5 Alternative Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving

For millions of Americans, Thanksgiving is a fun and festive time to celebrate all the good things in life, and eat way too much food with your extended family. But if the traditional approach to Thanksgiving has worn thin or otherwise doesn’t appeal to you, here are 5 ways to mix up your holiday celebration!

A Celebration Of Food

Thanksgiving is a holiday that, more than any other, starts and ends with food. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, and dozens of other dishes are all synonymous with this day—so is the time-honored tradition of overeating.

But if you’d like to broaden your horizons a little, there are many ways to expand your palate—and your cultural palate, as well! If you’d like to keep with the harvest theme, there are many cultures that have harvest celebrations of their own. Whether you decide to serve Chinese food, Hawaiian food, or even British food (blech!), nearly every culture has its own harvest celebration.

Show Appreciation by Helping Others

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the joy of spending a nice, relaxing day with relatives, or to obsess over the feast you just ate, but at its heart, Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all the good in your life. Because of that, I always try to show appreciation for my own good fortune by reaching out and helping families that might not have as much, or be quite as fortunate, as you.

When I was a boy scout, we’d have canned food drives early in November, and by the second week, we’d portion out the food to low-income families. It’s really heartwarming and encouraging to see all the people in the community contribute to programs such as these, but that’s nothing compared to the feeling you get from delivering these goods to the families.

“Family” Means Friends, Too

When I first moved away from home, I couldn’t afford to fly back for Thanksgiving dinner with my family. But although it saddened me, I didn’t let it stop me from celebrating! I reached out to my close friends who lived nearby, and learned that many of them were experiencing the same thing.

I quickly amassed a group of ten friends who otherwise had nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving, and organized a modest potluck at my tiny apartment. It’s important to recognize that, while holidays are a time to be with your family, the word “family” can easily apply to the people you care about. And ever since that potluck Thanksgiving, I’ve had ten new family members.

Run For It!

Most people wouldn’t normally think about exercise on Thanksgiving, especially not after three plates of turkey and gravy and stuffing. But many cities and towns have annual Turkey Day races, of varying lengths, to raise money for charities. These “Turkey Trots” are a great way to add exercise to the day—and to help rationalize eating your body weight in mashed potatoes!

Several years ago, I was dragged along to a 5k run, and although I protested the whole way, I felt great afterwards. To this day, it was the most memorable Thanksgiving I’ve ever had, and since then, I’ve spent every thanksgiving doing a different charity run.

Time Travel

If you really want to flip the script, go the super traditional route. Take your 2012 celebration back to the year 1621, and recreate the very first Thanksgiving. The few Pilgrims that had survived their first New England winter had spent the previous months learning how to plant, grow, and harvest food from the Native Americans.

Their overabundance of food—and the knowledge that they wouldn’t starve that coming winter—made them so grateful that they threw a feast. Of course, there were no ovens back then, and no pies, and no sweet potato casserole….

For some, Thanksgiving is a time of tradition. But if tradition has become dull, don’t be afraid to try out a new one—or even start your own!

Brady Kingsly is a freelance writer living in San Diego, California. You can see more of Brady’s work here or find him on Twitter here.



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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