Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season – followed by Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s- and it is my favorite holiday! Not only is it my favorite meal, but it is celebrated with my closest friends and family, whom I rarely get to spend time with.
Over the years, we’ve experimented with many Thanksgiving traditions, even creating some of our own, but they all have their way of bringing us closer together and making joyous memories.
Since we’re the type of family that likes to change things up a bit, we try to do something a little different each year. Here, I’ve gathered up some of my most memorable, super fun Thanksgiving traditions we’ve partaken in and some that we still do! I’m very excited to share these with you.
You certainly need to try these out!
1. Make Dinner a Potluck
A potluck is a great way to take the pressure off a single person doing all the cooking for Thanksgiving. However, this requires a little bit of planning with your guests. Talking it out or creating a sign-up sheet is a great way to see what each person wants to contribute. This way, you can make sure you have appetizers, a main dish, enough sides, drinks, and desserts, and no duplicates.
Having a potluck on Thanksgiving can even make clean-up a breeze as everyone takes home leftovers and the dish they brought. It gives you more time with family! While potlucks are more traditional among Friendsgiving celebrations, who says you can’t have one for every holiday gathering!
2. Try a Non-Traditional Dish
Thanksgiving is most famous for turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, but we’re all about starting our own traditions. Some families also have reasons to serve other dishes than the norm. There may be some guests with food allergies, are vegetarian, or may just not like turkey.
If you or anyone in your family is obsessed, like my son with mashed potatoes, it is a common side dish in our house, so we like to experiment with some non-traditional Thanksgiving side dishes to switch things up a bit. Alternative main dishes that have gained popularity are salmon, pork roast, and even lasagna.
3. Break The Wishbone
Breaking the wishbone dates back to ancient Italian civilization and is now part of our Thanksgiving tradition. It is believed that birds possess divine powers, and breaking this bone gives us access to these powers.
How it works is two people pull apart the wishbone simultaneously, and whoever has the larger part will have their wish granted.
4. Decorate Thanksgiving Cookies with Your Guests
Who doesn’t love cookies? Decorating Thanksgiving cookies is a great activity for all ages. Not only does it bring your family and friends closer together, but in the end, you get to enjoy a delicious treat.
You can make any type of cookie you and your guests love. Make them into fun Thanksgiving shapes with this adorable cookie cutter set, and smother them with your favorite icing or sweet toppings. One of our favorites is this Thanksgiving turkey cookie recipe from Pillsbury!
5. Have a Pie Competition
There’s no harm in a little friendly competition, especially when it comes to pie! Having a pie competition at Thanksgiving is a fun activity, and every guest will love getting a taste of different ones rather than just the traditional pumpkin pie. There are printables, so you can set up a fun table to display the desserts and have each pie properly labeled.
You can even ask the baker to bring along a copy of the recipes – if they are willing to share because who knows, you might even fall in love with a new type of pie! Awards are up to you and your guests. We take pride in knowing our dessert was enjoyed, but you can do something as simple as the winner doesn’t have to help with the clean-up.
6. Play a Game
After we eat a big meal, especially turkey, we suddenly slip into a food coma. However, it’s time to turn it around and get outside to play some backyard games. Adults and kids can play cornhole, ring toss, backyard bowling, soccer, croquet, baseball, or even a game of touch football.
Sometimes the weather doesn’t allow outdoor activities. Luckily you can still play indoor games such as board games, card games, or charades.
7. Watch a Classic Movie
Football games are likely the most popular thing to have on TV at Thanksgiving. But, since not everyone is a fan, gathering with your guests to watch a classic movie is an enjoyable and relaxing experience. It may be your favorite holiday movie you’ve seen a thousand times or something new that you fall in love with.
It can also be something you do every year – pick the same movie to only watch together on Thanksgiving or do something different each year, taking turns who gets to pick or bring the film of choice.
8. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
For some, holidays are the only times of the year you can get together with family or friends. Lives are busy, and people live out of state whatever the reason. That’s why sharing photos is a great way to catch up on the past weeks or months since you’ve seen each other.
Pulling out an old photo album and reminiscing about pastimes is another great Thanksgiving activity.
9. Pick Names for Secret Santa
Every Thanksgiving, my family and I choose our secret Santa. As our family grew over the years, buying a gift for everyone just became unreasonable. That’s why on a piece of paper, we write down our name and three things we would like within a specified budget.
We then put that paper in a hat and write names. If we get ourselves or someone that is in our same household, we draw again. When Christmas comes around, and we open our gifts, we try to guess who had us!
10. Decorate for Christmas
Who said Thanksgiving is too early to decorate for Christmas? Not us! The holiday season brings joy to many of us and decorating together as a family is even more joyous – especially when holidays are the only times you get to see some friends or family members.
Decorating early has many benefits. Not only does the twinkle of Christmas lights, sparkly ornaments, and garland wrapped around my staircase fill me with Christmas spirit but decorating in stages makes it feel less rushed and stressful. We also have many sentimental ornaments that we enjoy reminiscing over each year.
Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks and counting our blessings. It can also be the perfect day to give back. Volunteering at a local food bank, animal shelter, soup kitchen, etc., is a great way to help people and organizations in need.
Find volunteer opportunities near you by contacting your local council, checking the newspaper, or searching the internet.
12. Take a Trip
Thanksgiving is typically one of the busiest travel days of the year, but sometimes you just need to get away. For some, holidays can feel like an obligation – all the preparing, cooking, or cleaning can be a burden. Occasionally, it is beneficial to slow things down and “escape”.
While you can do this with just your little family, we’ve done it with our closest family and friends with whom we usually spend the holidays.
We rented a cabin with views of nothing but nature and ordered dinner. We still played games, watched classic movies, took a trip down memory lane, and picked our secret Santa, just in a home away from home.
Make Your Own Traditions
Thanksgiving traditions have evolved over the years, and many families now choose to make their own. I love trying new things but also love the idea of traditions. Since the Thanksgiving meal is my most favorite meal of the year, we always have the traditional foods, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. However, we try to incorporate some non-traditional side dishes to spice it up a bit!
We’d love to hear about your Thanksgiving traditions in the comments below!