One November, early in our marriage, Andrew and I hosted our first Thanksgiving with members of his family and mine. These were not a group of people who were used to spending time together. They are distinctly different families: one conservative, the other liberal; one more extroverted, the other more introverted. In addition, there was a new boyfriend attending who spoke very little English and this was his first American Thanksgiving. This could easily turn into an awkward night with stilted conversation. We set about planning an intentional evening.
WHAT ARE THE FEELINGS I WANT TO INSPIRE?
Maya Angelou reminds us, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What we resonate with during a time of celebration is how we felt. As we plan for Thanksgiving this year, let us be very clear on what kind of experience you want to create. How would you like people to feel after the Thanksgiving meal this year? Allow yourself to identify three to five distinct feelings to guide your planning.
November ushers in the Holiday season. As it arrives, my encouragement to you is to take the time before it unfolds to plan your intentional celebrations. Before the checklists and menus (or even in the midst), there are three questions you get to ask to be more intentional in your celebrating. These questions are: What are the feelings I want to inspire? What are the activities that inspire those feelings? And what can we do to make this memorable?
As we planned for the intersecting of our two families we knew that we wanted the evening to feel festive, we wanted to encourage feeling gratitude and we wanted everyone to feel connected. Having a clear sense of the feelings we wanted to inspire, we were able to plan an evening with clearer intentions.
WHAT ARE THE ACTIONS/ACTIVITIES THAT INSPIRE THOSE FEELINGS?
Once you have clarity around the feelings you want to inspire you get to curate actions and activities that are in alignment with those feelings. You cannot control how other people feel, but you can set the scene, create the environment and plan an agenda. Allow yourself to imagine and brainstorm what kinds of activities might shift Thanksgiving into a more intentional celebration.
We wanted folks to feel festive, so we went for it. We not only decorated a fun table, we set up a craft table with construction paper and instructions on how to create your own pilgrim hats. These silly hats inspired light hearted conversation and connection. We printed out a Thanksgiving story that was simple and interactive to not only have fun together, but so we could also teach our new guest about the American history around Thanksgiving. Before we got to the table we had connected and laughed and been light hearted together.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO MAKE IT MEMORABLE?
When planning an intentional celebration, we get to pause and think about what might we do to make this event memorable? Laughter is a key memory maker, so planning something light-hearted is a gift to your guests. Taking photographs captures a moment in time and allows it to live on not only in our memories, but also in our hearts as a reminder of our feelings from that night. And choosing to go in a little deeper and allow others to share more of their heart in a new way is a beautiful way to provide an opportunity for insight and remembrance.
That particular year I purchased candle holders for each guest and set them up with tea lights and a name card. Not only did this allow each guest to know where to sit, it became a part of our giving of thanks at the end of our meal. We each took the time to light our candle and give thanks for the gifts of that particular year. I remember with sweetness my father-in-law tearing up, grateful for his two new grandsons who had come into the world. His hand shook as he lit his candle, and I realized anew his appreciation of family. Each family member was gifted their candle holder as a reminder of the evening and of our gratitude.
The holidays are before you. And this is an opportunity to infuse grace and care into your days. What if this time around you got to be a little more intentional, what kind of Thanksgiving might you create? When you take the time to choose the feeling, curate the activities, and make it memorable you will have created just the kind of event that reflects your intention. Wishing you the very best. Happy Thanksgiving.
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