7 Ways to Make Thanksgiving a Holiday You Love

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Written by: Mary Jo Wise – Family First

I asked my kids their favorite and least-favorite holidays. While Christmas came out on top for both, one of my kid’s named “Thanksgiving” as the worst. “But” said this child, “some of the food is good.” “Like which foods?” I inquired. “The cornbread, the pie, and Nana’s cranberry Jell-O salad.” Ah. It seemed like Thanksgiving wasn’t all bad. But both agreed; they didn’t love it. I understood. Keeping up with annual Thanksgiving traditions usually involves a lot of work for parents, but not everyone appreciates them. I wanted things to change—for all of us—this Thanksgiving. But how?

To help Thanksgiving move up on the favorite holidays list, I thought about what we could do differently. If your family struggles with loving this holiday too, maybe you can give Thanksgiving an overhaul this year by incorporating one of these 7 ways to turn it into a holiday with Thanksgiving traditions you all love.

1. Start a new tradition.

As a teen, I worked the holidays at a movie theater and on those days, my boss let my family see shows for free. I’d serve up the popcorn, make some money, and my parents and sister got a treat. We all liked the arrangement, and it lasted for a handful of years. What can your family do that’s different and will make this holiday one you love? Thanksgiving traditions don’t have to be the stuff of your childhood. Make new ones with the family you have now.

2. Have a parade party.

Parades have this old-timey feel to them, don’t they? If you’re lucky enough to live near a city with a Thanksgiving parade, why not attend in person this year? If you can’t find a parade in town, tune in to one on TV. Make it special by having breakfast on the couch and watching as a family. You might be surprised how fun this can be for kids.

3. Bake a pie—or a different sweet treat—with the kids.

My kids and I have baked an apple pie together for most of the last several Thanksgivings. Maybe your family would prefer to bake a cake on Thanksgiving? Or something fancy like scones or donuts? Do what makes your family happy and create a new, sweet Thanksgiving tradition together.

4. Decide on good enough dinner prep.

My husband makes Thanksgiving dinner and is the type of guy who enjoys the challenge of a new stuffing recipe each year. As for me, I’m just happy I don’t have to cook. Talk with your husband about what you both envision for the holiday. Be realistic. What people remember most from Thanksgiving is the company and whether their bellies are full. So, just make sure there’s enough, but don’t stress over whether it’s Michelin quality.

5. Combine travel with a tourist activity.

Does the Thanksgiving tradition of traveling on the holiday make your stomach hurt? Me too. Growing up, I hated sitting in someone else’s living room for hours while the adults talked. And as an adult, I find it just about as hard. So, I’ve proposed to my husband that we combine our next trip with some sort of fun, touristy activity. I know there’s not a lot open on the actual holiday, but if you plan something for the day after, it might give you and the kids something else to look forward to.

6. Invite people you don’t know well.

Some of my most memorable Thanksgivings included untraditional guests—the elderly lady on our block, my son’s friend and his family, and my husband’s single coworker who got stranded in town last minute without dinner plans. Because we didn’t normally have holiday dinners together, these occasions became exciting very quickly. Think about who you can invite this year. New topics of conversation make things interesting!

7. Choose a friends-giving or self-giving activity.

I went to a “friends-giving” party a couple years ago, which was kind of like a potluck with various dishes—some Thanksgiving themed, but some dishes from the hostess’s Filipino background. I loved trying her plantains! If this is your kind of thing, host on the weekend before Thanksgiving so you’re free to do something else on the actual day. If you prefer something quieter, carve out time for some “self-giving” and whatever that means to you. It could be eating the leftover stuffing in front of your favorite TV show the next day. Or it could mean taking yourself to a coffee shop for some quiet time to read. Either way, it’s a special treat. That way, when Thanksgiving looms on the calendar, you have something to look forward to.

8. Break with tradition.

I grew up with the white noise of football games on TV during Thanksgiving. These days, our family keeps the TV off. Why not break the tradition that bothers you and start fresh with your family? A friend of mine doesn’t even make a turkey (her family eats lasagna). If your idea of family fun isn’t board games or backyard touch football, pick something you like. Go on a bike ride. Decorate for Christmas. Do what makes your family light up when you say, “Thanksgiving’s almost here!”

Which Thanksgiving traditions do you love, and which ones would you rather give up?