A Thanksgiving Checklist that Matters As the holiday approaches, many of us are making Thanksgiving checklists. We’re ticking off what to buy, what to thaw when, what to cook, what to pack, or things to clean.

This year, while you’re making all of your lists, don’t forget to add memory saving or memory sharing items to your Thanksgiving checklist.


Make sure someone has a camera as you cook, visit, or watch football. Even a smart phone camera can work well. Don’t limit photos to the obligatory group shot after dinner. Include the cooks in the kitchen and the grandkids in grandparents’ (and great grandparents’) laps. Also take shots of other activities that are typical for your family. It’s fun to look back at pictures of things like the group snooze after dinner.

Meaningful Thanksgiving Checklist

Make sure you snap some photos!


Whether or not you plan to have a formal interview session (See How to Create an Oral History Tradition), it can pay to think of questions to ask loved ones in advance. You can direct questions to a relative or in-law you don’t know as well as you like, or ask the table in general. Once you get the ball rolling, you can sit back and enjoy the discussion. Examples include:

  • What is your all-time favorite Thanksgiving memory?
  • What is your favorite Hanukkah or Christmas memory?
  • What were Thanksgiving meals like as you grew up?
  • What was your most thankful Thanksgiving? For what were you grateful?
  • What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Other Equipment for your Thanksgiving Checklist

Charge and/or pack your video camera and pull out the most recent school pictures of the kids. If you’re tracing your family history, plan to update family on recent discoveries (or brick walls). It can also be fun to bring out an “oldie” photograph that no one has looked at for a while.

Get the kids involved

Making memories is inter-generational. Find an age appropriate project for the children. One year when I was hosting the family, the kids wrote funny Thanksgiving rhymes and wrapped them up like a bon-bon for each place at the table. (I think we called them something like Turkey Shots). The adults got a kick out of the poems and the kids felt like they had contributed something important. Spoonful.com has some great ideas for kids and adults.

Add some Attitude to your Thanksgiving Checklist

It’s easy to get caught up in the to-do’s, the logistics and timing of the dinner, and the magnitude of the before and after cleaning. Even if your family isn’t quite June and Ward Cleaver material, remember to be open to hearing stories and bask in the love of family. Even in the most dysfunctional families, there’s a lot to be grateful for.

What’s on your Thanksgiving checklist. Share!



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