in other countries around the world. How can you incorporate some of their traditions into your family’s celebration?
— Make a dish you remember from your childhood. Ask your mother or grandmother to write the recipe in her own handwriting.
Joy Fisher wrote this story for ParentLife magazine, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. When she was growing up, Thanksgiving was celebrated with extended family at her grandparents’ house. Each year, the cousin closest to driving age had to wash all the dishes before getting his or her first driving lesson (with the whole family watching from the front yard).