Before I moved to Washington, I used to host my family’s Thanksgiving every year. My family is large and there would be a lot of people milling around and getting underfoot while I was trying to cook. In order to keep people busy, I started to have a Turkey Coloring Page Contest. Adults and children alike were asked to color a turkey page while dinner was cooking. As people finished their pages, I hung them up and, after dinner, everyone was asked to vote for their favorite. The winner received a prize.
It went over great the first year, and the next year, people showed up with their own supplies (glitter, feathers, and markers) so that they could take their coloring page to the next level. (We’re not a competitive family, no way!) I saved the finished pages and keep them, organized by year, in a large binder that I put out on Thanksgiving. It’s so fun to see our family progress through these coloring pages! My daughter’s first coloring pages were simple scribbles and now she’s giving the adults a run for their money. My late grandmother’s coloring pages were, at first, beautiful, but as she aged and dementia overcame her, her coloring skills became more childlike. The comings and goings of a family, all poignantly found in my beloved binder of coloring pages.
Last year, we spent our first Thanksgiving alone in a new state and there are no coloring pages. This year, we hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving and reinstated our coloring page tradition. While it will take a while to catch on, I hope that we can begin to fill our binder again, this time with new friends who are becoming like family.
If you are interested in starting a Turkey Coloring Tradition this year, here are some tips I’ve developed over the years of doing this:
- Get a new turkey coloring sheet each year. It’s fun to change it up a little. One year, I asked an illustrator friend of mine to draw a turkey for us. This year, I drew the turkey.
- You can ask guests to bring supplies, but also provide the basics. Crayons and colored pencils are easy to use and you won’t risk getting paint or marker on your furniture.
- If you have enough room, set-up a coloring table. You only need a small card table (people can take turns coloring at it). Set up the supplies there. It’s another way to save your home from artistic accidents plus lots of great conversations happen around the coloring table.
- If you don’t have room to set-up a table, gather up a few clip boards and limit the supplies people can use to color.
- Encourage guests to sign the back of their coloring page. This keeps voting anonymous and prevents hurt feelings. As each guest brings me their page, I put a number on the front. The number is the reference people use to vote.
- When it’s time to vote, have it be a secret ballot. Family holidays can be emotional landmines-you don’t need your fun activity to add fuel to the fire.
- Consider having two categories-one for the children and one for the adults.
- Provide a prize. One year, I bought a turkey hat for a prize and the competition was fierce as many wanted to wear it. A traveling turkey trophy would also be nice. Each year, the winner could display their trophy in their home, then bring it back the next year to pass onto the new winner.
- After voting, ask guests to write what they are thankful for that year on their page and then file it in a binder. I think you will be surprised by how much you come to love that binder.
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