How To Add Meaning To Your Thanksgiving Menu



Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  Our tradition is that my husband and I wake up early and begin the preparations for the feast together.  He gathers all the ingredients for the turkey while I prepare all of the fixings.  Cutting and chopping side by side in our small kitchen surrounded by the smell of fresh herbs and vegetables is one of our favorite things.

Thanksgiving is a day of restful productivity for us.  By that I mean that despite cooking all morning and preparing the house for guests, there is such an anticipation to the day that makes the work not feel stressful, but pleasurable.  Cooking is in itself so therapeutic and doing it together for our whole family feels so special to us.  It’s the one day of the year we both always look forward to. 

In addition to a full table of food and family, our Thanksgiving tradition includes an opportunity for each person around the table to share something they’re thankful for.

This week Jeff and I attended a funeral, which has a way of making me more reflective than usual.  It always strikes me as odd that we find out so many great things about a person after they’re gone from this planet. I’ve always felt that we should take more opportunities to celebrate the great things in people while they can still hear and know how we feel about them.

As I was putting together our Thanksgiving menu, I thought “what better time to celebrate the people in your life than at Thanksgiving?” so I decided to intentionally add meaning to my menu by crafting a personal note of affirmation for each guest.  

As we take the time to be grateful for the year we’ve had and the blessings of food, friends and family, writing down a few lines of positive affirmation for the people around our table is a simple but powerful way to add meaning to your holiday.

The Science Behind Gratitude

Science has shown that practicing gratitude has mental, emotional and physical benefits.  One of the best ways to overcome difficulty in our lives is to practice gratitude. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study in 2003 that found recognizing all that you have to be thankful for, even during the worst of times, fosters resilience.  Given the climate in our culture today, I could use a little more resilience.

According to Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and the leading expert on the science behind gratitude, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness. “It’s impossible to feel envious and grateful at the same time.”

Researchers have specifically found found that two gratitude activities (counting blessings and gratitude letter writing) reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41 percent over a six month period.

Now we have a scientific excuse to purchase pretty note cards and calligraphy pens.  Sign me up!

How to Craft a Meaningful Gratitude Note

If you don’t quite know where to begin when writing a gratitude note, here is a simple step by step guide to writing a meaningful note.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Handwritten is key. No type-written words or emoji’s will do for this exercise.  To have the biggest impact, you have to do it the old-fashioned way and write out the words with your own beautiful hands. 

How to Add Meaning to Your Thanksgiving Menu

Start with pretty stationery on sturdy card stock and a good pen.  A calligraphy pen or Sharpie can also aid in making a bolder statement on the envelope. 

I like these correspondence notes from  Crane or you can step up your game and use the same stationery as Jackie Kennedy, Smythson Nile Blue Note Cards.  Envelopes are sold separately which can get pricey but I love these blue note cards.  I believe that when you're crafting beautiful words to people, they should be on beautiful paper.

When it comes to pens, the standard advice is to always use a fountain pen, but I don't like pens that feel heavy in my hand. I also get a bit nervous when I write heartfelt words to people and can easily make a mistake.  I don't want to have to waste a lovely card because of a mis-spelling.  For that reason, I love using Frixion Retractable Erasable pens.  They come in all colors, and make your mistakes disappear like magic.  I'd choose black for this exercise. 

Step 2: Set Aside Time

Once you have your lovely tools, set aside the time to write. Blocking a half hour on your calendar this weekend to accomplish this task should be plenty, depending on your number of guests.

Figure 2-3 minutes per note.  It will likely not take me more than 15 minutes to complete mine as I will only have seven guests but I blocked 30 minutes so as not to feel rushed.  The more time you have to think, the more meaningful you can make the card for each person.

Step 3: Make it About Them

Try to concentrate your words on what is it in your opinion that makes this person special and tell them so. Focus on expressing your gratitude for who they are, not for what they did.  For instance, saying “you are a shining star” is better than “great job on that promotion this year”.   

Step 4: Keep It Simple

Simple sentence structure will have the most impact and will leave more space on the notecard to surround your words, which will make them stand out.  Start your note with the person's name at the top left and Thanksgiving's date at the top right corner.  Then think about using a simple statement like this in the center:

“I am grateful for you. 

You are…”

As you begin to think of that person, fill in the blank with a sentence or two about a characteristic you appreciate in them.  To have the most impact, make sure the statement is true of them.  If you try to compliment them in a general way that does not really ring true to who they are, it will not be as impactful. 

Here are 10 sample ways to fill in the blank after "You are...":

  • so optimistic that you always brighten our conversation
  • so smart that I always learn something from you
  • so wise that I marvel at how your advice always works out
  • so funny that sometimes I replay things you've said in my mind to make me smile
  • so encouraging that you lift my spirits whenever your'e around
  • so thoughtful it amazes me how you remember all the little things
  • so caring that you make me feel loved and appreciated
  • so energetic that you make me want to keep going just so I can keep up with you
  • so understanding you make me feel like I am not alone
  • so beautiful the way you love people you inspire me to love deeper

Step 5: Thank Them Explicitly

Don’t forget to say the words “thank you”.  It can be as simple as “thank you for being you” or thank you for being awesome” or “thank you for making the world a better place”.  Just make sure to say it.

Step 6: End Well

Choose a closing that expresses how that person makes you feel.  If they make you happy, maybe you could sign off with “much happiness” or if the emotion you feel most for them is love then “I love you” would be appropriate. Here are a few sample sign offs to send you on your way:

  • Much Love,
  • Many Thanks,
  • In Appreciation,
  • Joyfully Yours,
  • Simply In Awe,
  • Thoroughly Impressed,
  • Truly Inspired,
  • Love Always,
  • Ever Grateful,
  • In Stiches,

Step 7: Give It Away With Purpose

How to Add Meaning to Your Thanksgiving MenuAllow for the gratitude note to act as a place card waiting to greet them at their place setting.  It serves a dual purpose as affirmation for your guests and a practical addition to your thanksgiving table scape. 

Your guests can choose to open the envelope before or after dinner.  Likely they will open it beforehand (curiosity always gets us) and it will set the tone for a lovely meaningful meal.

In Summary

Thanksgiving is a great time to recognize the good we see in others and gratitude notes are a simple and practical way to add meaning to your menu.  You can follow these 7 simple steps for writing a gratitude note:

  • Gather Your Supplies
  • Set Aside the Time
  • Make It About Them
  • Keep It Simple
  • Thank Them Explicitly
  • End Well
  • Give It Away With Purpose

Happy writing!

Welcome to Honey & Figs! I'm Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.

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Comments 2

  1. I love this Lisa! Nilanga and I will be hosting Thanksgiving this year and I definitely want to incorporate this! Wonderful idea.

    1. Post

      Thanks Janice! How awesome that you’ll be hosting Thanksgiving! I’m sure it will be wonderful. All my best to you, Nilanga & your family!

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