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Newsletter: November 2023

What’s Your Thanksgiving Story?

When my sons were small, their elementary school invited all the children in Kindergarten through Grade 2 to a “Thanksgiving Feast.” Each year, the kids would make construction paper costumes to wear – either “Pilgrims” or “Native Americans.” It was a tradition that had endured for decades, but as time went on, more and more parents (myself included) started to feel uncomfortable about the costumes and the “First Thanksgiving” story that went along with them.

When the school decided to continue the annual feast, but without the costumes,
there was some grumbling among the school community. Some of us were grateful for the change. Others protested the “loss of tradition.” “Why can’t they just have fun and celebrate Thanksgiving?”

That question really struck me. As I looked around the feast that year, from my pumpkin-pie volunteer station, it seemed just as fun as it had been the year before. The children sang the same songs about gratitude and giving that they’d always sung. They made crepe paper turkey centerpieces for the nursing home next door and enjoyed delivering them to the residents, just like in years past. They ate together and shared what they were thankful for, as they always had. The kids were having fun and celebrating Thanksgiving. They just weren’t telling that one old story that most of us grew up with.

Challenging old ideas and traditions can feel upsetting, like we’re losing something central to the holiday. But the stories we tell, both in our culture and at our own tables, matter. Stories are how we pass along our history and our values to future generations. And the stories we tell about our holiday traditions also help bring into focus the true meaning of our celebrations. When we gather for Thanksgiving, we’re gathering to express our deep gratitude for what we have and what we can share with others. And it’s a day when we can enjoy telling our own stories about what’s important to us, without relying on outdated ideas about the origins of the holiday.

This year, The Family Dinner Project is proud to share expanded Thanksgiving resources to help all families have more meaningful celebrations with food, fun, and conversation about things that matter. At our Thanksgiving hub, you’ll find:

We hope that however you choose to honor Thanksgiving Day, these resources will help you and your family to frame your celebrations around the things that truly matter to you.


Try this Roasted Squash Dip from the Sioux Chef for a Thanksgiving appetizer, or check out some of the other interesting Indigenous recipes shared with us by our friends at No Kid Hungry Montana.

Indigenous Recipes


Check out the history content from our friends at Made by Us, then test each other’s knowledge with our Thanksgiving history quiz. Winner gets the leftover pie for breakfast!

Thanksgiving History Quiz


We can honor the meaning of Thanksgiving by sharing our own stories. Try these storytelling prompts at your holiday dinner table this year.

Talk About: Your Thanksgiving Stories