It seems like this year I’m seeing more people than usual who won’t be going home for Thanksgiving and won’t have all the trappings of the holiday in their life. I realized that I’m in a unique position to offer some help! I am basically an expert at going solo on Thanksgiving, or at least not being at your normal Thanksgiving. My entire adult life, since when I would never get to come home in college since holiday break was just a couple weeks later, I have had way more non-Thanksgivings than actual Thanksgivings.
I’ve gone to a few other people’s Thanksgivings, I’ve done Friendsgiving, and all that. But I’ve also done none of these things and I am here to tell you that this is actually a pretty solid way to spend the day.
Here’s a few tips to help you with your solo Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is Terrible
This is the most important thing you need to remember. As the holiday gets closer you’re going to get sucked in to this nationwide narrative that Thanksgiving is this perfect day. Everyone is going to their family. Everyone will have a perfectly cooked meal. Everyone will eat and enjoy each other’s company. Everyone will eat pie. All of this is, honestly, bullshit.
Thanksgiving is stressful. It’s hot and crowded. There’s like 85 hours of football games playing on tv all day long. And in our current day and age there’s even bargain shopping on Thanksgiving.
People who go home for Thanksgiving are traveling during the busiest travel days of the year. They are grumpy and annoyed. They are tired and frustrated.
People who go home for Thanksgiving are in small quarters surrounded by their families. People they tolerate for a few days a year and guess what! Today is one of those days! People get anxious. They try not to fight. They also sometimes just fight. Think of all the people writing in to advice columns this very moment because they are concerned about what’s going to happen with their family next week.
You have a pass from all that. You do not have to be around people you don’t really enjoy being around! You don’t have to try to maintain a conversation while a very loud football game plays in the background! You don’t have to be in charge of a complicated dish in a hot, crowded kitchen.
You, my friend, are free.
You Can Still Have The Food You Like
There’s basically two elements to Thanksgiving: family and food. We’ve discussed the first part, now on to the second major element.
Missing food you only get once a year does suck! Let yourself mourn that. But you also do not actually have to miss all of it if you do not want to!
You can make the dish you love to make for Thanksgiving. You can also purchase pre-made versions nearly everywhere you look. (Grocery stores, to start with, especially the fancier ones.) You can have your own ridiculous Thanksgiving feast if that is what makes you happy.
A few years ago I would celebrate Thanksgiving by ordering the “Feast for Two” from the local Indian place. It was just expensive enough for me to never indulge in it normally, but it was basically 4 courses for $25 per person and we would eat it for DAYS. It was a perfect time to indulge.
You can also skip the food all together! I tend to eat whatever is laying around, but I also buy myself a pumpkin pie and eat a slice or two each day all week. It is my own pie and we have a very close bond by the time it is gone. I get to eat way more pie this way than I ever do when I go to “real” Thanksgiving.
It’s All Up to You
If there has anything I have learned about being alone (without family, without my kids, without friends) generally and on holidays, it’s that I have the power to control how I deal with it.
If I decide to be mopey, I will be mopey. I can wallow in loneliness and self-pity. And I’ve absolutely done that a few times.
But I can also decide to make the day whatever I want it to be. (This same trick applies to pretty much any holiday, but it also applies to birthdays. I am an expert at being in charge of my own feelings on my birthday, which has been awful whenever I let other people celebrate it for me.) I don’t have the same solo Thanksgiving every year. Sometimes I decide I’m going to do a bunch of writing. Sometimes I go to the movies–twice!–and catch up on the new releases. Sometimes I just sit around all day reading and sleeping in and binge-watching television. Sometimes I do work, even.
The one trick is to make sure I’m deliberate about it. I decide what the day is going to be. I usually have some plans around how I will treat myself in simple ways. These don’t have to be things that cost money, it can just be letting yourself do a thing you don’t normally. Like a nap or a long bath. I know these things are coming so I look forward to them. It helps me set the mood for the day, helps me plan, helps me monitor my state of mind.
Sometimes it is active work keeping yourself happy on a solo holiday. Sometimes it’s easy. But you should definitely lay some groundwork. Think about what simple and wonderful things you can do for yourself.
Also keep in mind that even if you have an invitation to join someone for Thanksgiving, you do not have to go if you don’t think that’s your best way to spend the day. For me, sometimes it’s been good to have and other times I would rather be on my own. You are not obligated to attend someone’s Thanksgiving. You get to do what you want. (You can even skip your family’s Thanksgiving! You can do that! There may be some fallout, but still!)
I wish you luck in embarking on Thanksgiving alone. I’m really looking forward to mine. It’ll be nice and quiet. Me and a pumpkin pie.