Most of us already have our “ways” of doing Thanksgiving — ways our mother did it, ways our extended family did it, ways our neighborhood did it. Thanksgiving doesn’t lend itself well to trying out new traditions, but sometimes the situation calls for it — you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving, for example, or you have a family now and want to start traditions of your own. So what can you do to heighten, deepen, and extend Thanksgiving to its most memorable end?
- Start the day with an indulgent, relaxing breakfast.
While some people are firmly in the “no breakfast” camp to save room for the big meal later, we love the idea of starting the day in such a festive, delicious way! Pancakes, waffles, eggs, even pie – it’s all good.
- Take time for yourself before time with family.
As wonderful as Thanksgiving can be, we all know it can be exhausting and overwhelming. That’s why it’s such a good idea to deliberately take a little time for yourself during the day to make sure you enjoy the holiday on your terms.
- Remember loved ones who have passed.
Holidays can be bittersweet when beloved family members or friends are missing from the gathering. Look through old photo albums and recall funny, tender or important achievements of those who are gone but not forgotten.
- Write your thanks on a butcher paper tablecloth.
Cover the table with butcher paper. During the meal, distribute pens and ask each family member to write down a few things they’re thankful for on the paper and then take turns reading them out loud. We love the practice during the Thanksgiving meal of naming things you’re thankful for, and this is a unique way to do it – especially since you can tear off and save particularly meaningful memories.
- Let everyone toast!
Another way to make gratitude gushing even more festive is to let everyone make a toast. Raise your glass to the year, to your family, to your friends!
- Have the kids serve dessert.
Let the bigger kids get in on the action of serving to their family. Put them in charge of delivering dessert and coffee after the meal. The oldest can plate and pour while the younger kids can take orders and serve. It keeps them busy after the meal while the adults talk and gives them a broader sense of appreciation for the holiday.
- Have Thanksgiving dinner early.
Planning for a 3 p.m. dinner shifts the momentum of the day. An earlier meal creates a more relaxed celebration, plus there’s plenty of time to digest before going to bed. An earlier dinner also accommodates traveling guests and lets them return home at a reasonable hour.
- Take a long walk together after dinner.
No one is ready for dessert right after dinner anyway, so why not take that time to go on a long walk with your loved ones? Enjoy the cool, crispy (and hopefully dry) autumn weather and get the blood flowing again after all that rich food.
- If it’s just two of you, really treat yourself.
It can be hard to justify making a huge Thanksgiving meal when it’s just two of you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less special, or even any less of a treat. In fact, it should be more so. Make it special by treating yourselves to nicer ingredients and better wine than you would normally use if you were cooking for a large group.
- Stay connected with family members far away.
If you can’t be with your loved ones on Thanksgiving, thankfully you can still be together — just virtually! Do a video call or Google Hangout before dinner, or Facetime family members in for the giving-thanks portion of the evening.