Thanksgiving can be the forgotten holiday in a lot of ways. Often that means we don’t get as much time off from work or school, which can translate to you being stuck in one city while your family celebrates in another.
Or maybe you’re with your family, but funds are a little short to pay for a fancy turkey dinner. Or maybe there just isn’t any sort of tradition in your life for celebrating Thanksgiving.
Here are 10 ways alternative ways to practice Thanksgiving with friends or family, giving thanks for what you do have rather than being sad about what you can’t do or don’t have.
Create your own feast
Thanksgiving meal traditionally involves turkey, but it doesn’t have to. One year when my husband and I didn’t have enough funds to get to New York for the holidays, we decided to make dinner using all of our favorite dips—hummus and veggies, cheese fondue, caramel dipped apples.
It was a fun way to make our own tradition and our kids loved that we had an entire meal consisting of “dippy food.”
Have fun with it and see how creative you can be.
Have a potluck
It can be expensive to host a big meal and have a Martha Stewart worthy decorated table, so invite friends over to bring a dish. Get a turkey or make some spaghetti and have everyone bring something to share. Gathering around a meal that you have all pitched into is a great way to celebrate the holidays with friends. (And we Midwesterners love the hotdish potlucks.)
Take a note from scripture to pray when you feel down
Philippians 4 says “rejoice in the Lord always … with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” And in that crazy way that only Jesus can do, He can guard your heart and mind from feeling sorry for yourself.
Even if you are far away from loved ones, it doesn’t mean you can’t be thankful, pray for them or tell God that you’re bummed you can’t be with them.
There are lots of places that can benefit from someone coming to help deliver meals, serve food or just be a friend to talk with. Search Google for “where to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless” for wherever you live and I guarantee you’ll find a place to demonstrate Christ’s love in practical ways.
Take some friends along. Serving together is an even better bonding experience than sharing a meal.
Take a hike with a friend
Chances are, you’re not the only one who can’t make it home. Spend some quality time with a good friend who’s also in town for the holiday. Tell them why you appreciate their friendship. Get in a leaf fight. Or act like a grown up and help rake leaves at their house.
Have a contest with friends to create a turkey out of a non-turkey food
Turkey shaped Jello? Mashed potatoes sculpted in a style of poultry? A cubist rendition with squash of that succulent gobbler? Get creative with what you have and award the winner a hearty helping of their favorite creation.
Invite a stranger over for Thanksgiving
A few years ago there was a lady who started coming to our church. She was out of work and asked us to buy her groceries, give her rides everywhere and lend her a coat. We helped with some of those requests, but we also offered to pray for her and just listen to her.
We ended up inviting her to Christmas Eve dinner with some of our friends where she drank most of our wine and made awkward comments. It wasn’t the most comfortable meal, but we were glad we could show Christ’s love to someone who felt lonely and marginalized.
Be grateful that you have a day off to take a nap or a leisurely walk. Thank Jesus that He created you as an integrated person—mind, body and soul—and that you don’t need to treat yourself like a machine. Journal about five (or more) things you’re thankful for this year.
Two words: sweatpants and takeout
It doesn’t have to be sad. It can be awesome.
Skype with a friend or family member
You may not be able to be there in person, but you can pull up a virtual chair to the table and eat with everyone else. Provided you don’t get too sad or jealous of what everyone else is eating while you look at the microwaved “turkey dinner” hotpocket on your plate.
Jessica lives with her husband and two sons in Cleveland, OH and works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship teaching college students how to talk about Jesus without sounding like creepy robotic salespeople. She's also writing a book on how God has geared women to share their faith for InterVarsity pressÑdue out in 2015. Follow her blog about evangelism, culture, motherhood and thrift-store adventures at www.jessicafick.com or on twitter @JessicaLeepFick.