The holidays are almost here, and Thanksgiving marks their inauguration. If you want to kick off the season right, make turkey day about more than the bird.
How can you make the most of Thanksgiving this year? Here are eight tips to help you entertain your guests while you enjoy the festivities, too.
1. Charge an “Entry” Fee
No, this suggestion doesn’t mean sending out invitations and asking attendees to contribute money toward the meal. However, COVID-19 and its economic impact haven’t disappeared the way many had hoped. Experts estimate that 17 million more Americans struggle with hunger than in pre-pandemic times, and many went without enough food well before last February.
Start your holiday season with an act of kindness. Ask your guests to bring a donation of a non-perishable food item to contribute to a local bank. You can also have attendees contribute a new pair of socks or gloves toward a blessing bag for the homeless.
2. Try a Different Entree
You might think that “everyone” serves turkey on Thanksgiving, but nearly 20% of Americans opt for a less traditional entree. If you have a blended family where many guests eat more than one meal, why not tempt their tummies with a roast or lasagne instead.
Who said that your meal needs to include animal flesh at all? If you have vegetarians or vegans in your crew, a roasted Thanksgiving cauliflower lets them chow down guilt-free. Pair it with other tempting vegan dishes to make everybody happy and feel welcome.
3. Dine, Al Fresco,
Back in the days when the first Thanksgiving took place, early Americans didn’t have dining rooms. How could the whole crew gather around the table? They dined al fresco.
If you live in a warmer part of the country, why not take your festivities outside to enjoy the sunshine without sweltering? Those who live in more northern climates can use patio heaters to keep guests cozy. In these pandemic times, a socially distant holiday get-together shows you care and helps keep everyone safe.
4. Offer Fun (and NA) Beverages
The tastiness doesn’t stop at the solid food table. To elevate your Thanksgiving feast, offer various unique beverages — both alcoholic and virgin. Who wants to stare at the punch bowl with longing because they signed on as the designated driver?
You can make a unique and adult-tasting punch by mixing non-alcoholic kombucha and cola — add a few cherries and orange slices to the bowl. For the tippling set, an apple-cider-and-bourbon punch screams, “Fall is here!”
5. Play Gratitude Charades
Yes, you want to chow down — but you don’t want your guests to eat and immediately roll off toward home. Why not start the games off by putting a creative spin on the classic “share one thing you’re thankful for” motif?
Instead of going around and reciting what you feel grateful for, play a game of charades. Make it a team sport — whichever group loses has to do the dishes.
6. Make a Pair of Family Wishes
Does your crew invariably argue over who gets the wishbone? Why not make it so that everybody wins? This idea works best if you have a smaller family-only group, but you can modify it for larger gatherings.
Instead of having only two individuals wrestle over individual wishes, brainstorm two things you hope to come true for your crew in the following year. That way, whichever way the wishbone breaks, everyone emerges a winner.
7. Involve the Whole Family in Active Fun
Does everyone collapse into naptime after the feast? Exercise gets the muscles in your digestive system moving, meaning fewer moans and groans about upset tummies.
Why not go for a walk together after your meal? Your local playground will probably be a ghost town, so if you have little ones in tow, take advantage of the available equipment for them to play.
Outdoor games make social distancing a breeze. Who says you can’t break out Cornhole or volleyball after Labor Day? If inclement weather keeps you indoors, rent an active game like bowling or boxing to pop in your gaming console.
8. Get Ready for the Big Game
What’s the second-best thing about Thanksgiving outside of the bird? It’s football, of course. Since the big game is apt to steal the show, why not let it take center stage by throwing a mini living room tailgate party?
When you hit the grocery store to prepare for your feast, pick up extra dinner rolls. It takes less than 15 minutes to transform your leftovers into these game-day sliders that are almost as good as your earlier feast.
Are your guests more in the mood for snacks only after stuffing themselves silly at lunch? You can transform mashed potatoes into a chip dip that’s sure to please — it also tastes yummy topping celery and carrot sticks.
Make the Most of Your Thanksgiving This Year
If you want to make the most of Thanksgiving in this year-like-no-other, it pays to get creative. Try some (or all) of the tips above to make your event the talk of your circle until well into the new year.
Jennifer Landis is the founder of Mindfulness Mama, a blog where she talks about all things #momlife, marriage, mindfulness, and everything in between. A thirty-something mom of two, Jennifer spends her limited free time practicing yoga and pilates, sipping tea, and reading with her littles. You can find more from Jennifer on Twitter, @JenniferELandis.