This week we will gather to feast on food and reflect on our greatest blessings. Thanksgiving stories are a natural part of this day. Spontaneously telling and preserving stories can add even more meaning to our holiday celebrations. So, instead of talking about politics or the weather, we have a few ideas to bring your  family and friends closer together this holiday.

Keep it simple

Also, because this marks the beginning of an entire season that may bring family together, this would be a great time to more intentionally gather family stories. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it can start with simple conversation. Just can throw your phone on the table and record the conversation with a recording app or have someone act as the scribe, jotting down a few memorable thoughts, words or stories. You might want to plan ahead by purchasing a digital recorder to easily capture the audio. Maybe you want to step up your game and add a microphone for clear sound. Or, if any of this seems like too much, just start a conversation and enjoy the moment.

Click for printable of questions Everyone Should Ask

Related article: Round-up of voice recording apps

Questions for Thanksgiving stories

Here are some basic questions to evoke memories and stories around this holiday:

  • What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and why?
  • What are some of the different places you have spent Thanksgiving?
  • What do you like to eat the best at  Thanksgiving and why?
  • What are you most thankful for this year?
  • What has changed the most in your life in the last year? Last 5 years? Last 10 years?

Picture of family with quote "Spontaneously telling and preserving stories can add even more to our holiday celebrations."

Related: Oral history interview questions and audio resources

Questions about what matters most

Stories don’t have to be all about Thanksgiving. These questions may seem a bit lame or regular, but often we understand a person better when we know what moves them, what they love and why the love it. Try these questions to find out more details about what your loved ones are thankful for most:

  • Go around the room and ask: How did you meet your significant other?
  • How did you feel when you met them? Was it love at first sight or did it take a while?
  • What made it special?
  • Why did you go for the second date?
  • What was your most disastrous date?
  • Where has been your favorite place to live and why?
  • Your least favorite place you’ve lived and why?
  • What is your favorite song and why?
  • When is the last time you listened to it and where were you, who were you with?
  • What about your favorite movie, favorite book?
  • What is your chosen profession and why did you choose it?
  • What do you love best about it?
  • What do you hate most about it?
  • If you could do any job at all, what would it be?

These are just basic questions and conversation starters to help you tell better Thanksgiving stories. If the group is warm to it, it is always fun to get some anecdotes to accompany the answers. If not, tell them you can expand at Christmas. Better yet, you can all set a goal to go home and write it down and email it or share it later.

Related: How to start or boost a journal writing habit

3 easy ideas to make the most of your Thanksgiving stories

  1. Get our favorite interview questions (free). Email them to family members in in advance, or print and place around the room to get the conversation going. Here is a link to get that free printable.
  2. Prepare to record the best stories. If you have a phone app or Digital recorder handy, you can easily turn it on if someone starts telling a poignant story. Magic just might happen, and you’ll be glad you thought in advance to download an app or buy a recorder. So, get one right this minute, okay?!!  Here is a link to our article on some free phone recorder apps. Here is a link to a review of our favorite digital recorder.
  3. Give a meaningful gift this year – an oral history interview. You can conduct it yourself as a wonderful gift of your time. Click here to get our free interviewing tutorial. It’s a mini course that will help you feel confident. (And of course, we also offer this professional service and have gift certificates and holiday specials available. We would be honored to help you. Click here for our services, rates and offers.)

Remember to express gratitude

Another great Thanksgiving tradition is to just express gratitude – I often try to write a few things down, even something as simple as a Facebook or Instagram post or even a tweet. Or, if your family is up for it, we love to go around the table and share something we are most grateful for. My kids usually get really into it and we end up sharing for several rounds.

Picture of family with quote about humble moments of gratitude

Some years it has become touching and emotional, as Grandma or Grandpa reflected on life and the fullness of it. Sometimes the sweetest expressions of thanks come from some of the littlest children in the room. I feel like Thanksgiving isn’t quite right without those moments of humble gratitude, either private or public.

One year, my oldest son, who was in second grade at the time, made a Native American clay pot where he had written random questions. Some included questions and facts about the First Thanksgiving and others had some personal questions like the ones above about Thanksgiving. Others were general personal questions. It was fun to see what each question held and it was random, so no one knew what was coming. We have done the “question in the pot” tradition a few times  – I’m feeling like we will revive it this year!

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A tradition of telling Thanksgiving stories

I hope these questions give you some answers as to how to help make your Thanksgiving extra special this year. Between the good food and football games, take a few minutes to hit record and chat. You never know. Someday those voices and stories might be what you’re grateful for most of all.

Questions to get the conversation started at Thanksgiving meal

Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others and especially loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, Rachel has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband, Mat, have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

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