Thanksgiving's built on tradition—but if you'd like to make the holiday a little more memorable, here are some great ways to spice it up.
There’s the turkey (or tofurkey, if you’re a vegetarian), the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, and of course, the pumpkin pie. There are relatives that you haven’t seen all year. There’s the post-dinner football game on TV. There is comfort in tradition, and Thanksgiving is full of traditions, many of which have been passed down from our earliest colonial ancestors.
But sometimes it’s nice to try something a little different. If you’re ready to shake up your Thanksgiving, here are some unique ideas that will make the holiday unforgettable.
Hold a pre-Turkey Day “experimental potluck.” Erik Fabian, owner of DoubleHappinessNYC.com, hosts an experimental potluck with his girlfriend every year, a week or two before Thanksgiving. “The idea is to encourage people to practice some new dish they have always wanted to try on Turkey Day or to make up for past failures with a redo.” So if you’ve been eying a Sweet Potato Pie recipe from your Gourmet Today cookbook but aren’t sure if it’s worthy of the big day, invite your friends over for a potluck and test it out on them in a pressure-free environment. Even if the food isn’t picture-perfect, it’ll probably be even more fun than the real Thanksgiving.
While the grown-ups are cooking, invite the kids to make the centerpiece and other Thanksgiving crafts. Children will love making fun and festive decorations from gourds, using glitter and construction paper as decoration. For more kid-friendly decoration ideas, check out FamilyFun’s list.
Play a family game. It’s rare that you have such a large crowd gathered under one roof—so take advantage of it with a fun game the whole family can play. Bingo, in particular is fun for young and old alike. Melissa Kaupke, of Insight Management in Tennessee, plays a game of bingo with her whole family every year. “Everyone brings gifts wrapped up (usually in the most extravagant wrapping they can come up with – the shinier the wrapping or the bigger the bow the better!) to use for prizes,” she says. “The gifts are anything from items found around the house, to regifted items, to candy, to five pounds of pennies, to lottery tickets, to dollar store items – you never know what you will get.”
Incorporate your family’s ethnic traditions. No one says you need to stick with the traditional Thanksgiving meal, especially if you prefer your own ethnic cuisine. Cathy Nobriga Kim’s Hawaiian Thanksgiving meal pays tribute to her family’s Portugese heritage, with a 35-gallon pot of boiled meat and vegetables, along with the roasted turkey—barely enough to feed her 50-member extended family. Try spicing up the traditional dishes with some ingredients common in your culture, or create something new for the holiday.
Turn your tablecloth into a momento. This wonderful idea comes from Mark Borowski, of BigSlickDaddy.com: “We use a vinyl tablecloth and put out a few permanent markers,” he says. “Then we allow family members to write something on the table cloth during or after dinner or tape a greeting card to it. It could be something they’re thankful for this year, a special memory they have, or just good wishes. Then each year, whoever is hosting Thanksgiving uses the same tablecloth so we can read what people wrote from previous years and relive the memories.”
Skip the Black Friday shopping craze and stay home. Yes, there are plenty of deals to be found in shops the day after Thanksgiving—but is it really worth joining a stampede for? Instead, hang out around the house with your relatives. Take a walk to a nearby park, read a story to the kids, play a game of Scrabble. You may not see eye-to-eye with everyone there, but this is probably the only chance you’ll have all year to connect with many of your relatives—so take the time to find some common ground.