Photo credit by Martin Cathrae
Tradition is at the core of all the holidays we celebrate throughout the year. While many of these special days center around a specific religious ritual or belief, others are purely secular in nature. One of the best-loved holidays is Thanksgiving Day in which we are encouraged to remember the good things we have in life. Among the variety of traditions already well established for this holiday, a new tradition especially designed for children is emerging.
Evolving from the idea of the Christmas Angel trees that are covered with gift pledges for underprivileged families, the Thanksgiving Tree has begun to appear. Rather than pledges, the Thanksgiving Tree is covered with leaves that have a specific thing written on it that the maker is thankful for. A Thanksgiving Tree can be either simple or complex depending on the amount of effort one wants to put into its creation. The most complicated Thanksgiving Trees will use actual small tree branches to make the framework and silk artificial leaves for the individual Thanksgiving leaves.
The most basic, and most popular, method is to paint or draw the Thanksgiving Tree on a wall or large piece of poster board. To begin construction of your own Thanksgiving Tree you will use a brown crayon, marker or paints to make the trunk of the tree. You will then draw out branches in a full, wide pattern so the completed framework looks like a leafless winter tree.
Now it is time to begin working on the leaves of your Thanksgiving Tree. These are usually made using colored craft construction paper. The individual leaves may be patterned after real tree leaves or the children may trace around their hands and cut out the shape to use on the tree. Since this is an Autumn tradition, the colors of red, orange and yellow are most often used. Be sure to cut out enough leaves that you can have extra near the tree for visitors and guests to also be able to add their messages of thanks to the tree.
Depending on the size of your family, you may want to start filling in the tree quickly or allow one leaf per day or per meal to be added. On each leaf write down something you are thankful for. Beyond the basics of parents, friends, food, and shelter, the listing of thankful things can be a wonderful teaching opportunity to demonstrate to your children the concept of not taking things they have for granted.
Once the thanksgiving item is written on the leaf it is time to attach it to the tree. Since most Thanksgiving Trees are made of paper, a spot of glue or tape will be quite sufficient. As they are attached to the tree, be sure to spread them around to emulate the leaf groupings of real trees. As the number of leaves grows, a quick visual expression of the things we can be thankful for will make a beautiful and easily appreciated display of the good things we have in our lives.