My Favorite Family Thanksgiving Tradition

My Favorite Family Thanksgiving Tradition


We are big on tradition in our family.

As in, watch what you do one year…

…because you may be doing it years and years hence.

Like the annual family football game.

And the perfect slice of cranberry bread.

And highs and lows of the year on Thanksgiving.

And a Thanksgiving dinner table full of everything from turkey to mashed potatoes to ham to freshly baked rolls.

But my favorite family Thanksgiving tradition?

Our thankful tree.


One of my favorite books is The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein.

If you’ve read it, you are nodding in understanding.

If you haven’t, I’ll totally Reader’s Digest is for you.

It’s about a tree who loves a little boy with all her heart.  When he is young, he plays under the tree and swings from the branches and eats buckets of apples.  As he grows older, he sells teh apples from the tree and uses her branches to make a house and her trunk to make a boat to sail away and explore the world.  Then finally, when he is older and his travels are done, he sits on the stump and rests…

….and returns to the tree that he loves.

“And the tree was happy.”


I’ve read the story over and over and over again and I’m always amazed at the capacity of the tree to love.  She gives so much and asks for nothing in return and simply finds contentment and thankfulness in the joy of giving.

I know it’s just a story and trees may or may not be aware of who they give their apples to and generally don’t volunteer their trunks for boats….

…but the lesson of the giving tree is one we can all take to heart.

To be thankful.

Thankful for baseball and basketball games and laughter and scrabble and popcorn and a fresh set of new art pencils.

Thankful for family.

Thankful for friends.

Thankful for every day the sun shines….

…and for every day it rains.


Every year we make one of these.

We gather leaves from the yard and tuck them into a vase on the table fluff them with a few twigs from the yard.

Easy and simple.

Nothing fancy.


Then, I ask everyone what they are thankful for and then type all our thankfuls on small pieces of paper and clip them to the leaves.

Such a simple thing.  So easy and yet sometimes so overlooked.  It’s the little things that make the living all the greater.

The small.

The everyday.

The simple joys of life.

Leaves and leaves and leaves full of things to be thankful for.

And the tree and I were happy.  🙂

vow renewal 6

PS  These munchies right here.

This is who I’m so thankful for.

Each. And. Every. One.

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  1. Oh my! I am so thankful. We survived Hurricane Matthew without any kind of damage to the house we rent. Truly amazing when I see some of the devastation. Absolutely for family!! And you, my friend, I am glad I have you to give me smiles and tears and I always read every word. I’m sending you a private message. Hugs!

  2. There really is so much to be thankful for all around us.

    Have a beautiful weekend.


  3. Such a wonderful idea. We may just have a new tradition! Thank you for sharing this.

  4. I’m thankful I found your blog. You ALWAYS make me smile. And, your kids are beautiful!

  5. Your munchies are adorable-even the cat! I am thankful for SO much!!

  6. Love this idea! And, yes I’m thankful for my munchkins too…actually, they technically are Munchmen! 😉

  7. Linda Andersen :

    I am grateful to be blessed. For many years, my husband and I took care of my elderly mother. well she passed away last year at the age of 103. She lived a long life and was able to remain in her home till the very end. I would be lying if I said it was all gumdrops and lollipops. It wasn’t. But, now my hubs and I are able to buy our own home. When we married, he moved in here with my Mom and I. Good guy. A keeper. Well, we have finally found our dream home and closed on it two days ago. Seriously, it is perfect only 6 years old and built with an eye toward getting older, all the bells and whistles. The kicker? A pontoon boat goes along with it. Yuh. It is on a small inland lake. Drop the mic. Now I get to pick paint colors finally and make it a mini thistlewood..I am also grateful to pretend karianne is my friend and takes a personal interest in everyones lives. Grateful. Blessed.

  8. Such a wonderful family. You should be proud of them and the job you and your husband have done. I envy those times you have with family. You make memories!

  9. This is such a lovely tradition, KariAnne…one I think I need to start this year. Family is EVERYTHING.

  10. Your munchies are too cute! Love this tradition. Love Thanksgiving. Hoping we can all gather at the farm and break in the new kitchen! We should have Fall foliage by then too. We can add being thankful for our new “munchie”, our soon to be son-in-law. He’s a delight.
    Enjoyed your beautiful photos as always!

  11. Scatter Joy and be Thankful for the smiles you receive in return. Even those you may not witness. 🙂

  12. Have you ever heard of the Gift Box Exercise? Essentially everyone writes down the quality or attribute they like most about each other on little slips of paper and then exchange the slips until each person has a little pile of papers with their gifts listed in front of them. It’s a big self-esteem builder, very touching. You might try that this year?!

  13. Such a lovely idea! Beautiful family also ♥

  14. We, indeed have so much to be grateful for. Thanks so much for sharing your family, your life, your inspiration and all your wonderful ideas with me. You are truly a treasure, dear friend. Love the Giving Tree and the idea of a tree of thanks.

  15. Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. My favorite holiday period. Not just because of stuffing and pumpkin pie, but because it’s about gratitude. You have a lovely tradition.

  16. What beautiful children, Karianne! You indeed have much to be thankful for!

    And I am passionate about traditions! They have meant so much to my family over the years. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and inspiring one that I will incorporate into our own family.

  17. A Thankful Tree- what a wonderful tradition! Traditions are everything in my family- loved, remembered and repeated now in the next generation. Benjamin and “Gem” are sharing Thistlewood before nap time today. I have read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to him, as to his Mother when she was just a little girl. Our copy is worn and loved from years of use. The photo of your children is so very beautiful, Benjamin loves the “kitty”! Thank-you for another lovely post, always enjoyed!

  18. I’m nursing a migraine this morning. The drapes are all drawn and I’ve taken my migraine medicine, but I’ve put down my ice pack long enough to read your post about gratitude and traditions. My grandmother never went to sleep at night without thinking about what she did wrong that day, what she could have done better and, most importantly, what she was grateful for. A good personal habit, I think. I’ve got so much to be grateful for. Truly. It doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves, and that thankful tree tradition you and your sweet family created is such a good way to do just that. At this moment, I am so grateful that you share these simple little things with us that can truly change our lives and make us better for it. Thank you, Karianne.

  19. One of my favorite books as well. I have been known to read it in the middle of the aisle at Walmart with tears falling down my face. Beautiful tradition and a beautiful family.

  20. A great tradition! I’d be thankful those lovely branches are in the yard all with the perfect amount of “fallness”. I once saw Jon Gordon speak (I adore his books) and he said something I have always remembered…it’s a profound moment. He said, instead of going through your day saying “I have to go to the grocery store; I have to go to my son’s band competition etc… we should say, “I get to go to the grocery store; I get to go to my son’s band competition” and remember those who are no longer among us that would love to “have to”.

    Enjoy the weekend karianne!

  21. Okay… I seriously could just cry tears of happiness and joy….. so many amazing comments about being Thankful & Grateful !!! I too am so very thankful that my home received no damage from Hurricane Matthew….. here in Jacksonville, Fl. there were so many trees down and of course the beaches really did take a hit … BUT so thankful ; not one tree down in my yard !! no damage to my home !!! My family members are all safe !!! This “Mom / Grammy” is sooooo very thankful !!!!!!!!!!! Thank you Karianne… so timely !!!!

  22. We all have so very much to be thankful for,
    including you, the blog and your family!! : )

  23. Karianne,your children are beautiful. Oh my goodness, I want them for myself. They are growing up much too fast.

  24. Love it! Grateful. My new favorite word.

  25. Gratitude is a gift…not everyone recognises it, but it doesn’t surprise me that you do, KariAnne! Just look at those beautiful, precious munchies of yours…you have a lot to be thankful for and so do your munchies, because they have the best Mommy in the world! Bless you all!

  26. What a fabulous idea! LOVE the pic of the kiddos… priceless!

  27. You wrote about all my favorites today! Every time I’d read the “Giving Tree” my students would wonder WHY I’d cry. I always told them the same thing. Because I was thankful and happy. A hard concept for a 4 year old. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for the same reasons. And family is just the tops!!! Love your tradition and those munchies are just adorable. Happy weekend!

  28. A lovely post. The thankful tree is such a wonderful idea….something that could be done all year long!

  29. I’ve noticed that when life doesn’t seem as bright… it’s usually because I need to sit down and start counting blessings. Thankful trees are always my favorite, but I’ve never done one, KariAnne because there’s just two of us. Now isn’t that just silly? This year it’s time to start a new tradition. 😉 {hugs}

  30. You almost have me weeping. I get so emotional around Thanksgiving every year. We have so much to be thankful for with our families, health, jobs, friends, shelter, freedom, and most of all, our Lord God who provides all these things
    for us. Many thanks for sharing your heart, creativity and your family. You all are beautiful.
    Happy Fall!

  31. LOVE that book, I will never get rid of it. Of all the holidays, I like to add traditions to Thanksgiving, such a family holiday without the complications of other holidays. Thanks for sharing. Love the photo, a handsome 4-some and even the boys smiled. The truck & trees add to the vintage feel of those old time car photos.

  32. I am thankful for my family and friends. I am thankful for your posts,that are always o informative and full of bright and colorful photos. Your children are beautiful. The four of them look so much alike.
    Happy Fall to you and yours.


    KariAnne, your post was so lovely. We have so much to be thankful for. It’s always good to take time at the end of the day to write down our daily blessings! God is so good!

    You and your husband have been blessed with a wonderful family.

    May God continue to bless you and make you a blessing to those around you!

  34. What a beautiful post. And Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year but we should give thanks every day, all day.

  35. What a fabulous idea! If I had a thankful tree – YOU would be on one of those branches!

  36. Thank you. Thank you. This is exactly what our Thanksgiving needs…can’t wait to get started.

  37. Your story is so very sweet. Thanks for reminding me of the “The Giving Tree” which has such an inspiring message. I haven’t read that book in years. Thanks also for sharing about your family thankful tree but I have to tell you the best part of your email for me as a reader was seeing a picture of 3 of your beautiful and handsome children sitting on the quilt draped over the tailbed of the white pick-up truck and 1 standing next to the truck. They are all dressed up and it looks they were going somewhere special. I know you are thankful for them!!

  38. That I thank God every night for my husband, my daughter and my two grandsons all of which are wonderful; are my favorite things!!!

  39. Marijean Jenson :

    Awesome ! I may just have to make a tree myself, but I’m so thankful for so much I may just use up all the branches myself ! Awesome post my friend !

  40. The Giving Tree is one of the many books I raised my sons on. They were brought up on how important caring is. How important family is and how you do this all your life.
    Today they are 37 & 39 and call me and their step dad, my husband, every week. Ask for our opinions end the conversation with “love you” .
    Not all came from a book, but it is a book that expressed ideas I wanted them to think about. Goes to say we love this book.

  41. I love this idea! It will be an activity on Thanksgiving Day with my four grandchildren. Thanks for sharing!


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