Thanksgiving 1993, my husband and I started a new family tradition. Far from family, watching our budget, we decided to spend Thanksgiving quietly at home, just the two of us. Since cooking a turkey with all the trimmings seemed excessive, I asked Eric what he might like to eat. His choice: lasagna. For about ten years after that, without fail, we chose to celebrate Thanksgiving in our own non-traditional way, with a favorite Italian meal — pizza, pasta, whatever sounded good to us.

Around the time my oldest daughter started to talk, we made the shift back to a traditional Thanksgiving menu, mostly because many Thanksgiving related books, crafts, and songs talk about food. Often chanted in our house at this time of year, “Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving, turkey and stuffing, turkey and stuffing, cranberry, sweet potato, cranberry, sweet potato, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie.” Pizza and lasagna just didn’t fit the rhyme, and besides —  I like turkey.

Traditions can be powerful and meaningful in our lives. Or they can be something we follow without thinking. In the case of Thanksgiving, my husband and I decided that what we ate didn’t really matter; instead, we shifted the focus to intentionally spending time together and taking time to express thankfulness and gratitude for the year’s blessings. We do that every year, even as our menu changes.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take time to consider your traditions. Is the way you choose to celebrate meaningful for you? If not, what can you do to make your day more purposeful and enjoyable?

Wally Bock told me about a tradition he learned from his mother: writing three thank you notes each day. His mother set an amazing example of showing gratitude to others. I am going to use this Thanksgiving as a starting point to increase my expression of gratitude to others. My intention is to set aside time once each week to write and mail at least one thank you note with my daughters.

If you have any interesting Thanksgiving traditions, culinary or otherwise, please share them here. I would also love to hear ideas of extending expressions of gratitude of past Thanksgiving.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.