Let’s put the 'thanks' back in Thanksgiving.
We celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. The big focus on that day is the massive feast, football and maybe a little talk about pilgrims and Native Americans breaking bread together.
But, aside from a possible prayer at dinner, are many people focusing on the most essential part of the holiday: being thankful?
Amy Latta, a mother and craft expert, noticed the disconnect between the holiday and its meaning in 2012 so she created a new family tradition, the Thankful Pumpkin. The idea came to her after she went to a pumpkin patch with her son, Noah, who was 3 at the time.
“We need to stop and focus and be intentional about counting our blessings. To help do that in our family, we started the tradition of the Thankful Pumpkin,” she wrote on her blog. “All you need to make one is a pumpkin and a permanent marker and a heart full of gratitude.”
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Amy and her family sit down and make a list of things they’re thankful for and write them on a pumpkin in permanent marker.
By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, the pumpkin is filled with thankfulness. Then, on the big day, it makes a great centerpiece that keeps the reason for the holiday in focus for the whole family.
"I was excited to get the project out there because it is so simple and requires no special skills or materials," Latta told Today Parents. "Anyone can do it, and I was excited to think about other families taking time to focus on gratitude."
In the 10 years since Latta came up with the idea, the Thankful Pumpkin has caught on around the country and people have been sending her photos of how their families celebrate the new tradition. “I’ve seen hundreds of photos of families, clubs, community centers, churches, and shops adopting this tradition, inviting folks to add their blessings to a pumpkin, a visual reminder of all the reasons we have to be grateful,” Latta wrote in an Instagram post.
\u201cTake a \ud83d\udc40 at this beauty! The #ThankfulPumpkin \ud83c\udf83 turned out amazing! Thank you to everyone who participated & we hope this reminded ourselves all that we have to be #thankful for! Now who can whip this into a \ud83c\udf83 \ud83e\udd67? #JATS #Tradition #blessed #JFL #Reminders #BeThankful\u201d— Jaguar Athletic Training (@Jaguar Athletic Training) 1635772385
\u201cThe #thankfulpumpkin is our answer to 2020. They love telling me what they\u2019re grateful for each morning & get a kick out of writing it on their pumpkin. This is how we nourish grateful hearts.\ud83e\udde1\u201d— Keisha Grant (@Keisha Grant) 1605285922
Latta was really onto something when she decided to put the “thanks” back in Thanksgiving. Further, learning how to practice gratitude is one of the most important keys to happiness, so it’s wonderful that she's given us all a new way to practice it with our families.
Amy E. Keller, Psy D., says that practicing gratitude is wonderful for our psychological well-being.
"Experiencing gratitude activates neurotransmitters like dopamine, which we associate with pleasure, and serotonin, which regulates our mood," she told Verywell Mind. "It also causes the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone which induces feelings like trust and generosity which promotes social bonding, and feeling connected."
A decade after her little idea has caught on, Latta is grateful for the incredible response.
“I never imagined the little idea I had in my kitchen that day would encourage gratitude far beyond our four walls, and each year as I see it shared, I am humbled all over again to think that maybe it has impacted you too,” she wrote on Instagram. “Let’s be grateful together as we head into the holiday season. I’m so glad you’re here.”