The history of Thanksgiving as it was taught to us in elementary school is famously inaccurate and much darker than even most adults realize. And this Thanksgiving, situated as it is in a week of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases across the U.S., is going to look different for most of us. The upside? While we’re protecting our families from a pandemic and recalibrating the holiday to fit into our new realities, we also have the opportunity to create new traditions, ones centered on community and creating impact. Here are three new traditions to consider adding to your family’s annual feast day:

Create an Impact Plan and share it with your family. Take this time of reflection to get ahead of the new year resolution train, and approach your goals for the oncoming year with intention. We all want to “do good” in the world, but what does that look like? Our new book, Impact: A Step-by-Step Plan to Create the World You Want to Live In, will walk you through all the steps of this process. To simplify this for your dinner table, take turns identifying your one big impact goal for the year ahead as well as one or two smaller actions you want to incorporate into your life. For example, you might decide you want to host a fundraiser for your favorite nonprofit by this time next year, and in the meantime, you’re going to cut out single-use plastics, or buy holiday gifts that support minority-owned or women-owned businesses. Nothing is off the table! Next Thanksgiving, you can all check in and share your impact success stories.

Read about and share the true history of Thanksgiving. We can only fully understand our history as a country when we understand the oppression and eradication of indigenous peoples and culture at the core of its birth. As part of your annual tradition, you can read a book or share articles with one another, or go to an exhibit at your local museum or cultural center. You can read about the Native American tribe who historically lived in your area, and research ways to support their current-day tribe. Finally, you can take the advice of Chef Sean Sherman of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen and ensure your table reflects the local foods cultivated and celebrated by indigenous populations for thousands of years.

Use the holiday to connect with your community. If you have a few days off together, could you use the time to volunteer as a family? Hunger is an epidemic in our country. Taking a few hours to deliver groceries or work at a food kitchen will not only bring you closer to one another as a family, it will also help you to better understand your own local community. (For proof of that, here’s an article our friend Opal Vadhan wrote about her experience volunteering for World Central Kitchen for months during COVID-19.)

However you decide to celebrate this Thanksgiving, do it with intention and an eye toward creating impact. It is, after all, a wonderful excuse to embrace gratitude, community, and connection. And your example will inspire others to do the same—we guarantee it.


  • Christen Brandt

    Author and Co-founder/CPO

    She's the First

    Christen Brandt is the co-founder and Chief Programs Officer at She’s the First, an international NGO dedicated to ensuring girls everywhere are educated, respected, and heard. She is the co-author of Impact: A Step-by-Step Plan To Create the World You Want to Live In. Over the past decade, Christen has supported the efforts of grassroots organizations in 12 countries with the resources and training needed to support more than 12,000 girls. Her training methodologies and advocacy work all revolve around one theme: Listening to girls. She has been recognized for her work by the United Nations, the Obama White House, TODAY, CSIS, Ellevate, Glamour, Gap, and more.