10 Creative Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Song – Mary Chapin Carpenter

For our family, Thanksgiving has changed through the years. 

When I was younger, Thanksgiving was a holiday that was always celebrated at my grandmother’s house.  Her house was filled with family and early in the wee hours of the morning, the men would get up and head out into the woods to hunt. 

During the hours they were away, those of us left behind would busy ourselves in the kitchen, until the start of the Thanksgiving parade. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to watch it every year.

Over time, family members moved or passed away until finally, it didn’t make sense for my grandmother to keep up the tradition for so few of us, so the celebration moved to my mother’s house.

My sister and I are both nurses.  Alternately through the years, one or both of us have had to work holidays, which has caused us all to rethink how we celebrate. 

My mother’s solution was to find a day where we could all celebrate together, which usually meant the weekend before or after the holiday. 

But there’s something about not being able to celebrate on the actual holiday.  In the earlier “work” years when I worked at the hospital, there was always a melancholy feeling that hung in the air for all the workers away from their loved ones.  We made the best of it.  Some years, our boss would try something creative like working four-hour shifts, which meant that everyone had to work something and no one actually had the whole day off.  It seemed like a good idea in theory, but in the end, no one voted to have it the same way again the following year.

Now that my siblings and I have families of our own, and in my case, the kiddos are all grown with kids of their own, it’s even harder to figure out the best way to celebrate together.  As a result, The Dane and I have found some creative ways to celebrate that are more nontraditional

    1. Make it a day of prayer – Spend the day in prayer and in thankfulness of all the things you are thankful for.  The Dane and I read the Bible together.
    2. Community Thanksgiving Dinner – one year, we volunteered to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless.  While it wasn’t on the “traditional” day of Thanksgiving, it definitely made the day special.
    3. Participate in a Turkey Trot – There’s always somebody that dresses up like a turkey and they are great fun to chase.
    4.  Celebrate Thanksgiving with friends at a restaurant – we actually did this last year with my parents and a group of friends from work.  The restaurant was local to The Dane and me.  It was amazing how many people we ran into that we knew.  It made the meal at the restaurant feel like a great big family dinner.
    5. Friendsgiving – I haven’t always heard of it being called this.  Years ago, I had a really good friend, also a nurse, who hosted Thanksgiving at her house for all the people we worked with.  It didn’t matter if you were working or not, you were invited.  The first year I went, it was a small gathering.  Over time, it became hugely popular and a lot of fun.  It made those years of working at the hospital much easier because there was a Thanksgiving meal waiting, no matter what time I had to work.  (Thanks Robin!)
    6. Go to the movies – I have a friend who is a single father.  Every year, his daughter looks very forward to this tradition.  This years releases:  Allied – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard (Spy); Moana with Dwayne Johnson (Animation); Rules Don’t Apply – Warren Beatty and Alec Baldwin (Romance); Bad Santa 2 – Billy Bob Thornton (Holiday); and Nocturnal Animals – Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal (Noir).
    7. Create new traditions – One year, The Dane and I were alone for Thanksgiving Day.  We decided to invent our own tradition for those times when the kids might not make it in.  We got up early and headed out for a walk to look at the leaves.  When we got back, we showered and put on our jammies to watch the parade.  We cheated on the holiday meal and bought it from a local restaurant and heated it together and ate it on our fancy china.  Later, we baked cookies together.  We dipped them in our hot chocolate and ate them together as we snuggled in a blanket on our back deck.
    8. Disney Trip yep, they are open for Thanksgiving.  
    9. Take a Vacation – one year, The Dane and I went to Gatlinburg, TN.  It’s a great place to spend Thanksgiving.  This one, you can share with your kiddos if you’d like, by renting a cabin and inviting the whole family along. 

10.  Host a Thanksgiving for people who you may not know very well, but you know will be alone for the holiday.

These are my top 10.  I’d love to hear your non-traditional ways of celebrating Thanksgiving.


Hat – Forever 21; Plaid Top, Tee and Jeggings – Old Navy; Shoes – Levis

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