Thanksgiving, man! Not a good day to be pants. —Kevin James
There are probably no truer words ever spoken. Yet, Thanksgiving is creeping up on us once again. It is actually my favorite holiday. I love that you get to fix all of your favorite foods, eat, and rest.
Did you notice I didn’t mention anything fancy, like gifts or parties? I absolutely love that about Thanksgiving!
But what if you must celebrate Thanksgiving without your family this year? Maybe it’s your first holiday without a loved one. Maybe you just live too far away from your loved ones to get together for Thanksgiving?
Well, though this day can be sad for many, you can still have a great Thanksgiving Day. My husband and I had to be alone on Thanksgiving once. We decided we didn’t want the runaround between houses, so we’d just celebrate Thanksgiving alone.
And you know what? We had a great Thanksgiving.
So if you are dreading Thanksgiving for whatever reason, I want to give you a few tips on how we did Thanksgiving solo and enjoyed it very much.
A Thanksgiving Home Alone – How to Enjoy it Anyway
Here is what we did:
1. We Fixed What We Loved
The first thing I enjoyed most about doing Thanksgiving by ourselves, was that we only made food which we love. It is kind of selfish, but hey, being a little selfish is a good thing every now and then.
So we made out a menu of all of our favorite dishes, and we cooked only what we wanted. I made corn pudding because that is my absolute favorite. I also learned how to make cranberry relish that year. I always have loved it, but I never attempted making it until then.
Needless to say, we had a bunch of food left over so we didn’t have to cook much that weekend, but we really enjoyed just sitting down and eating a meal with all of our favorite foods.
So if you find yourself doing Thanksgiving by yourself or just you and a loved one, don’t be sad because you won’t be at a huge family gathering. I won’t be at one either this year.
But you can still have a humdinger of a Thanksgiving no matter how many people are there to celebrate it with you.
2. Made a New Tradition
When you celebrate Thanksgiving by yourself, you have the freedom to do whatever you like. This means you can add a new tradition to the mix if you want to.
So as many of you know, my mother-in-law passed away last year and my family lives about 600 miles away from us. Which means, my husband and I, with our boys, will be spending our second Thanksgiving alone and not at a family gathering.
Though it is sad, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It has given us the freedom to make our own family traditions. One of those traditions is that we each pick a dish we want, and then we get in the kitchen that morning and cook it together. We are building memories, which my mother-in-law taught me is important.
So even if you are completely alone this Thanksgiving, think of something that you can do that will be fun or entertaining to you.
Then take pictures so the next time you are around family or friends, you can show them what you did. That way you can share a memory with someone else. You could bake fancy desserts that you normally wouldn’t make or watch a certain TV show.
Or you can go simple and not share it with anyone. Wake-up and do yoga if that is what you love. If you are more of a healthier person, then create an entire Thanksgiving around healthy foods that most people wouldn’t enjoy like you do.
There are so many options to make it a day that you’ll really enjoy.
3. Stick with an Oldy but Goody
Some families have certain traditions that are ingrained in them. When we realized we were going to start spending Thanksgiving by ourselves, we decided that there were certain things we didn’t want to lose.
One of those things was the tradition that my mother-in-law started. She’d get all of the grandkids in the kitchen with aprons and chef hats.
Then she’d give each of them a step in the process of frying apple pies. The little ones would get to play in the flour, someone else would roll out the biscuits, another child would fill, another would fork them closed, and one would take the pies to their uncle to fry them.
This was a tradition that we were not giving up. We actually added to it, though. Instead of just making apple pies, we began making peach hand pies and cherry hand pies (since those are mine and my husband’s favorites.)
Another tradition that comes from my side of the family, is we always woke up and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while cooking Thanksgiving lunch/dinner.
So I want to share this experience with my boys which is why we still do it in our family. Your traditions may be a little different, but whatever they are, if there is something you just really want to hold on to, then go for it.
It may be a little different than before, but you can still do it and cherish that memory.
4. Turn on the Television
One thing I love about spending Thanksgiving with just us is there is no rushing. We have nowhere to be, no expectations, and we can pretty much set our own schedule.
So this means, if we want to sleep in, we can. If we want to eat an early or late lunch, guess what? We can! If we want to do Thanksgiving dinner, we can!
And if we feel like plopping down on the couch with full bellies and watching football and Discovery Channel reruns, again, we can!
So after you have a full belly, then plop yourself down and watch whatever you enjoy. If that is an old movie that you normally never have time to watch, then watch it.
But if you are a football fan, then turn that on and watch it too. If nothing else, you can do what my mother-in-law used to do. If she felt like her home was too quiet, then she’d turn on the TV just for the noise and did something else she loved, like crochet.
5. Use Modern Conveniences
If you really long to be near your family for Thanksgiving, believe me, I understand. Last year, we were really nervous. We were already planning to go spend Christmas with my family, and we couldn’t afford to make the trip twice that close together.
But, at the time, we were still living at our old homestead where my mother-in-law spent her final days, and her home was located directly across the street, where we lived on a dead-end road in the woods.
So everywhere we looked we were surrounded by memories. If we looked down the hall, we saw her room. If we looked out the front door and across the road, our hearts hurt.
But you know what helped? We had Skype. When we felt like the heartache was just too much, I got my kids, put them in front of the computer, and we Skyped my mom. Her heart was hurting too because she couldn’t be near her daughter or grandkids on that holiday.
And it was comforting to talk to my mom face to face about what we were experiencing that day.
Yet, for those few moments of us talking face to face, it took some of that sting away. It made all of that heartache and loneliness that was glaring at us, disappear just a little. It was enough that I look back on that Thanksgiving with a smile, instead of only remembering the hurt.
So use modern technology to your favor, and plan on Skyping or Face Timing with loved ones that you aren’t able to be with though you really wish you could be.
6. Remember the Good Times
If you are someone spending your first Thanksgiving without a loved one, my heart hurts for you. I know that sting all too well. I’d like to tell you that it’ll be super easy and fly right by, but the chances are, that won’t be the case.
But what you can do is remember the good times. I’ll be honest, when we fried pies last year, we all cried. It is kind of humorous now because there we all were, making little hand pies, patting our dough, flour flying everywhere, and grease popping.
Then you look over, and we were all wiping our eyes, sniffling, and had trembling lips. Who knew frying pies would be so hard?
But after we finished frying the pies and wiping our eyes, it sparked some great memories. We ended up laughing and smiling remembering what a fantastic lady we had in our lives. We remembered all of the great Thanksgivings we had before and all of the funny things she would say to us.
So if you are at that point in the grief process, then try to focus on and remember the good times. If you aren’t, that’s okay too. We all handle these things differently, and it all takes time.
7. Catch Some Zzz’s
One thing we did last Thanksgiving that I had never had the opportunity to do on a Thanksgiving before…we all napped. I know, can you believe it?
It was so exciting. We shed our tears, created some new memories with old traditions, we added a few of our own traditions to the mix, we ate, we relaxed and watched TV, and the next thing I know, I woke up on the couch. It was totally dark outside and all of us had gone sound to sleep.
Oh, it was absolutely amazing! I woke up feeling refreshed and just in time to catch another Discovery Channel rerun. I also got first dibs on the leftovers.
So don’t be afraid to relax a little and catch some much-needed sleep. We all need it. Take advantage of the time to rest while you can.
8. Be Good to Yourself
Finally, be good to yourself. As I’ve said before, everyone’s situation is different. You could be a married couple taking a break from all of the holiday madness. You could be someone who just moved across the country away from your family for a job promotion and don’t know anyone yet. You could be like us and be spending that first Thanksgiving without someone who meant the world to you.
Whatever your situation, be kind to yourself. If your big Thanksgiving dinner is a turkey sandwich, that’s okay. If you spend Thanksgiving alone shedding a few tears of grief or loneliness for loved ones lost, or the family hundreds of miles away, that’s okay too. It is perfectly fine to miss them and remember the good times, so don't beat yourself up if you are sad.
But you know what? If you do nothing else on Thanksgiving, treat yourself! Buy ice cream and make that sundae you love but usually feel guilty about because of all of the calories. Watch that movie that your TV provider charges you $5.99 for a 3-day rental, and you are usually too frugal to pay for such a thing.
Or curl up on your couch in sweatpants, with a big tub of popcorn, and binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Whatever will be something special for you that day, do it. You deserve it!
So you now have my tips on how you can make your Thanksgiving alone a super special occasion no matter what circumstances surround you.
Truthfully, I think spending a holiday alone is something we all should do from time to time because it gives us that needed break that we all too often desperately need but never take the time to do.
Plus, it gives you insight into those people that spend year after year alone on Thanksgiving. I once was too shy to invite anyone around for the holidays, but not anymore. I know that feeling now, and even if you won’t come over, I’ll still bring you a Thanksgiving dinner to make sure you eat something good for the holiday.