Tradition, Gratitude, Thanks and Family {Thankful Tree Craft} by Beth Panageotou of Page’s Corner

BonBon Break

For many, this time of year presents an interesting crossroad and our psyches are inundated with four words: tradition, gratitude, thanks and family.  They vary in meaning to everyone and that meaning can change throughout life.  But there is one word that I think binds all of those words together, no matter your family scenarios and situations.  That word is food!


My definition of family has changed many times over and for that I am amazingly grateful!  I grew up in New Jersey and my parents divorced when I was younger and both remarried wonderful people.  My holiday traditions were filled with many different outings and adventures: there were festivities and people and FOOD!  When we were little, my sister and I would wait (impatiently) for my grandmother from Chicago to open her suitcases, filled with the most delicious cookies you can imagine!  On Christmas Eve, my mother and robust Italian stepfather cooked the platters and platters of food for the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  He lost a hard fought battle with ALS in March, but we will continue that tradition and I am so grateful for it!  Christmas brunch was always at my Grandmother’s.  Everyone dressed up – taffeta, velvet and ties as the smell of fried potatoes and ham wafted through the house.  To this day, I can still hear the sound the front door made when someone entered!


My early memories of Thanksgiving are hazy, but there are two dishes that always remind me of my mother and grandmother…mushroom stuffing and Cranberry “Jell-O mold”.  As my mom would sing in her best voice…“Tradition!”  Isn’t it funny how two dishes will always be synonymous with people so near and dear to you?  When I was in college in Maryland, my roommates and I would put on “elaborate” Thanksgiving feasts before we left for home…all of the fixings and trimmings.  I am so thankful for that family and bonds of friendship that formed, again, over FOOD!


I also met my husband in college.  As we began our adult life together – with his large Greek family in tow – Thanksgiving became our holiday.  Over the years it has been both amazingly elaborate and quietly simple.  One tradition that we hold dear, no matter the size, is that everyone has a seat… a literal chair, a place at the table.  I am extremely thankful for this act of eating together as a family.  We make it a point to take turns expressing what or whom we are grateful for…no matter how big or how small.


Now, we have our own traditions that we share with our two daughters.  They know we have to start the day with the Macy’s Parade!  They know there is no TV during dinner, no matter who is playing football (which will undoubtedly upset their uncle).  They know we make Grandma’s very buttery mushroom stuffing and that everyone claims to “hate” the Jell-O, but there is never any left!  They know that the definition of family is not necessarily just blood relatives but also those who comes into your life and leave a mark.  Most importantly, they know that Thanksgiving is a time for joy, reflection, cheer, craziness, hard work and FOOD!  My ability to teach and share this with them is what I am most grateful for!


So, as the holiday season starts its whirlwind tour of our hearts, minds and memories, it can inevitably lead us to reflect on our personal definitions of these four words.  No matter the size of your family, cook a dish with a memory attached to it or make a new one.  Most importantly, take the time to think of at least one thing you are grateful for and say it out loud.  Then follow that up with Happy Thanksgiving!


The Thankful Tree


This is a great way for children to learn about gratitude as individuals and as a family.  Appropriate for all ages.



  • Paper:
    • ~Craft paper or construction paper (brown for the trunk, 3+ colors for “leaves”)
    • ~Large sheet of white or brown paper for the background
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Markers or crayons


Those with ** can be completed by children ages 3+

  1. On one sheet of brown construction paper (or a grocery bag), draw and cut out a tree trunk base. Trunk should be 8-12 inches high.
  2. **On sheets of craft or construction paper, have your child trace his/her hand.  They can also trace your hand and/or anyone else they would like to represent on their tree.
  3. **Cut out the hands. 
  4. **Use glue to attach the tree trunk.  Arrange and glue the hands to resemble the leaves on a tree.
  5. **Use markers or crayons to write what everyone is thankful for.  Add names, decorations, embellishments.

Extension: Either a) take a picture of your “tree” from year to year or b) Keep your “trees” and hang them up in sequential order; talk as a family of how things have changed and/or stayed the same.

ABOUT BETH: Beth is the CEO and Co-founder of Page’s Corner, Inc. She has a BA from Mount Saint Mary’s University and has a background in public policy and education.  After working in Washington, DC, she taught high school social studies and developed her passion to incorporate multiple learning philosophies, learning styles and student-centered activities within the confines of both the traditional and extracurricular classroom setting.  This carried over to her personal life as Beth left teaching to care for her two wonderful daughters (ages 3 & 7).   Beth strongly believes in the need to stress the importance of literacy and creativity in the early stages of child development, as is reflected in the mission of Page’s Corner.

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This post was written by Beth Panageotou of Page’s Corner, Inc for Bonbon Break Media, LLC.