Make a Tree of Thanks and Giving

Make a Tree of Thanks and Giving

Every year, our family makes a tree of thanks in November, which we use to chronicle all of the things we are thankful for. Usually I just cut out a large paper tree and give each member of the family a few paper cut-out leaves to write down what they are grateful for. Then, in December, we do something similar, only with a Christmas tree-shaped tree instead, and we put hearts on it depicting all of our acts of giving throughout the month of December.

I’ve decided, however, that it’s kind of silly to make two trees when we could easily do this all on one seasonal tree—and that instead of making paper trees, we could easily employ the discarded branches in our yard, too.

To make the kind of tree I have in mind, gather a bunch of thin pieces of brush from your yard or that of a friend. Artfully arrange them in a large container, such as a wide vase. We’re using a pretty square-shaped vase that’s see-through blue.

Next, cut out lots of leaves and hearts to decorate your tree with. Decorate one side of the leaves with anything you like—glitter, beads, ribbon, markers, paint, etc.—and leave the other side blank for writing in what you are grateful for. Do the same thing with the hearts for things you do or give this holiday season.

After dinner, stay at the table and have each family member write down things they are grateful for on their leaves. You can help young children do theirs. Punch a hole in each leave and tie a small loop of ribbon inside to hang them from the tree. Be sure to discuss the things you are grateful for and why they are so important to you as you do this activity together. If you wish, do a leaf each day from now until Thanksgiving, or do so many each week together.

Punch holes in the hearts and hang them as well; as you give things or do good deeds, write them on the hearts. (Alternatively, store the hearts in another container or a drawer, and take one out each time to do an act of goodwill to hang it on the tree.) Money donations, acts of kindness, donations of toys or clothing, volunteering, and many other activities count in our house.

You can even get more artistic if you like by decorating the vase or sticks with glitter, embellishments, or small origami presents.