What makes you feel thankful? Hopefully, one of the items on your list is spending the holiday with loved ones. If you’re looking for ways to make this feast even more memorable, you’ve come to the right place.
Your family traditions create an ongoing saga of your life. Honor those you love most by creating routines that reinforce the cohesiveness of your squad. Whether you sit down to sup with an extended family group or a small circle of friends, you’ll look forward to inventing new variations of these yearly rituals.
1. Start a Gratitude Game. In the commotion of prepping, it’s easy to overlook the reason for the holiday. Keep gratitude at the forefront of your celebrations by inventing different games to honor the emotion.
Each day leading up to the festivities, start dinner conversation with, “This just in.” Then, prompt each family member to share one thing they’re grateful for that day. Alternately, create a thankfulness tree where you hang small ornaments symbolizing the things you appreciate. You can decorate with origami notes and open them as you sit down on Turkey day.
2. Reinvent Dinnertime Chit-Chat. Does political divisiveness in your family leave you stressing over whether Uncle Joe will throw the gravy boat again? Why not head off awkward dinnertime conversation by including appropriate prompts inside your place settings? You can write questions that encourage friendly introspection, such as, “What is something you wish you knew more about?”
3. Create a Potluck Theme. Do you prepare everything — from soup to nuts — for your Thanksgiving feast? Create a new tradition by having guests arrive early and bring their favorite finger snacks. One guest might contribute kale and white bean artichoke dip while another brings an exotic salad. Set a theme for each year, and encourage revelers to bring dishes appropriate for those with food allergies.
4. Get Creative With Your Turkey. When it’s time to make the bird, do you go the traditional oven route? If so, make your feast day fresher by mixing up your mode of preparation. You can grill a turkey with a jalapeño injection for a spicy twist on a Thanksgiving favorite. As a bonus, you’ll reduce the fat and calorie content while keeping your bird juicy.
Think beyond the traditional turkey. More people today opt for vegan or vegetarian lifestyles. Consider trying a mushroom lentil roast or other plant-based dishes. You could also skip the roast idea altogether—who says you can’t celebrate the Italian way with lasagna?
5. Redesign Traditional Dessert. Yes, you could stop at the grocery store and pick up a prefab pumpkin pie—but where’s the fun of that? Let your guests know you slaved away in the kitchen without saying a word by trying one of these inventive desserts:
- Apple spice cake
- Cranberry nut bread
- Pecan pie brownies
- Pumpkin pie truffles
- Caramel apple cheesecake
6. Place Non-Monetary Wagers. If your gathering resembles many, you’ll follow your Thanksgiving feast with some televised football. Sure, you could bet $5 on the game. However, why not let everyone get involved in the fun—even the kids—by making wagers non-monetary?
You could bet that the losing team has to wash and put away the dishes, for example. Since networks usually broadcast several games, you can simplify cleanup efforts. Perhaps the losers of the next match run the vacuum cleaner and wipe down countertops.
7. Play Some Board Games. Who says you have to glue yourself to the TV? Break out the board games to make Thanksgiving more memorable. Games like Twister give you a mild yoga workout while providing laughs. Everyone can enjoy simple card games such as Uno or Slapjack. Break out the whole collection—some relatives can relax with chess while others get into Monopoly.
8. Burn Off Those Calories. If the weather permits, head outside after your big feast and take a walk—or play some mini Olympic games. You can make a homemade bean bag game out of pool noodles, for example. You can also set up a simple obstacle course or play old favorites like Red Light, Green Light.
Is it too cold to head outdoors? If you have a video game console, rent games from your local library for no or low-cost. Some organizations allow you to rent the system, such as the PlayStation or Wii, too.
9. Give Back in an Original Way. Many people volunteer at a local food bank for Thanksgiving. While noble, most community help organizations have ample hands during this time of year. They do, however, need assistance at other times—commit to helping during a non-peak period.
Alternately, consider making care packages for the homeless with items like warm socks and gloves. Include personal hygiene products, such as tampons and hand sanitizer. Your local dollar store offers such items for very little money. The best gift is recognizing the humanity in others, so smile and make eye contact when handing these out.