Whether you don’t have family nearby or are tired of the traditional turkey and stuffing, this is the year to try something new. From celebrating friends to participating in a 5K, there are many alternative ways to celebrate this Thanksgiving. Who knows? These alternative traditions could become your or your children’s traditions for years to come.
Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars to travel home or eating a TV dinner alone, gather together some friends for a Friendsgiving. A Friendsgiving is typically celebrated on the day before or the day after Thanksgiving, but you can also celebrate it on the actual day. The goal is to gather together with friends and enjoy a meal together.
A traditional Friendsgiving works similar to a potluck. One friend agrees to host and provide the turkey, chicken or ham. The other guests bring side dishes and desserts. If you’re not much of a cook, store-bought dishes are completely acceptable. You could even all go in together and purchase a full Thanksgiving dinner from your local grocery store or favorite restaurant.
For a unique take on a Thanksgiving meal, try a progressive dinner where a different friend hosts each course of the meal. This works particularly well if you all live close together. If no one has the space to host, head to a local diner or a restaurant like Denny’s (as declared in Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause, they’re always open).
Give Back to Others
Instead of eating at home on Thanksgiving, spend some time giving back to others. You can go the traditional service route and sign up to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a local soup kitchen or try something a little different. Giving back also teaches kids an important lesson about the value of serving others and may help them realize they have a lot to be thankful for. Some ways to give back to others on Thanksgiving include:
- Deliver food boxes or turkey dinners to people in need
- Collecting holiday gifts for children
- Put together care packages to send to members of the military
- Send cards to people you miss
- Visit a local nursing home
- Provide a treat to the staff at a local hospital
- Go to a restaurant and leave your server a large tip
- Clean out your cupboards to gather food for a local food pantry
- Contact a local college and offer to host students who stayed on campus during the holidays
On Thanksgiving morning, thousands of people gather to participate in “Turkey Trots” around the United States. These 5Ks have become a Thanksgiving tradition of their own. Gather some friends together and enter the race together or run solo and meet new friends along the route. Many 5Ks also have special fun runs or walks, so kids can join in the fun too. If you’re not a fan of running, you can always walk the 5K or volunteer to help out with the race in another way. When the race is over, treat yourself to a hearty Thanksgiving meal.
If you’re missing your family’s annual touch football game, organize one of your own. Meet your friends at a local park or advertise the game on a local events page so others without family in the area can join you.
Have a Movie Marathon
Thanksgiving is a big day for movie releases. Head to your local movie theater and spend the day hopping from theater to theater to enjoy them all. Just be sure you purchase a ticket for each movie. If you prefer a cheaper option, invite some friends to your house for a Christmas movie marathon or a showing of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” If kids are included, pull out all of your old holiday favorites, such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Many other countries celebrate their own versions of Thanksgiving throughout the year. Introducing elements of other cultures can also turn itno a mini-geography lesson for kids. Consider adopting one of these traditions for Thanksgiving:
- In Jewish culture, some families build a hut from branches called a Sukkot. Then they eat a meal beneath the hut.
- In China, families enjoy mooncakes, filled flaky pastries. The cakes were often used to deliver secret messages.
- In Korea, families honor the deceased. They hold a memorial service and occasionally visit a graveyard before feasting on Songpyeon.
- In Liberia, chicken and mashed cassavas replace turkey and mashed potatoes on the Thanksgiving table.
- In Ancient Rome, citizens celebrated Ceres, the goddess of corn. Ceres is also where we get the word cereal, so perhaps you could incorporate some sugary cereal into your Thanksgiving meal.
However you decide to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take some time to write down what you’re thankful for.
Do you have any alternative Thanksgiving traditions? Share them in the comments!