The best part about celebrating Thanksgiving is that you can do it any way you like. Although the standard turkey, stuffing, pie and football are on most household agendas, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do Thanksgiving right. In an age of food blogs and Pinterest, the options for your Thanksgiving menu and entertainment ideas are endless. Here are a few tips for those who plan on having a less-than-traditional Thanksgiving this year.
Let Guests Know in Advance
A lot of people are resistant to change, especially when things change during the holidays. In order to keep everyone’s expectations on par with your plans, be sure to include a brief and fun explanation with your invitation. You can do this over the phone, via e-vite or in a formal invitation sent by snail mail. This will also give family and friends a chance to voice their thoughts on the matter and allow you to put out any small fires before the big event.
Try Something Other than Turkey
Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, but not everyone is a fan of the famous holiday bird. So why not try another main attraction for your Thanksgiving table? Consider these other options:
- Baked Ham. Ham might be the second-most popular main dish item to serve during the holiday season – next to turkey. This baked ham in champagne recipe will have your guests saying “What turkey?”
- Chicken Breast. Chicken is another safe bet for non-turkey Thanksgiving, because it is a dish that everyone is familiar with. The breasts can even be split and stuffed like they do in this recipe.
- Cornish Game Hen. Cornish game hen provides a solution to the Thanksgiving overeating problem. With all the sides and dessert available, cooking a Cornish game hen instead of a turkey is a great way to avoid what I like to call Homer Simpson syndrome.
- Grilled Oysters. Historians agree that some form of fish was probably on the menu at the first Thanksgiving, since the New England area is abundant with seafood. So it might be a fun to serve clams or oysters as part of an “Original Thanksgiving” party. You may want to offer this as a secondary item, though, since it will take a lot of oysters to satiate hungry guests. Grilled oysters would be a great option for a small dinner party.
- Prime Rib. Many families eat prime rib to celebrate special occasions, and since Thanksgiving is a special occasion, why not? This prime rib recipe will have your friends and family licking their chops before dinner is even served.
- Turducken. If you want to keep turkey on the menu but still change it up, try this chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey dish made famous by football analyst John Madden. This recipe will have your own turducken in the oven in no time.
Change-Up the Sides
Side dishes can be changed, too. One element of the holiday is to celebrate the harvest. There are a lot of foods besides green bean casserole that are harvested in the fall, so this is where you can get creative. Braised red cabbage is a great choice, as well as anything with squash. This butternut squash with cinnamon and honey recipe is sure to be a hit.
Invite Non-Family Members
Sad as it is to say, there are a lot of people who either cannot make it home for Thanksgiving or do not have much of a family to go see. If you know people in this situation, rather than feeling sorry for these people or putting them out of your mind, invite them to your family’s Thanksgiving. If you are one of those displaced individuals, you could try organizing a Thanksgiving dinner among friends, so you can spend the holiday with people you like.
Engage in Activities that Do Not Involve the TV or a Deck of Cards
For most families, post-Thanksgiving dinner includes slipping into a turkey coma while the football game is on or playing card games. In order to better spend time with your family and friends here are some fun activities that you can do:
- Make Thanksgiving crafts. The kids will love cutting up construction paper to make their own crafts. Who knows, even some adults might want to make their own turkey hat or turkey centerpiece.
- Say what you’re thankful for. The purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks for the positive things that happened in the previous year. Taking a couple of turns around the dinner table saying what everyone is thankful for is a great way to honor the deeper meaning of the holiday.
- Play Thanksgiving Jeopardy. It is just like regular Jeopardy, but the solutions are Thanksgiving-related. Here is an online version of Thanksgiving Jeopardy, but if you want to make it more life-like, the clues and responses can easily be transferred to note cards and a piece of poster board.
- Make a family cook book. Even if you decide to change the entire menu for a year, it would be a nice keepsake for family members to actually write down all of the secret family recipes, like Grandma’s pecan pie, in a book. You can even take pictures of Grandma working her magic on the pie.
Get Out of the House
Who’s to say that Thanksgiving needs to take place in someone’s house? Here are some ideas on how to give thanks in a different venue:
- Have a Thanksgiving Picnic. If you live in a warm climate or if Thanksgiving is abnormally warm, having Thanksgiving dinner at a park is a great way to enjoy the fresh fall air.
- Go for a family walk. There’s no better way to burn off all that turkey and stuffing like going for a stroll around the neighborhood. You can even document the event by taking a family photo in the fall leaves.
- Go to a restaurant. Going out to eat takes the pressure and stress out of Thanksgiving. In most cities, there are several restaurants that remain open on Turkey Day. The best way to find one of these is to search online for “restaurants open on thanksgiving in ________.”
- Volunteer at a shelter. The best way to celebrate the holidays is by giving back to those who are less fortunate. Volunteering at a soup kitchen during Thanksgiving can strengthen friendships and draw families closer together. It also gives those who are down on their luck a reason to be thankful.