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Favorite Thanksgiving Poems to Read Aloud

Chances are, your Thanksgiving celebration usually includes a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and perhaps a chance for each family member to say what he or she is grateful for. But this year you can add a new and fun twist to your family’s Thanksgiving tradition by giving poetry a place in the festivities. Reading a poem aloud is an engaging way to bring attention to what is most sacred and special about this holiday.

Here are four Thanksgiving poems that are wonderful to read out loud, either in unison (all voices together) or by taking turns reading each verse.

“Over the River and Through the Wood” by Lydia Maria Child

If this Thanksgiving poem sounds familiar, it’s probably because a version of it has been set to music. In the song version, some of the lyrics are about Christmas rather than Thanksgiving. Here is an excerpt from the original poem:

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way
to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop
for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
and bites the nose,
as over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky.
The dogs do bark
and the children hark,
as we go jingling by.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
“Ting a ling ding!”
Hurray for Thanksgiving Day!

You can find the full text of this poem here.

“Thanksgiving Time” by Langston Hughes

This short poem describes the poet’s favorite memories about Thanksgiving, from the weather to the memorable food. Young children in your family may particularly enjoying joining in on the refrain, “It’s Thanksgiving Time!”

When the night winds whistle through the trees and blow the crisp brown leaves a-crackling down,
When the autumn moon is big and yellow-orange and round,
When old Jack Frost is sparkling on the ground,
It’s Thanksgiving Time!

When the pantry jars are full of mince-meat and the shelves are laden with sweet spices for a cake,
When the butcher man sends up a turkey nice and fat to bake,
When the stores are crammed with everything ingenious cooks can make,
It’s Thanksgiving Time!

When the gales of coming winter outside your window howl,
When the air is sharp and cheery so it drives away your scowl,
When one’s appetite craves turkey and will have no other fowl,
It’s Thanksgiving Time!

“Thanksgiving” by Kate Seymour Maclean

This poem is fun to read out loud because of the wonderful sounds in its end rhymes, as well as the vivid imagery of autumn scenes. Here are the first few stanzas.

The Autumn hills are golden at the top,
And rounded as a poet’s silver rhyme;
The mellow days are ruby ripe, that drop
One after one into the lap of time.

Dead leaves are reddening in the woodland copse,
And forest boughs a fading glory wear;
No breath of wind stirs in their hazy tops,
Silence and peace are brooding everywhere.

The long day of the year is almost done,
And nature in the sunset musing stands,
Gray-robed, and violet-hooded like a nun,
Looking abroad o’er yellow harvest lands:

O’er tents of orchard boughs, and purple vines
With scarlet flecked, flung like broad banners out
Along the field paths where slow-pacing lines
Of meek-eyed kine obey the herdboy’s shout;

Where the tired ploughman his dun oxen turns,
Unyoked, afield, mid dewy grass to stray,
While over all the village church spire burns—
A shaft of flame in the last beams of day.

The full text of this poem is available on this page.

“Thanksgiving Song” by Thornton W. Burgess

This brief poem could be a fun challenge for your family to memorize together. Due to the 10-line length and the rhyming couplets, even younger children could remember it after a few repetitions. It could even become a new tradition to recite this poem together before digging into a delicious turkey dinner!

Thanksgiving comes but once a year,
But when it comes it brings good cheer.
For in my storehouse on this day
Are piles of good things hid away.
Each day I’ve worked from early morn
To gather acorns, nuts, and corn,
Till now I’ve plenty and to spare
Without a worry or a care.
So light of heart the whole day long,
I’ll sing a glad Thanksgiving song.

There are many ways to include poetry in your family’s Thanksgiving celebration. Have fun crafting new traditions together!