Despite its fictional origin, Thanksgiving remains an iconic American holiday. It brings families and friends across the country together for a shared meal. For cooks, the holiday also brings worry. What if the stuffing tastes too salty? Or what if the pumpkin pie ends up burnt (again)? And, of course, there are the leftovers: how many ways can you use turkey, anyway?

However, Thanksgiving is about far more than food. Yes, the holiday revolves around a meal. But what’s on the table isn’t as important as who’s siting around it. The Thanksgiving meal makes a sacred space for families and friends to reunite and break bread together. And in that communal space, traditions remind people of the real meaning behind the meal. Here are a few of our favorite Turkey Day traditions to try around your own table this Thanksgiving holiday:

· Playing a family flag football game. Divide everyone up into teams, perhaps by family so no one is left out. Then, use the backyard or public space to play your own flag football game. This will be a nice break between watching the Macy’s Day parade and all the Thanksgiving football games on T.V.

· Give back to the community on Thanksgiving morning. Before you serve your family, why not serve your community? You could volunteer to serve breakfast at a local homeless shelter. Or, you could deliver meals to the elderly. This allows you and your family to start off the day serving others. It is also a great lesson in gratitude.

· Encourage everyone to take a post-meal walk together. That way, family time can continue beyond dinner time. Plus, you can burn off a handful of the calories from those three delicious pieces of pie.

· Video call family members who cannot make the meal. That way, they will feel included despite the distance. Also, you’ll be able to remind them why you are thankful for them.

· Replace your best tablecloths with butcher paper. Then, encourage everyone to write down some things they are thankful for. You can include younger family members as well by encouraging them to draw what they’re thankful for. After the meal, have everyone share a few of theirs.

· Write everyone’s name down on a Popsicle stick or piece of paper and shuffle them in a bag. Don’t forget yourself! Then pass the bag around and have everyone pick out someone. Give them some time to think. Then have them say why they are thankful for the person whose name they drew. Everyone will feel grateful for those around the table and affirmed of their place in the family.

· Do Thanksgiving potluck style. Ask different family members bring different dishes. Then create a “cookbook” of everyone’s recipes. This a fun way to recognize the hard work that goes into a Thanksgiving meal. It’s also a great way to record and pass on favorite recipes to kids.

Gather everyone together and celebrate everything you all have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season. These are valuable memories for all involved. Remembering all there is to be thankful for will lead to contentment in the rest of your year. And don’t forget the leftovers!

Text by Amy Haupt