3 Thanksgiving Traditions for a Nontraditional Thanksgiving

Autumn leaf to illustrate Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving will look a little different this year. Though normally one of the busiest travel times of the year, 83% of Americans won’t be travelling this Thanksgiving according to a recent poll. As of early November, 15 states had imposed travel restrictions while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Thanksgiving guidelines that encouraged limited travel.

Dating back to the 17th century, Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday during the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that these gifts [blessings] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people; I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and a Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

Thanksgiving developed from these roots into the holiday of gratitude we know today through traditions involving family, friends, and food. And while the normal expression of the traditions may be under threat by social distancing and disease, we can find other creative ways to express our faith and gratitude to those we love.


The home is the heart of Thanksgiving. Some families take turns hosting, others prefer a stable routine, but the home is always the destination. Just as a church or synagogue is more than a physical structure, a home represents the shelter we have in our families.

The Bible frequently addresses the importance of family and faith as our shelter. For example, Proverbs 14:26 says: “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” Faith is our shelter in difficult times, and family is the God-ordained institution to pass it on.

This is why The Fellowship provides for the spiritual and physical needs of those without families. Widows and orphans no longer have that shelter of faith, so not only do they need food, they need reminders of their faith: matzah for Passover, apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, and a menorah for Hanukkah.

During this season, we must all do our part to preserve our faith shelter. Even if you cannot see your family this Thanksgiving, make time for at least a phone call. Share your thankfulness to God for all that He’s done with parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren, so that your faith together as a family will provide you shelter.


For many, Thanksgiving is about more than time with family. It’s an annual appointment to catch up with friends we no longer see on a regular basis. Sometimes our jobs and our ministries move us far away from each other and we lose touch. Even if we only see them once a year, conversations with our closest friends have a way of rejuvenating our soul.

The Bible affords a special place for friendship. Proverbs says: “A friend loves at all times” (17:17) and that “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24). We all know those kinds of friends. When the going gets tough, there are people God puts in our lives to weather the storm with us.

That human connection is so important that The Fellowship made personal phone calls to every single one of the thousands of elderly Jewish people we serve in Israel. Coronavirus may have made it harder to safely visit and spend time with them in person, but we knew they still needed to hear from us.

A call cannot replace a hug, but it’s crucial that we maintain our friendships during this pandemic. God created us for fellowship—with Him and with each other—but it’s our responsibility to take the initiative. Remember, picking up the phone is not just for our benefit. Doing so this Thanksgiving may be exactly what your friend desperately needs.


No holiday food is more iconic than the Thanksgiving turkey. Of all the American holidays, only Thanksgiving is a true feast in the traditional sense: a bountiful meal celebrating God’s continued provision. Yes, we need to eat to survive, but food also reminds us that we are cared for and deeply loved.

In the Bible, we read: “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17). When someone offers us a meal out of love, no matter how humble, it feeds more than our bodies. It feeds our souls.

So when The Fellowship distributes boxes of food to elderly Jews in Israel and around the world, every box comes with the message that it was provided through the love of Christians. Food may keep their bodies alive, but it is this love that keeps their souls flourishing.

Sharing a meal is a simple but incredibly meaningful act. Whether we give to those in need or bake a pie and leave it on the neighbor’s porch, the gesture represents far more than food. It shows the love we receive from God and multiplies it. This Thanksgiving may be different than last year’s, but you can still show love and make a difference for someone who needs it.

Tags: Coronavirus Faith Thanksgiving

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