If you love seeing your family or whoever you spend Thanksgiving with and enjoy the holiday as-is, then this all doesn’t apply to you. Keep doing what you’re doing. But it might apply to someone you know.
If you’re a person like me who has traditionally not enjoyed family-centric holidays and either dreaded them because you were going to spend the time with difficult people or you stopped spending the time with difficult people which created a vacuum of sorts and left you lonely or sad or both, I’m here to offer some hope.
Years ago, I posted this on Facebook:
Thankful to be spending Thanksgiving with “I made vegetarian stuffing” and not “you’re pushing your agenda on us.” Happy Thanksgiving to all!
That was a year I spent Thanksgiving at my ex-sister-in-law’s house, with many other family. They were some great people to spend time with, and I miss them.
Thanksgiving in recent years (pre-pandemic) has had all of the holiday pressure removed. Climbing Daddy and I had a tradition of going to a National or State Park for a few days (while Rocket Kid spent the holiday with Tall Daddy and his family). Being out of town meant finding a place open for dinner on Thanksgiving. Being in a park meant that we were in more remote areas with fewer choices.
We had an entertaining dinner one year at a steak house with weird red ambient light. The best meal we had was another year at a truck stop. One year we camped with lots of climbers and had a potluck. A Thai restaurant was open and walking distance of our hotel one year.
Last year with the pandemic raging, we had dinner at home—my first Thanksgiving not on the road since 2015. With just the four of us eating here, we decided to make homemade spaghetti.
Getting out of town, out of the routine of Proper Thanksgiving, was the best gift. I had no idea ahead of time how freeing it would be. Having a family to spend Thanksgiving with had been lovely and I wouldn’t trade or edit any of that if given the opportunity, but skipping town removed all the expectations.
The rub is always that other people are involved, so if that’s a stumbling point for you, too, I hear you. If you have an idea of what you might like to do, ask around. Unlikely people might be interested in joining you on your non-traditional Thanksgiving adventures, whatever they may be. Our camping trip was with a local climbing club. We didn’t really know any of the other people, but it was so different than usual, it didn’t matter. Camping and potlucking with a bunch of strangers is quite different from going to a house with all the usual things with a bunch of strangers.
Maybe you have the right people and simply the wrong traditions. Maybe everyone (or most of everyone) is on board with shaking things up. Why not?
What would you like to do that’s outside the realm of what you thought the options were? You might find relief or, even better, joy.