In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sang about some of her favorite things: things like, girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, and snowflakes that stayed on her nose like eyelashes. But she forgot to mention anything about autumn, the best time of the year.
Since Julie Andrews let me down, I asked friends and family for their favorite November traditions.
Here are a few of our favorite things:
Thinking of others
Several of you spend time in November focused on other people.
1. “I like to sew fleece hats for the homeless and other folks in need.” — Carol
2. “I usually start making Christmas crafts for friends — some sort of handmade ornament.” — Paige
3. “We almost always do a 5k or organized run.” — Bree
4. “We like to put together a couple of the Christmas shoeboxes that get sent to children in third world countries. Based on whether the box is for a boy or girl, my kids pick out small toys, books, fun socks or hair accessories, coloring books and crayons, toothpaste and a toothbrush. The boxes have to be done in November so the children will receive them in time for Christmas.” — Alexandra
5. “I make bacon jam and jalapeño cheddar bread as an early Christmas gift for anyone on my list.” — Angie
6. “As a family, we like to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a local shelter. And not just serve the food, but stay afterward, and visit with the people. Their stories are interesting.” — Cora
7. “We go out to the woods and cut firewood as a family. Hot cocoa, snacks, and good conversation. We usually have a family that we cut wood for, as well, to show our boys the blessing that we have and to serve.” — Muna
Coziness and family
Fires in the fireplace, football, soup bubbling on the back burner, playing games: The ideas listed in this section are all similar, but different in their own way as they highlight the importance of sharing simple traditions wrapped around family.
8. Hot tea or cocoa. Big sweaters. Cuddling up in a blanket with my husband and watching movies/TV.” — Elisha
9. “I love fall! It’s my favorite. I enjoy football, squash soups, crisp air with warm sun, the colors. Oooh, and mulled cider.” — Jenn
10. “I look forward to Thanksgiving and cooking with my daughter.” — Karen
11. “Novembers are made for hot chocolate, flannel, boots, and fire pits.” — Bree
12. “Making apple cider with caramel syrup. Fires in the fireplace.” — Brittany
13. “Hmmm … I don’t know that I have a favorite tradition but I love November. I love watching football on the weekends and going to the games. I love the rain. I love making soup and baking because the rain puts me in that mood. And I love the wood heat.” — Janelle
14. “Just being with family is the best memory and continued tradition … we play games and watch movies!” — Ann Marie
15. “My favorite tradition in November is Thanksgiving with family and friends … followed by the Civil War (Oregon vs. Oregon State): either going to the game or watching it on television.” — Sarah
16. “My favorite time in November is when I am making dinner, there’s a fire going in the fireplace, football is on, it’s raining outside, and all of the family is there.” — Laurel
17. “Thanksgiving with family … hanging out making memories … being at the (family) ranch is everyone’s #1 highlight.” — Kris
18. “This is my favorite time of year. I love the weather, the smells, the music, the decorations, and most of all, FAMILY TIME. I love my fake fireplace that I play on TV. I enjoy the anticipation of Christmas. Because of that I think I may enjoy November even more than December. I just want time to slow down a little so I can enjoy that feeling a little longer.” — Cheryl
I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know what a Thanksgiving tree was. After Bre explained and I went on Pinterest to see the different types of Thanksgiving trees, I have to say, I love this idea!
19. “Almost every year I’ve done a Thanksgiving tree with friends, which I love. As a group, we write the things we’re grateful for on the leaves—it can be people, or things we’ve learned, or stuff we’ve accomplished—and we go around and discuss whatever we put on our leaf.” — Bre
Thanksgiving trees created from dried branches and construction paper leaves, or from a craft kit
Many of you wrote about the simple pleasure of being outdoors, and paying attention to beauty in nature, and the color that is rampant this time of year.
20. “OK, no laughing: Driving around on a bright blustery day with my sunroof open and the seat heater on!” — Michelle
21. “We loved taking drives around the lake to see the leaves changing. My brother and Dad often watched football together (they still do … just from different recliners in different states!).” — Laura
22. “We always did a treasure hunt for our kids, and we’ll do it this year with our granddaughter now that she’s big enough. They loved those so much.” — Kris
23. “Fall festivals. Long walks in the mountains or around a lake nearby. Walks with my dog every morning when the air is crisp. Apple pie. Anything with pumpkin in it.” — Sharon
24. “Hopefully having enough snow to start skiing.” — Jennifer
25. “I love going to the pumpkin patch with my family. My daughter and I always make pumpkin bread from real pumpkins.” — Elisha
26. “I enjoy photographing fall scenes that show all the magnificent colors.” — Karen
Ovens, and stoves, and pantries overflowing with all the ingredients we need to cook up our favorite things: These ordinary, everyday gifts we enjoy but perhaps take for granted because we’ve rarely had to do without them.
27. “My fave thing is making my mom’s ‘famous’ mashed potatoes with lots of things we’re not supposed to eat: half and half, salt, and butter. Growing up, we had a large extended family—like 40 people—and everyone would say, ‘Bunny’s here with the potatoes,’ and that would start the party. One of my cousins had a little gap between her front teeth and would squish the potatoes between them!” — Sandy
28. “Planning my Thanksgiving menu. But I’m weird like that. I pull out all my cookbooks (‘when it’s quiet,’ says this mom of six) and start going through them.” — Summer
29. “I make pumpkin bars that I only make during the fall (because they have cream cheese frosting!). I make a big batch and freeze some and share with friends. The kitchen is a mess, but it’s worth it!” — Ann
30. “One of my favorite traditions is that my mom makes everyone’s favorite pie. We might have six or more different pies, depending on who’s there!” — JoJo
31. “This is so lame, but I like nutmeg in my coffee beginning in November.” — Heidi
32. “Baking and cooking and doing stuff with our family. I always make several pumpkin rolls. And I love the fall colors and football games, even if it’s watching it from my house!” — Michelle
33. “Making family cookie recipes.” — Lindy
34. “We most definitely have a favorite once-a-year dish. It’s the stuffing, and every year people ask for the recipe or ask if I am making it. The kids are already checking that it’s on the menu!” — Ann Marie
35. “I just asked the kids for ideas about things we do together around Thanksgiving, and they said ‘Bake pies together!’” — Mindy
Autumn colors lend themselves to brightening up the place — indoors and out.
36. “New apple spice candles for the table, fall placemats and napkins, and deciding who to share turkey with.” — Sharon
37. “My mom and I would put together a fall wreath or table decorations.” — Laura
38. “The kids and I go on a walk and collect colorful leaves and then put them between pieces of wax paper and iron them and hang them in the window.” — Elisha
39. “I really enjoy decorating our front door for the holidays. It’s a fun way to greet friends as they visit, and it makes me smile.” — Allison
Photo by Allison
My friend, Lizzi, wins the prize for sharing something most of us don’t think of when we consider November traditions … but what an important one.
40. “I love Thanksgiving, but my favorite November tradition is voting! My grandfather came to United States from Russia after the revolution. He and my whole family were very enthusiastic voters — so happy to be part of a democracy. I always went with my mom to the voting booth, and have not missed an election since becoming an adult. I still get excited for the “I voted” sticker to celebrate being part of the process!” — Lizzi
When our daughter got married and they started having kids of their own, I love that they kept some of our family traditions, and made up some new traditions just for their little family.
41. “My husband and I are working on new traditions. He grills or smokes meat, and makes homemade egg rolls [for Thanksgiving].” — Laura
42. “We wanted to do something that was just our silly little thing, something the kids will have fond memories of after they leave home. Every year, about a week before Thanksgiving, we pour out puzzle pieces on the dining room table—like several hundred pieces—and the rule is, it has to be done before we can set the table for Thanksgiving dinner. It drives us together as a family.” — Marissa
A number of the responses included the after-Thanksgiving traditions of visiting Christmas tree farms, decorating with homemade ornaments, listening to holiday music, watching Hallmark movies, shopping the Black Friday deals, and wearing matching Christmas-themed pajamas (although some of you don’t wait until after Thanksgiving!).
43. “The only tradition I have is adamantly guarding against Christmas creep. I love Thanksgiving so much, no bit of Christmas is allowed until after Thanksgiving. All things fall get my full attention in November.” — Jenn
44. “We had a tradition so many, many years ago when we had only two kidlets. I’d fix containers filled with hot soup and hot chocolate. We’d drive way up the North Umpqua, and take a side road up into the snow. I’d scout out the most beautiful Christmas tree, mark it, and return to stay with the kids while my husband chopped it down. (Easy for him to find it; all he had to do was follow my footprints in the snow!) Ahhh, the cherished memories.” — Barbara
45. “I think my family’s favorite tradition would be loading up the Saturday after Thanksgiving and heading into the mountains to cut down Christmas trees. We bring sleds, homemade chili, hotdogs to roast. Everyone looks forward to it every year!” — Linnea
One final thought …
If there was a theme behind most of these responses, I think it would be this: Gathering.
Gathering to do something kind for someone else.
Drawn together in a kitchen, baking and cooking and taste-testing and throwing in more spices.
Congregating around a craft table, a Thanksgiving table, a puzzle, a board game, a football game.
As a group of blood relatives or chosen-family members: tromping through the woods, clustered around a bonfire, collecting flamboyant leaves, treasure-hunting, chopping firewood, finding the perfect Christmas tree, sledding.
This wisdom from Alice Waters:
This is the power of gathering: It inspires us — delightfully — to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.
Which begs the question: What are some of your favorite November gathering things?