When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was a big deal in my house. We would always get together with my dad’s huge extended family for tons of food, great conversation, and hours of games and fun with my cousins.
Then, I had to grow up and move away.
My first Thanksgiving away from home was when I was in college, and I was fortunate enough to have some particularly outgoing and ambitions dorm-mates who spearheaded a Thanksgiving dinner for those of us still on campus. I let them take the lead and I unconsciously gleaned ideas from them on how to make it an awesome, decidedly un-lame celebration even when you can’t be with family.
Try not to spend Thanksgiving alone
It can be very tempting for us introverts to declare that it’s not a big deal and not worth the effort to be outgoing, that it’s just another day and we might as well hang out alone at home.
This is just not true. In my humble opinion, there is no better way to set yourself up for an evening of depression than to pretend you don’t care and just go it alone.
It might not be convenient or easy, but I definitely think it’s worth the effort to try and connect with others in some way to celebrate. Here are some ideas to get you started.
If you have roommates, try to celebrate with them
If you live with other people, even if you’re not fortunate enough to be close with them, go out of your way to see if they’d like to celebrate with you. Chances are, if they aren’t near family either, they’ll appreciate you reaching out and both of you will be better off for it.
When I lived with roommates during grad school, I failed at this. We all spent our first Thanksgiving as single adults kind of alone despite living together, mostly for lack of talking about it beforehand. We all just let the holiday sneak up on us and didn’t realize until after the fact that we could have had a lovely evening together if we’d put a bit of forethought and effort into it.
Invite yourself somewhere
For the majority of the year, a suggestion like this would likely be just plain awkward. But holidays are different.
Big celebrations are often the best celebrations. At holidays, people are typically more open and generous. Add in the combination of everything you can bring to the table (figuratively and literally!) and there’s really no reason not to give this a try.
A lot of times, people don’t invite us to celebrate with them simply because they don’t realize we’d like the invite. So put yourself out there a bit and ask a friend if they have any plans that could potentially include you.
If you have a dating profile on some Catholic dating apps, message people you’ve been getting to know and ask them if they have plans. You could always get to know someone over a video chat over this holiday weekend!
If nothing else, volunteer somewhere
If you don’t have roommates and have somehow missed the boat on finding some other friends open to you crashing their party, you’ve still got options.
Volunteering somewhere such as a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving is probably not what you picture your holiday looking like. But it can be a good idea for a lot of reasons.
- You’re not alone.
- You’re helping people.
- Charity equals heavenly reward.
All of these things mean a much smaller likelihood of your holiday feeling lame at the end of the day.
Embark on a turkey adventure
Okay, perhaps you’ve found a couple friends or roommates who have similarly no plans for Thanksgiving so you’ve decided to spend it together. Great! But here’s where I suggest you go big or go home.
It’s tempting to just order Chinese or something and call it good. The community/quality time aspect is perhaps the most important part, so if you’ve nailed the task of finding people to spend Thanksgiving with, you’re still well on your way to what will hopefully be a lovely celebration.
But don’t take the easy way out. Sure, cooking a turkey is kind of hard. But it just so happens that the hardest things in life are often the most rewarding.
YouTube it, check out Pinterest, enlist your companions to help you, and you’ll probably be surprised at how fun it can be and how accomplished you’ll feel. Plus, nothing beats a fridge full of leftovers.
Is cooking a turkey an absolute necessity for Thanksgiving? No. But don’t wimp out and just skip it because you think it’ll be too hard. If you do opt to skip the bird, it had better be for such a solid reason as that you prefer ham, you’re a vegetarian, or your oven is broken.
Don’t be afraid to make new traditions
Your Thanksgiving as a single adult, is probably not going to look exactly the same as it did in your family growing up. That’s all right. Embrace it.
Make Thanksgiving your own this year. Now is the time to start that game night you’ve always wanted for post-meal bonding, or to give that whole “What are you thankful for?” thing you’ve always seen on TV a try. Maybe you always wished your family had made time for morning Mass in their Thanksgiving agenda – no better time than now to make it a part of your own traditions.
You might not ever get back the lovely family holiday of your nostalgia-tinged memories, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept mediocrity or worse in your present state of life. Give it some thought and resolve to make this Thanksgiving what you really want it to be.