Alternative Ways to Celebrate Turkey Day

Thanksgiving. You know the drill: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, Aunt Suzie’s mystery Jell-O, cranberries, dinner rolls, green bean casserole—it’s the standard American Thanksgiving meal—and then an afternoon yawning into the evening of watching football, trying to stay awake. It’s part of our American tradition. In many families the menu seldom changes, the attendees remain basically the same and the day’s line-up of events pretty much stays unchanged year after year.

Tried and True Traditions

Growing up, I remember Thanksgiving as a holiday that had a set script that my family never deviated from. My mom would prepare a big traditional Thanksgiving meal that we all enjoyed together as a family. The main thing I remember about the Thanksgivings of my childhood is that my mom was stressed out about the work involved with preparing a big meal and playing hostess to a houseful of guests. I’m sure many of us have similar childhood memories of Thanksgiving.

Try Something New

Because families can get oddly peculiar about Thanksgiving and Christmas, and there are so many blended families today, it can be a real challenge to decide how best to allocate time with family when there are lots of family units to consider. My kids are from a previous marriage, and when I remarried, my new husband and I decided early on that we weren’t going to subject our kids to a family tug-o-war at holidays. We didn’t want our kids to be pressured to bounce from house to house—it was a holiday after all, shouldn’t they be allowed to enjoy it? My hubby and I decided we would simply celebrate the holiday when we could all be together; after all, isn’t Thanksgiving about gratitude and taking a moment to reflect on our blessings, rather than a specific day on the calendar?

On the other hand, if cooking a feast is your way of showing your family that you love them, then go for it! But, on the outside chance that it’s not? Forget it and do something enjoyable with your family. Go for a hike, watch fun movies, toss a pizza in the oven, play games, whatever—just enjoy time with your family. Heck, even watch football if you want. Also, if going to a family member’s home to celebrate the day causes you stress, give yourself permission to take a pass—family drama and old wounds can resurface during holiday get-togethers—and simply take care of yourself (sometimes it’s best to feel gratitude for your family from a distance)

Other folks, however, choose to observe the holiday in an altogether different manner, by treating the time away from work as an opportunity to take a short vacation, reunite with friends, catch up on chores around the house or simply relax.

The Reason for the Season

Thanksgiving—the real meaning of Thanksgiving—is to reflect on our lives, to take a moment to contemplate our blessings, our families, our health, friends, and those things for which we are grateful. How you choose to honor the holiday is your personal choice, so make it memorable!