Focus on Family: Celebrating holidays away from home

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Donna Bozzo

Donna’s Tips:

Tiny Touches

Slip in in a little of that Thanksgiving spirit with some tiny touches. A little can go a long way with little ones and can sometimes those tiny touches mean even more than the big traditional pomp and circumstance we put together at home.

Wherever you roam — spice things up with scented candles even pumpkin bubble bath to give everything a festive feel. Decorate hotel rooms or restaurant tables with a bit of nature — so fun to send the kids out on a nature hunt.  Or warm a guest or hotel bed with a I Am Grateful For You pillowcase. Or make your own or challenge the kids to make ’em for each other.  Or make a What I Am Grateful For tablecloth using fabric markers and a plain tablecloth.  Keep adding to it throughout the years. This is especially fun if your travels put you with different groups year after year. If you don’t have a ton of room, look for small but sweet versions of this same idea — make a gratitude turkey, painted pumpkins, gratitude place cards or invite family members and friends to help build a gratitude picture or small bulletin board.

Talk Turkey

Thanksgiving is really about spending quality time together, but far away Thanksgivings can make for a blended crowd as relatives who don’t see each other often, spanning different states, interests, and generations. Anticipate that conversation might be a bit slow at first. Bring fun games that encourage people to share. There is a neat game called Never Have I Conversation Starters for Family Life (available on It gets the ball rolling when it comes to talking and sharing.  The fun thing about these kinds of games are the tangents they lead you on — you know when Uncle Joe goes off and starts talking about his days in the trucking business or Grandma starts talking about her days learning to twirl the baton.  Or make up your own game.

Family Pilgrimage and Stories

Experts say children who are most self-confident have what they call a strong intergenerational self. They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.  The ones who know a lot about their families tend to overcome challenges better. So no matter wherever your roam,  you can do this anywhere. Use Thanksgiving as a time pull out the silly family stories to convey family history and develop a strong family narrative for your children. Even make it a game.

Re-frame The Day – Create New Traditions

So if you find yourself somewhere non-traditional over the holidays, take a step back and think about what is really important to you. Is it spending the day together creating memories or a big meal? We spent a Thanksgiving in Beaver Creek one year and pushed hard to find the traditional turkey dinner out. The dinner went nothing as we planned, but the day leading up to it was magnificent — a surprise ten inches of snow on the mountain and the first time my girls could actually spend the day skiing with us. We skied all day together as a family in the beautiful mountains. That was what I was most thankful for that day even when dinner went south. And it really changed the meaning of Thanksgiving for me. We were so rich that day — even before the dinner hour. Sometimes, it’s not the meal or the traditions that count sometimes it’s the beauty of creating new tradition and enjoying time together as a family in a different way.  Or if you find yourself having to be really unconventional — find a FUN twist.  This is one fun way around a turkey feast — have a  Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with buttered toast, pretzels and jelly beans.  You probably want to do this in between meals, but you get the point — make the unexpected and unconventional fun. Give it a twist. Give it a theme.  Don’t worry about tradition. I say A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will be the Thanksgiving your kids will love and talk about for years to come!

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