Try these Thanksgiving traditions, from mimosa mornings to pie night

Try this pecan pie for Pie Day.(Photo:

Whether you’re expecting a house full of guests or an intimate gathering, these heartwarming Thanksgiving tradition ideas will help make the holiday even more special. 

Make memories with a thoughtful gesture or a funny Turkey Day celebration with these traditions from families across the country.

A fun Thanksgiving breakfast tradition  

From preparing the food to getting the house ready for guests, Thanksgiving can be a bit stressful, which is why you might like to start off the big day with a little down time.

Madison Elkin, a public relations professional in Birmingham, Ala., shares a simple holiday tradition with her family.

“Every morning for Thanksgiving breakfast, we start the day with bagels and lox – with mimosas! I can’t remember when it started, but it’s been going on for years, even when my family is apart,” Elkin said.

Mix up your mimosa with apple cider and champagne instead of orange juice to give it more of a cozy fall twist. For kids and those who don’t drink, leave out the champagne and garnish with a cinnamon stick instead.

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The bagels and lox need very little preparation, and will give you that carb fuel to get through the day. And the mimosas? They might be able to help you stop stressing over the dinner seating arrangements – which brings us to our next idea.

A heartfelt twist on Thanksgiving place cards

Part of what makes the holiday so special is that it gives you the opportunity to let friends and family know how grateful you are for them. That’s why this idea for Thanksgiving place cards is so heartwarming.

Alabama-based designer and marketing executive Jenny Dean Hester says she sent invitations to everyone invited to Thanksgiving dinner, along with the guest list. Next to each name was a space to write why they were thankful for that person. Once she received the completed lists, she created the place cards.

“Thanksgiving Day arrived and each guest walked around the tables looking for their seat, pleasantly surprised to find a card at their place, their name at the top, followed by all the reasons people were thankful for them, left anonymous,” Hester, who lives in Alabama, says. “My father-in-law passed away a few years later, and we found his Thanksgiving place card in his Bible.”

MORE:20 terrific Thanksgiving & autumnal centerpieces

Pie Night

Salt Lake City writer Dan Pearce, of the popular Single Dad Laughing blog, says his family has an amazing Thanksgiving tradition called “Pie Night.”

The Monday before Thanksgiving, he and his family get together and everyone brings a few pies. They sit them on the countertop and dig in. This tradition, which was started 15 years ago by his Aunt Glynis, came about because they were too full on Thanksgiving to truly enjoy their pies. Hence, Pie Night.

“Pie Night is by far my favorite Thanksgiving tradition. It gets so many of us up and going in the kitchen since we don’t want to show up with a boring armful of store-bought pies,” Pearce says. “The entire countertop is loaded with everyone’s homemade creations, and you can always tell who was lazy this year and who wasn’t. The store-bought pies never receive as much love. Rightfully.”

His favorite pie? “My son and I make a killer strawberry chocolate pie most years, and we never come home with pie left in the tins,” he says.

RECIPE: A practically perfect pecan pie

RECIPE:Pumpkin pie with harvest-spiced cream & caramelized almonds

Order Thanksgiving takeout

This Thanksgiving tradition is one you will want to adopt immediately – or at least try out one year.  

“We order Thanksgiving takeout from high-end golf resort restaurants. We only wash wine glasses and silverware,” says mom of two Erica Georges, who lives in Payson, Arizona. “We spend our day playing games and enjoying the kids. We also make a family gift for Christmas.”

Georges adds, “One day I will teach my girls how to cook a turkey, but it won’t be on a joyous Thanksgiving holiday break!”

MORE:Where to order Thanksgiving dinner for delivery

A new twist on giving thanks

Many family Thanksgiving traditions involve going around the table and sharing what you are thankful for, but these ideas add a fun new twist to this tradition.

“Every year our family writes a card to the family about what they’re most thankful for,” says Greensboro, Georgia, interior designer Shirley Retter, who says she makes the cards with different autumn themes each year.

“The envelopes are each sealed separately and I keep them until the following year. Then, we open the previous year’s card and each read it aloud. We’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. It’s a fun and nostalgic way to look back at what we were thankful for. Our pile of letters, like our family, is growing larger and larger. We all love this special part of our Thanksgiving Day tradition,” she says.

MORE: 5 ways gratitude can save your holidays

Lifestyle blogger Ashley LaMar lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and says she and her husband keep a “thank you” jar all year long. When something happens that makes them feel especially grateful, they write a note and drop it in the jar.

“It could be something as simple as, ‘Thank you for making a 2 a.m. pharmacy run for me when I was sick with the flu,’ or, ‘Thank you for being so accommodating when I had friends over to watch the NBA finals,’” LaMar says.

“We express appreciation in the moment, but we also open that jar every year on Thanksgiving night and read through them. It reinforces our love for each other and reminds us how much we have to be grateful for in our marriage.”

Turkey-eating contest

For those looking for a unique family Thanksgiving tradition, this idea from San Jose, California, web designer and CEO of, Winston Wang, fits the bill – and it will be a huge hit with the kids. On Thanksgiving Day, his family buys two big turkeys and they have a turkey-eating contest, with the winner nabbing a prize.

“Each family member competes to eat the most turkey in two hours. The person who eats the most turkey wins a prize, which is usually a $100 Amazon gift card,” Wang says.  

RECIPE: How to deep-fry a turkey

RECIPE: Easy, no-fuss Thanksgiving turkey

Give back this Thanksgiving

One Thanksgiving tradition to start this holiday season involves giving back to the community. Scottsdale, Arizona, photographer Stephanie Heymann says her Thanksgiving tradition involves taking her two kids to volunteer in the soup kitchens feeding the homeless. They also put together their own food and essentials bags and hand them out to those in need.

“Our temple does a lot for the homeless community, and I’ve always had an interest in it separately as well. We feel that it allows the kids to see outside of the bubble in which they live,” Heymann says, adding that this activity is not only a great family bonding activity, but it also fosters good conversation with her kids.

“It shows them different ways of life and helps explain why we need to be thankful for what we have. It reinforces how good it feels on the inside when you help others who are less fortunate,” she says.

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