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Thanksmas - A Recent Family Tradition

Updated on December 21, 2013

A New Holiday For When You Just Can't Get Everyone Together For Thanksgiving And Christmas

When I was growing up the biggest family event of the year was Christmas eve. This was the day that everyone made their way from all corners of New England to my grandparents house in Rhode Island for a big celebration, including a pile of home cooked polish foods and an appearance made by Santa handing out presents to all of the children. This was also one of the two holidays every year which I was allowed to spend with my father's side of the family, and it was always very special to me.

As our family spread out and children got married, then had children of their own it became more challenging to get everyone together at once and in time, the inevitably was that Christmas eve became less of an event.

One year, after I was married and living in Scotland I was able to be home between Thanksgiving and Christmas but not for either. My grandparents planned a big gathering to get everyone together like old times and they called it Thanksmas in honor of the two holidays that I would be missing out on with my family.

The event was an enormous success and so they organized it again the next year as well as the year after that. The date changes every year and it is always carefully arranged for a weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas when everyone is able to attend.

6 years on, Thanksmas is a fully acknowledged and anticipated family event which gets more creative and fun every time it's held.

This year was the first year I've been able to attend a Thanksmas outside of Skype since it started and it was my daughter's first time meeting most of my family as well.

Below I will tell you more about Thanksmas and if you are in a similar familial situation where it is challenging to get everyone together for the holidays you may be inspired to try organizing something like this yourself.

So What Is Thanksmas About?

Thanksmas is about being together in the spirit of both Thanksgiving and Christmas, taking the best parts of both holidays, then combining them into one creative melting pot which results in a fun and memorable time for everyone.

This is a photo of the Thanksmas tree. It's a Christmas tree decorated in both Christmas and thanksgiving ornaments. It is my grandmother's creative baby, and it's pretty fantastic.

As with any holiday, decorating for an event is important and with Thanksmas you can be extremely creative by making your own decorations or just combining decorations that you have acquired from both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Planning ahead is extremely helpful as it means that you can catch the sales the previous year for decorations that you'll incorporate into the next years celebration. If you haven't caught the sales, fortunately websites that sell party supplies (including Amazon) are there for you.

Thanksmas Decor Ideas

Tissue Turkey Centerpiece Party Accessory (1 count) (1/Pkg)
Tissue Turkey Centerpiece Party Accessory (1 count) (1/Pkg)

Here is a turkey similar to our tree topper. These are usually readily available in stores in autumn and they pack away flat which is quite handy.

Impact Innovations Thanksgiving Lighted Window Decoration, Turkey
Impact Innovations Thanksgiving Lighted Window Decoration, Turkey

We need to get our hands on one of these. I think it combines the slightly tacky lights of Christmas with the Thanksgiving turkey perfectly.

Beistle 22269, 10 Piece Mini Santa Hat Paper Cutouts, 5”
Beistle 22269, 10 Piece Mini Santa Hat Paper Cutouts, 5”

Little santa hats are great additions to thanksgiving themed decorations which easily convert them from one holiday to the other.

Old World Christmas Pumpkin Glass Blown Ornament
Old World Christmas Pumpkin Glass Blown Ornament

My grandmother somehow found pumpkin ornaments which look perfect on the Thanksmas tree tying in the harvest theme with Christmas. The key to finding the perfect ornaments is to just keep your eyes open all the time and plan ahead.

You just never know when the perfect ornament is going to appear.


A Time For Silly (sometimes coordinating) Novelty Accessories

This year my grandfather asked me to create a digital Thanksmas design that he had printed on T-shirts for everyone. I've also had it printed on an ornament for him and now that it's made I can really put it on anything I want to with print on demand services provided by websites like and

So now we all have our special shirts as well as some truly awesome cult-ish family photos as a result of his idea with ages ranging from babies to great grandparents. I'd display one here but I don't want to harass everyone featured in the photos for their permission.

At any rate, the attire for Thanksmas is totally open for interpretation. My grandparents have acquired quite a few snazzy Thankgsgiving turkey hats in addition to the specially designed T-shirts and we found all sorts of Christmas themed accessories for much cheapness at discount and dollar stores so it's a pretty wild grab bag for everyone involved. The most important thing is to have fun.

For a lot of people family events are obligatory and dreaded. If yours are that way, maybe you just need to change your perspective.

Wearing Thanksmas

Plush Chef Turkey Hat Party Accessory (1 count) (1/Pkg)
Plush Chef Turkey Hat Party Accessory (1 count) (1/Pkg)

Turkey hats make for some pretty wonderful and memorable photos. These usually appear in stores just in time for Thanksgiving.

Beistle 1-Pack Plush Light-Up Christmas Turkey Hat
Beistle 1-Pack Plush Light-Up Christmas Turkey Hat

This is my favorite turkey hat so far. It lights up and the Santa hats on the drumsticks are completely adorable.

Turkey Headband Party Accessory (1 count) (1/Pkg)
Turkey Headband Party Accessory (1 count) (1/Pkg)

Headbands are also great accessories and they're pretty simple to assemble or embellish to suit your Thanksmas needs.


Incorporating Established Traditions

Trains Are A Huge Part Of Any Of Our Family Events

The things that I have shown you so far about Thanksmas are fairly new however one constant that is featured in all family events as long as I can remember is a trip to see the trains.

My Puppa is a dedicated train enthusiast and has a whole room of his house committed to his layout which he has spent many years building in perfect miniature scaled detail. It's extremely impressive and has earned him the title: Puppa Choo Choo

There has also always been an electric train around the Christmas tree at his house.

This year was my daughter's first electric choo choo experience and she absolutely loved it. Her great grandfather has even already purchased her first electric train!

MOTA Classic Holiday Christmas Train Set with Real Smoke - Authentic Lights, and Sounds - A Full Set with Locomotive Engine, Cargo Cars, Tracks and Christmas Spirit
MOTA Classic Holiday Christmas Train Set with Real Smoke - Authentic Lights, and Sounds - A Full Set with Locomotive Engine, Cargo Cars, Tracks and Christmas Spirit

Here is a cute starter train for (supervised) children which could be set up around a Christmas tree.

Features lights, sounds and smoke as well as backwards and forwards motion.

Toystate Santa's Village Express Holiday Christmas Train Set
Toystate Santa's Village Express Holiday Christmas Train Set

This is a specifically designed around the tree train which also features lights, sounds and motion.


An Appearance By Santa Is Essential

Part of every Christmas eve was an appearance by Santa to hand out presents to the children and this tradition has now carried over to Thanksmas.

The Santa you see pictured is one of my Puppa's good friends. They were teachers together at the highschool in the town where I grew up. He is a really wonderful person and has been my Santa all of my life, we are all so lucky to have him. Every year on Christmas eve he would drive over for an hour just to dress up and be our Santa. He even snuck away and put the costume on at my wedding (March 2006) as a completely unexpected surprise.

It meant so much to me that he was carrying on the tradition, being there for my daughter handing out presents the same way he handed presents to me when I was her age.

Santa Giving Me Presents As A Little Girl And At My Wedding

Rubie's Value Santa Beard And Wig Set
Rubie's Value Santa Beard And Wig Set

A nice beard comes next. Children generally aren't a fan of beards if they're not familiar with anyone who has one, so a cheap and creepy beard isn't going to go a long way to win them over.

Velvet Santa's Gift Sack with Cord Drawstring
Velvet Santa's Gift Sack with Cord Drawstring

And a big durable Santa sack. The sacks that have been used my whole life were actually made by my great grandmother. As the family expanded additional sacks needed to be added but it's still great knowing that the ones she created are still in use.

I have several store bought ones and bringing them out every year feels like home. Santa sacks, as odd as it sounds, are a huge part of the holidays for me.


Family Games Are Also Essential

The last component to a Thanksmas event are family games.

Versatile (quick-fire) team games and card games that keep everyone engaged are favorites.

Silly prizes also add to the amusement.

That's about everything that I have to say about Thanksmas for the moment.

It really is great fun and I hear there is often quite a lot more liquor involved than I witnessed (this time) which probably adds significantly to the amusement, but it really was just so wonderful to see everyone and to introduce my family to my little girl. I love them all and I wish it was possible for us to be home every year.

I am greatly looking forward to seeing how this holiday will continue to expand and evolve over the years as our family grows and as new participants add to the sturdy Thanksmas foundation that has been established.

What Do You Think About Thanksmas?

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    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      Creative melting pot celebration :))

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      What a great idea! Enjoyed your story a lot.

    • Stuwaha profile image

      Stuwaha 3 years ago

      @Elsie Hagley: Thank you :) Yes, we also have our own Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.... Thanksmas is just a way for everyone to get together when they have other family obligations on the official holidays :)

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      I think it's a great ideas, loved reading your story, also nice photos.

      Do you also have your own christmas at your home on December 25?

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 3 years ago

      I love the story you have shared here with us. It is amazing and I think Thanksmas is great. The pictures you have here are beautiful :)