Some people consider Thanksgiving to be their favorite holiday because it tends to be rather untouched by media hype and commercialism. This November holiday is often a time to enjoy time together with loved ones, and sharing memories of Thanksgiving in the past can be a great way to remember in a group or one-on-one session. Even those who wish to listen or may not remember their own family traditions may enjoy the reminiscing of others as they share favorite memories of Thanksgiving.
Props for a Thanksgiving Reminiscing Program
Even people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, may still have memories of special holidays and may relish speaking of those times they can remember. Sometimes props may help to get the memories started. Examples of some props that might be used for reminiscing about Thanksgiving include:
- table set with traditional Thanksgiving meal
- picture of old wood burning stove
- favorite Thanksgiving recipes (making a recipe book of the participants’ favorite recipes a few weeks before the program can be a nice touch)
- horn of plenty or cornucopia
- variety of fresh produce such as squash, apples, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberries
- pictures of turkeys, hogs, or chickens
- pictures of community meals
- favorite blessings or grace said before meals (collecting ones remembered by participants and their families ahead of time can be added to the recipe book)
- area set up to resemble a children’s Thanksgiving play with a bed sheet as a backdrop
- Native American dress and accessories or pictures of Native American scenes
- pilgrim dress and accessories or pictures of first Thanksgiving
- old school books with a first Thanksgiving history lesson
- autumn leaves, acorns, hay bales, wood pile, etc.
- sports equipment like a football, bat or large stick, horseshoes, playing cards, etc.
- hunting equipment
- balloons with a Thanksgiving theme or pictures of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
Sample Questions for a Thanksgiving Reminiscing Program
Many seniors have wonderful memories of family gatherings, turkey or ham dinners with all the fixings, community Thanksgiving meals, school Thanksgiving plays, wishbone wishes, and backyard games of football and other sports. Sometimes simply mentioning Thanksgiving and providing props will be all that is necessary to generate a wealth of conversation as people begin to speak of favorite Thanksgiving traditions of the past. If people in the group seem a bit shy to begin or the memories begin to slow, here are a few sample questions that might spark other memories:
- How did your family celebrate Thanksgiving?
- What foods do you associate with Thanksgiving?
- Did anyone in your family have a specialty dish?
- Have any of you celebrated Thanksgiving in unusual places (many may have celebrated holidays overseas while in the military, for example)?
- Did your family have any Thanksgiving mishaps?
- How did the community celebrate Thanksgiving?
- How did the school teach about Thanksgiving?
- How did the church celebrate Thanksgiving?
- What sports do you associate with Thanksgiving?
- Did you have the opportunity to watch any parades on Thanksgiving?
- How was gathering and preparing food different from today?
Reminiscing About Thanksgiving
Enjoying memories of Thanksgiving may provide a wonderful forum in which folks can gather and share times of the past. Creating a recipe book and recording memories (per facility policy) may be treasured by family members as they preserve a piece of their heritage. Many people have vivid memories of holidays like Thanksgiving, and some may be quite surprising and even humorous while others can give insight on how times and traditions have changed over the years.