How to Make a Thankfulness Tree


             One of my very favorite personal family traditions is our annual Thankfulness Tree. We’ve been doing it for more than a decade, and it means more with every passing year.

            This year, I discovered that the concept has blossomed all over the country and there are many wonderful variations of Thanksgiving trees. I’m sharing some of my favorites here in hopes they will inspire you to embrace this tradition and make it your own.


Jeanine Hays did this one for HGTV


            There are several steps in how I start our Thankfulness tradition each year. First, I go outside and gather an armload of thin, bare tree branches in the yard. These will get decorously stuffed into a large, pretty vase.

            Step 2 is to cut out the paper leaves that we’ll use to write down our gratefuls. I use plain old construction paper, in red, yellow and orange.

           cut leaves

            My template for leaves is to draw around a cookie cutter shaped like a maple leaf, but there are so many other ways to do this: trace around actual leaves you find, make up your own simple leaf shapes, or pick up some precut paper leaves from an art supply store like Michael’s. There is an actual template on page 250 of The Book of New Family Traditions, if you have a copy of my book or borrow it from the library. Once I cut the leaves, I make a small hole at the top of each one, and tie a string or ribbon onto the end so the leaves can easily be hung on the branches.

         use actual leaves

            Step 3 is the actual ritual of everyone writing on the paper leaves. There are many ways and times for doing this. Since our extended family members aren’t really into this tradition, we tend to write on the leaves before the Thanksgiving feast, often early on Turkey Day.


In 2002, my son was grateful for "My Brane".

In 2002, my son was grateful for “My Brane”.

           If everyone in your family and guests want to join you, so much the better: you can arrange extra leaves on a table next Thursday, and writing on them can be one of the activities for hungry people waiting to celebrate.

            Note: however you create your Thankfulness tree, they make beautiful centerpieces. I always leave ours up for several days after the holiday.

            This part is important: SAVE all the leaves when you dismantle the tree, because they are fantastic keepsakes, holders of family memories that will remind you for years about what was most important to everyone in a given year.


             I put mine in baggies, marked with the year in which they were made. Eventually, I may create a big scrapbook for them all or find another way to display them, but it’s fun to look back and see the people, things and experiences we treasured most.

            But as I said at the start, there are so many fun variations on this idea now. 



                     I like the clothesline approach, but your Thanksgiving tree can also be made from hand-shaped leaves. 



                      This one is also sweet:  


                       The tree above and the one below both came from the Shelterness blog, a post with 20 cool examples of Thanksgiving trees. Here is a link to that blog post



                          And here is one more, in the Forsyth family blog that is just adorable and also a wonderful decoration for anyone’s dining room. 


Go see the close-ups on the blog. This is awesome!

Go see the close-ups on the blog. This is awesome!

                         Whatever ways you choose to express gratitude this year, I wish you all a very memorable and delicious Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!! God bless you all.


Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Here is a short segment from Yahoo! TV’s Away We Grow, in which I shared some fresh ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!