My wife’s family is from a rural part of the state and for years we’ve spent our Thanksgivings with her family in the country and the Christmas holiday in the city with my family.

The gatherings at Thanksgiving usually last through the holiday weekend – arriving on Wednesday evening and leaving sometime Sunday afternoon. It’s a house full of fun, family and friends, sometimes topping 20 people.

Within this family unit, there’s a pretty tight group of cousins, and friends of cousins, all around the same age. And when they were younger, like around 6 or 7 years old, we started what’s become an annual tradition – The Thanksgiving Day Scavenger Hunt.

Now in its 11th year, The Thanksgiving Day Scavenger Hunt started innocently enough. We parents were all too full, and too tired, to entertain the various groups of cousins and friends. Some of the kids wanted to go to the movie, others wanted to go to the park. You get the idea. But all us parents wanted to do was relax, maybe nap and then eat again.

So my wife and sister-in-law devised the hunt. On a piece of paper, a list of 10 to 15 vague and somewhat specific clues are jotted down (something fluffy, a rock with a fossil, a feather) and then the pairs of cousins and friends are turned loose in the woods and fields around the house to find their interpretation of what’s on the list.

At one point, we incorporated prizes for the team that had the most creative interpretation of clues. But as they got older, the prizes went away and the kids just enjoyed their time spent together exploring and collecting.

I don’t think any of us adults thought too much about the hunt. The kids enjoyed it, were able to burn off some energy, and it got them all playing together – even if they were divided into pairs. And I know none of us thought we’d still be doing the hunt with what are now teenagers.

But every year, about an hour or two after the big meal, you’ll find our teenagers wandering around this little country neighborhood with plastic bags, full bellies and big smiles.