Use this 12 Days of Thanksgiving Countdown to not only add some fun and magic to your Thanksgiving holiday, but also to practice the art of expressing gratitude!
Wanna know one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving? The timing.
I know some people hate the timing of Thanksgiving because it’s ‘that holiday‘ that stands between us and the Christmas magic we’re so excited for.
Don’t get me wrong… I am most definitely always on the edge of my seat, ready to jump into the most wonderful holiday of the year! CHRISTmas is my uber favorite.
Thanks giving First
But as I’ve grown (dare I say ‘matured’??? 😝), I have developed a much greater appreciation for not only Thanksgiving itself, but also for the timing of Thanksgiving.
What better way to prepare for the greatest holiday–the celebration of the birth of a Savior–than by setting aside time to be purposefully thankful? Christmas itself has taken on so much greater (and truer) meaning when I pause to properly celebrate the season of giving thanks.
When our family takes time to give thanks first, it helps to stave off some of the ‘I want, I want, I want’ that all too often accompanies the Christmas season these days. And instead we are more grateful for the abundance we have been blessed with, and alert to the joy that comes with giving gifts at Christmas.
The lost art of Gratitude
Gratitude is a characteristic that I think is, sadly, becoming a lost art. And yet, it’s also one of the most simple ways to learn how to be happy!
No wonder our world is falling into such sorrow and depression! We’ve forgotten how to be truly grateful in our circumstances–whatever they may be.
One of my favorite quotes (and I’ve got a cute free printable of it available) that I keep up in my home is “Come what may, and love it” (-Joseph B. Wirthlin).
It means that no matter what circumstance I may be in– no matter if I’m rich or poor, healthy or ill, flocked with friends or stuck in a lonely home– I can choose to love the life I have been given. I can choose to be grateful for the blessings I do have.
And I gotta say… I LOVE that there is a holiday that helps us celebrate this. And I LOVE that it comes right before Christmas. 😉
Making Time to be Thankful
Like all worthwhile endeavors, it takes a little effort to make Thanksgiving more meaningful and purposeful. And even moreso if you’ve got kids at home. It is no small feat to instill these core values–such as gratitude– we so desperately want them to learn.
We do have to be purposeful in pointing out and providing opportunities for our family to experience feeling and being grateful. I truly believe that when we physically engage in an action of gratitude, it solidifies the feeling within us so much more than just simply talking about it. But sometimes that can feel overwhelming to accomplish. How do we provide these experiences?
Well have no fear! I have something that can get ya started in the right direction. 😉
The “12 Days of Thanksgiving” Countdown
A fun tradition our family has started in recent years is a Thanksgiving countdown. We call it “The 12 Days of Thanksgiving”.
This banner is one that I made years and years ago to just be a regular ‘ol banner decoration across our fireplace. But it wasn’t until recent years, when I wanted to do some sort of Thanksgiving version of a ’12 Days of Christmas’ countdown, that I made a very serendipitous discovery!
There are TWELVE letters in the word T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G!!
It was perfect! Almost like it was meant to be. 😁 And so this humble little banner suddenly became transformed into a fun family tradition. It has taken center stage in our Thanksgiving festivities. And we hope it will do the same in your families too!
How The Countdown Works
If you’ve never done a countdown calendar before, it’s very simple. The basic idea is that you start on a certain day (determined by however many days you’re counting down), and each day you count down one day closer to your anticipated event/holiday by doing a special activity, or getting a treat, or whatever method you are choosing to use.
This works to not only increase anticipation and awareness of the event/holiday, but it is also a fun and bonding activity for the family. ☺️
For “The 12 Days of Thanksgiving” countdown, the Sunday that is a week and a half before Thanksgiving will always be the starting day (since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday). So on the 12th day before Thanksgiving (Sunday), one of the kiddos takes out the challenge on the first day of the banner and reads it to see what the family can focus on being grateful for that day. And continue in the same pattern, counting down each day to Thanksgiving!
Setting Up the Thanksgiving Countdown
This 12 Days of Thanksgiving countdown is very easy to put together. You simply need to:
- Download and print out the “12 Days of Thanksgiving” printable (see below)
- Print or purchase a Thanksgiving banner (check out my free ones),
- Add the little ‘pockets’ to the back of each banner letter, and
- Insert a gratitidue challenge to each pocket!
I have some free printable banner options that I shared in a recent post. But if you’ve already got a Thanksgiving banner that you love, you can totally use that too! Just add the pockets and challenges to the back and you’re all set to go! 😉
PS. “Thanksgiving” is a fun word. I love that you can play around with the order when you hang this banner up! You can leave it all one word: “Thanksgiving”. Or you can separate it a bit so that it’s “Thanks Giving”. OR you can even swap the front and back ends so that it is “Giving Thanks”!
A Parents’ Cheat Sheet
These countdown activities are always so much fun for our family, but it can get a little overwhelming with having something to do each day. That is why I try to stay organized and do as much prep work as possible prior to starting.
I like to know well in advance what the activity is for each day and already have any needed items purchased and ready to use. Last minute trips to the store for a single item or two is definitely not my favorite. Especially during an already busy time of the year.
So I create a cheat sheet and usually a shopping list for all my countdowns! The cheat sheet shows me what activity is on each day, and the shopping list breaks down everything I need in order to pull off the activites. That way I can go shopping prior to starting the countdown and not be stressed about any surprises popping up. And if there are things that need to be printed, I print those out early on as well. A little prep work saves a TON of sanity. 😉
Other Tips & Helps for the Countdown
This particular countdown doesn’t actually have a ton of prep work or things that need to be purchased. So it’s a little easier on the front end. But it does include several different donation options. My recommendation would be to not physically GO to donate the items on each actual challenge day. But instead, perhaps you could create a donation pile or basket that can hold everything throughout the course of the countdown. And then you could go donate the items all in one shot at the end. (Just a suggestion to help keep things simple. 😉)
And for another help in keeping things cute and simple, I’ve also included some gift tags in the activity download. You can print them out and attach them to your goodies for some quick and easy deliveries. They are available in a color version, or black and white. (I often print with black and white and just use colored paper to save on my color ink. 😜)
Make the Thanksgiving Countdown your own
The activities that I’ve included in the countdown to Thanksgiving are ones that I love for my family. But they may not be what’s right for yours. Or maybe there’s something special you want to add one year. Or maybe you want to mix up the order of the activities. Whatever the case may be!
Assuming you’ll want some cards to be different from mine, I’ve also included blank countdown cards (as well as a blank cheat sheet) so that you can customize your countdown to whatever suits your wants and needs! Make it special to YOUR family!
I’m so excited for some Thanksgiving magic!
This little tradition has taken our family from basically side-stepping Thanksgiving, to recognizing and appreciating it as the wonderful season that it is. A time to not only be thankful in our hearts, but to actually express gratitude. Just like Jesus taught in the parable of the 10 Lepers. Oh, how I want to be the one who actually remembers to GIVE thanks!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
I love the printable so much! Very well thought out. It’s definitely important to take a step back this year and always remember the reason for the season.
Thanks Brittany! I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do! 🙂
Love this idea so much, what a great activity to do with the whole family!
Thanks Megan! We love doing fun stuff like this together as a family. The family that plays together…. 🙂