When the calendar turns to November, I start to feel the pressure of what’s to come: Thanksgiving. (Dun-duh-daahhh!) Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I begin to dread the day instead of celebrating it. My mind starts to focus on all I need to do to make Thanksgiving “Thanksgiving.” Making travel plans, finding a kennel for our furry baby, and creating a menu for Thanksgiving for the two meals we have, not even to mention washing clothes, packing… The list never ends. In all this hubbub, I usually forget that Thanksgiving can actually be fun.

To have the “perfect” Thanksgiving, you may be running down your own mile-long to-do list. It probably includes getting the turkey (talk about supply chain issues), cleaning the house, or decorating either your home or wherever you’ll eat dinner. It might include washing the “special” dishes, so on and so on. You get so preoccupied that you can forget that this is a time for family and friends. If you don’t read anything else in this blog, read this: Friends and family don’t expect things to be perfect; they just want to be present with you.

Here are some ways to celebrate and embrace the meaning of Thanksgiving, let go of the stress that to-do list brings, and add a little more fun into your time together.

1. Keep the focus on thankfulness.

I mean… It’s… Thanksgiving. The whole point is to keep thankfulness front and center. So take time each day during (and after!) November to practice some gratitude. Thanksgiving, more than most holidays, is about traditions. 

But a lot of times, traditions can take priority over being thankful. It’s ok to be mindful of your family’s traditions, but try not to let them stress you out so much that you neglect being grateful! Add some fun into your traditions. For example, have everyone name some funny things that have happened this year that you’re thankful for. Give a prize for the funniest story.

2. Participate in activities that encourage you to think of others.

Have a neighbor or friend you know won’t have family in town? Share the fun by inviting them to celebrate with you or taking them a plate of goodies from your gathering! 

Brainstorm with your family on ways you can be a friendly face to people who may not get to celebrate with their loved ones this year!

3. Be intentional about spending quality time together.

Making the most of your time with family and friends requires you to place your attention on the people around you, not your devices (phone or tablet).

You can try things like this:

  • Look at old photos with family. 
  • Play games like charades.
  • Take a walk after dinner or have a scavenger hunt. 
  • Have the younger guests teach the older guests one of the latest popular dances.
  • Watch old family movies of vacations and birthdays.

And you know what can make it more fun (for you, at least!) and give you more time to visit? Split your list. Let everyone take part, and complete that to-do list together. Maybe even turn it into a new tradition! Uncle Joe and cousin Kristen clear the table, Grandma J and Aunt Tammie tag-team the dishes… So on and so forth!

4. Try new things.

I know, I know, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right? I have definitely been stuck in the tradition-turmoil. You have turkey the same way. Everyone makes their “special dish.” You use the same decor. Why not shake up this year?

You could:

  • Try a new recipe or have an “easiest dish” contest.
  • Let the kids participate (make dessert or appetizers).
  • Use what’s in your yard for decor (leaves, pine cones, flowers).
  • Create a buffet instead of a sit-down meal.
  • Change the time of the meal from noon to 3PM.
  • Establish a new tradition the whole family would enjoy.

Thanksgiving, for many, is about food, family, and of course, fun! Adjusting your personal expectations can help you focus on spending time with family and enjoying each other. This year, try focusing less on the food and let family and fun be the reason you gather. Holidays are a time for us to enjoy and be grateful for the people in our lives. It’s about presence, not perfection when you gather. Making your time together more fun will increase your chances of making memories that will last a lifetime.

Other blogs:

6 Ways to Keep a Conversation From Getting Derailed

10 Sanity-Saving Tips for Holiday Gatherings

6 Tips For Healthy Relationships During The Holidays

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