Thanksgiving 101: Creating your own family traditions

Published on November 19th, 2013 | by Josh Hafner

Spending Thanksgiving with a spouse or significant other can mean a melding of holiday traditions — your stuffing recipe with her Green Bay Packers on the TV — or something entirely new.

The key is to communicate openly and honestly about what you like and don’t like about holidays spent with your own families, said Dale Atkins, a psychologist whose advice on family traditions and relationships has been featured on “the Today Show” and Huffington Post.

“You have to talk about this,” Atkins said. “Think about the parts you didn’t like — what parts would you like to not apply to your (relationship).”

Adopt the traditions from each other’s family that you both enjoyed. Ditch the ones you didn’t. Make up new foods to eat, new drinks to drink and new ways to be thankful. Steal other people’s traditions, too.

Atkins once joined a friend’s table where each guest shared the best part of their week. She liked the idea so much she borrowed it. Her extended family eventually adopted the tradition, too.

“This is a ritual I brought in because I thought it was lovely,” Atkins said. “And it has really become not only a ritual in my family for generations, but for others who came to our home.”

See our other Thanksgiving features:


About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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