Saying thanks around our Thanksgiving table is the core of Thanksgiving Day. The holiday is a special 24 hours set aside for us not only to be mindful of our blessings but also to express them. Here are sincere, creative, savvy ways to communicate thankfulness around your Thanksgiving table.
By: Maralee McKee, The Etiquette School of America
We know that Thanksgiving is the day set aside for us to give extra thought and expression to the blessings in our life. Whether this Thanksgiving finds us in a season of plenty or lack, joy or grief, sickness or health, there truly is always something to be thankful for even if we have to dig deep to find it or to be thankful for the always present reality of hope.
Whether our list of thanks is long or short, how can we go about expressing thanks in a way that elevates our gratitude from a simple platitude (“I’m thankful for my family, friends, and job! Please pass the sweet potatoes.”) to making it the core of the special time we spend gathered around the Thanksgiving table?
Here, you’ll find six ways for how to express thanks around your Thanksgiving table that will help you express your gratitude in a deeper way and keep it at the top of your mind as Thanksgiving Day fades into the hectic holiday weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Whether you’re the host or guest this year, make sure to check out The 7 Manners Of Thanksgiving You Don’t Want to Leave Home Without for tips on navigating the busyness of the day and the people in it with more confidence, patience, and grace.
1. How to Say Thanks Around Your Thanksgiving Table — Fantastic Readings and Toasts
As you first gather around the table, you might want to start with a reading. Or perhaps as soon as everyone is seated, you’ll want to offer a toast. (The other correct time during a meal to offer a toast is right before dessert is served.)
Here you’ll find a short reading from Melody Beattie that beautifully shares the benefits of making gratitude a lifestyle instead of a platitude.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
If you’d like to offer a toast, remember the three B’s of the etiquette of giving a great toast: Begin, Be brief, Be seated. And perhaps use one of the following three quotes as your toast!
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward
The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.Marcel Proust
2. Bible Verses About Giving Thanks to Read Around Your Thanksgiving Table
Every meal is a good time to offer thanks and gratitude to the giver of all our blessings. Here are four Bible verses that are especially appropriate as part of Thanksgiving grace. If you get nervous praying aloud, or, worse, if even the thought of doing so makes you queasy, you’ll find lots of help in How to Say Grace Amazingly Well This Thanksgiving and Any Time.
You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
2 Corinthians 2:14
3. How to Say Thanks Around Your Thanksgiving Table — Make Gratitude Literally the Centerpiece of Your Meal by Making a Gratitude Tree
A “Gratitude Tree” can be used each day in November, or each day of Thanksgiving week, or just on Thanksgiving Day, for friends and family to hang their Leaves of Love and gratitude on.
Simply supply a “pile” of paper leaves next to the tree along with a variety of fine-point Sharpie pens like these for each person to write what they’re grateful for and then hang the leaf anywhere they would like on the tree.
It can be used as a Thanksgiving table centerpiece or to decorate a sideboard in the dining room or coffee table or end table in your living room or family room. Like any tall flower arrangement, it needs to be removed from the table while you’re eating so that people sitting across from one another can see without having to glance around the tree!
The leaves are wonderful for jotting down things we’re grateful for in the moment (like a second cup of coffee or tea, or an extra thirty minutes of sleep) — things that we probably would think weren’t special enough if we were put on the spot to share out loud.
In those moments, we feel the pressure to name the big things like health, home, family, and such — important things for sure, but a lifestyle of gratitude is birthed when we utter a hundred thank yous a day because we notice the blessings each hour holds.
Here is a FREE printable of the Gratitude Tree leaves. Click on the link to print out as many copies as you would like as often as you wish because you can never have too many gratitude leaves!
How to Make a Gratitude Tree Easily
This is the first year that a Gratitude Tree is part of our Thanksgiving celebration. I bought all the items at my local craft store, although, in retrospect, I could have used a small tree branch from the yard and a vase, pitcher, or large candle-holder that I already had at home. I really like the way this one turned out, so I think I’ll use it year after year. With that in mind, the $38 I spent at the store was well worth the price since it’s less than what I would have spent on a fresh flower centerpiece.
The best part is that Corbett, my youngest son, assembled it for me in less than ten minutes, and he had fun!
- A glass candle-holder with brass feathers around the outside (8″ high and 6″ wide/across)
- Three packages of twigs that I found in the silk flower aisle of my local craft store
- One 4″ round styrofoam floral holder to place in the bottom of the candle-holder/vase so the twigs would stay exactly where Corbett wanted them. It also raised the twigs higher in the vase — that was a bonus.
- Two rolls of brown trim to tie the Gratitude Leaves to the tree. I actually could have assembled the tree without using any trim. Once the leaves are hole-punched, they slide easily to exactly where you want them on the twigs I purchased. String, as I found out, isn’t needed to tie them on the tree. If you use a branch that you find in nature, the holes will probably be too small, and you will need the string to loop through the hole you punch in the leaf to tie it to the tree.
- FREE printable of the Gratitude Leaves
- Single hole punch
- Package of metallic fine-point Sharpie markers (I love that this pack has two each of gold, silver, and bronze pens. I’ll also use them to write notes and to sign and address my Christmas cards, so these markers are a great set to have, and they’re often hard to find in stores during the holidays because they sell out fast.)
Below is the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving table filling up with reminders of some of what we have to be grateful for.
4. Don’t Ask People What They’re Grateful For; Ask Them This Instead!
Often at Thanksgiving dinner, the host will go around the table and ask everyone to name something they’re thankful for. It’s a sweet sentiment, but it doesn’t exactly take digging deep for us to name someone at the table or something in our life that we’re thankful for. The moment passes quickly, and gratitude is given all of five to ten minutes of our attention.
For a deeper answer, ask this question instead: “Who will share a story about a time you were thankful for someone at this table?”
Oh my goodness, the difference it makes! When you hear a story about someone, you get to know that person better, perhaps even in a different light. The person telling the story gets to share in detail and is reminded of how special the person they’re thankful for is. And the person in the story is now in the spotlight and feels the love of the person sharing the story.
The tale told might be a laugh fest or a mixture of laughter and tears, but the star of the story will feel honored and loved, and everyone at the table will know something great about the person they might never have known otherwise.
If everyone or almost everyone shares a story, this could be your entire Thanksgiving dinner conversation. I can’t think of anything better to talk about around the table than sharing examples of why we’re grateful for one another!
There are lots of times on Thanksgiving (and every day) that we can and should start conversations with others, but boy — sometimes figuring out what to say is hard. Here you’ll find How to Start a Great Conversation — The Best 7 Tips.
5. How to Say Thanks Around Your Thanksgiving Table with Gratitude Rolls: Tastier Than a Fortune Cookie and More Meaningful
Inside of a fortune cookie is a little sheet of paper with a “fortune.” If it comes true, it’s only coincidence. Did you know you can place slips of parchment paper written with a Sharpie marker into your favorite homemade or store-bought dough and make “Gratitude Rolls?!”
They’re always a big hit! They’re especially a hit if you ask your guests to write down something specific they’re thankful for on the parchment paper and sign it, but don’t tell them what you’re going to use it for.
When they break open their roll to butter it, voila! They’re surprised by a gratitude. They can read it along with the name of the person who wrote it!
The parchment paper does not burn or add any taste to the rolls. And the permanent marker might bleed through a tiny bit on the roll, but only a bit, and certainly not enough to do harm when eaten.
In the photo below, I placed the parchment strips my family wrote inside crescent-roll dough. For Thanksgiving, I traditionally make these delicious Jordan Rolls, and the slips of paper do just as well folded several times and tucked into each roll before it’s baked.
- Each strip of parchment paper is 4″ long and 1″ wide. This size will fit perfectly into store-bought crescent dough.
- Write on the parchment paper with fine-tip Sharpie markers.
- Place the strip on the crescent dough and roll up as usual.
- Follow baking directions on the dough package as usual.
- When the person breaks the roll to butter it, the note will be folded but visible. We unfolded this one to reveal that Corbett, my youngest, is thankful for Milo, our Husky-Golden Retriever mix puppy!
6. It’s Good Manners and Leaves a Legacy of Gratitude to Write on This Tablecloth
Usually, writing on tablecloths is greatly frowned upon, but not when you’re creating a “This is Us” tablecloth — then it’s a great thing! My family has been doing this since our oldest was in first grade. The premise and the execution of it couldn’t be easier!
You simply purchase a plain vinyl tablecloth with felt backing. The felt backing makes it sturdier, and it lasts for years — very important in this case. They’re available at big-box stores and grocery stores. I buy mine at our local Publix on the aisle with the paper goods, plastic wrap, storage baggies, and such. Any plain color will work. White is best only because any color of Sharpie marker you use will show up well.
“This is Us” tablecloths are versatile, and since this is your family’s story, you decide how you want to use it. In a nutshell, you write on the tablecloth, and it becomes a permanent (and much loved!) snapshot of the day and future time capsule.
You can have one you use for every holiday, one for each major holiday, one you use yearly for each child’s birthday, and/or one you use for one year and then replace each January to document the upcoming year.
Each person writes on the tablecloth something that’s appropriate for the day. People love looking back and reading what others wrote two, three, or more years ago. It’s amazing to see how your children’s handwriting changes yearly, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll forget from one year to the next. One Thanksgiving your sister and her fiance might write, “We’re engaged!” Three years later with their first baby sitting on their lap, you’ll all be amazed at how quickly time has passed and at how the most important thing at that time has been replaced by a new phase of life.
Most poignant will be the writings of the people in our families whom we lose. One of our tablecloths has my late stepfather’s writing on it. Each time I place it on the table, it’s sad for a few minutes, but then I’m so thankful for the small part of him that’s with us at the table; it always makes me smile. And it always leads to us sharing a story or two about him. Our children, who didn’t get to know him well, now feel they know him better, and his memory is so strong that it’s almost like he’s sitting at the table again.
Grace Note: I’ve seen other people do something similar on white cloth tablecloths. And while I also usually prefer cloth to vinyl, with this idea, vinyl is the way to go. Stains wipe away with a sponge and some dishwashing detergent. Food often permanently stains cloth tablecloths, and you don’t want your future heirloom with stains that block out any of the writing. Because people know the purpose of the tablecloth, they’ll overlook the fact that it’s vinyl, and they’ll only notice the precious words on it!
I wish you and your loved ones a blessed and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving! Please come to visit the blog often between now and New Year’s Day. I have lots of posts planned that will help you navigate the busy Christmas season and the people and special situations of the holidays. It really is the most wonderful time of the year when we enter it with pre-knowledge of the best practices for handling the myriad of situations that are unique to the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year!