11 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Feel More Fun

The best thing about traditions? You can make new ones.

November 12, 2020
By: Caylin Harris

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Small black girl sticking her tongue out while hiding eyes with small pumpkins at home. There are people in the background.


Small black girl sticking her tongue out while hiding eyes with small pumpkins at home. There are people in the background.

Photo by: skynesher / Getty Images

skynesher / Getty Images

For many of us, Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Make stuffing from that stale bread (metaphorically speaking) and find creative ways to embrace the seasonal shake-up. Since Thanksgiving is meant to be a time for gratitude, we’ve figured out some ways to feel grateful for what you have, and add a little fun into the mix.

Toss Out Traditions

Instead of trying to make this Thanksgiving feel like every other year, spare yourself the effort and possible disappointment by avoiding fraught traditions. You can even consider doing the total opposite of what your normal Thanksgiving would be. Instead of cooking for three days, order special, exceptional takeout. Or instead of your standard stuffing and turkey, created a themed menu that’s totally new. Try breakfast for dinner, or embrace an appetizer-only meal. Sometimes embracing change can be more fun than fighting it.

Play Family Games

Traditional board games create memories, but it’s ok to embrace video games, too. A multiplayer racing game on your phone or console can all be hilarious to watch and play. If you do decide to play board games, try to skip anything that leads to arguments or bitterness in favor of something light and fun. A family puzzle can be great, too — make your own puzzle out of a family portrait in advance and surprise everyone on the big day.

Get Outside

So maybe your local Turkey Trot is cancelled, but don’t let that stop you from feast-day fresh air, whether it’s a family game of football or a walk around the neighborhood. To make it more fun for little kids, draw up a list of items to spot or find on your walk. A certain color leaf, a bird, a street name, get creative! The person who spots the most gets to pick the movie you put on after dessert.

Dial With a Purpose

Most of us are experiencing video-chat fatigue at this point, so try to be mindful about your time online and set some boundaries — maybe you choose to chat during appetizers or during meal prep, or dial in Grandma and Grandpa when everyone goes around and says what they’re grateful for. A little forethought makes for a better video chat experience for everyone!

Consider Sharing

Food insecurity is a very real thing in this country, even more so this year. Gathering pantry items to donate together as a family is a wonderful way to help those in need, extend the reach of your holiday and give the occasion a bit of extra meaning. Write short notes to go along with the donation and help make it even more special.

Photograph of an autumn bridal bouquet, boutonniere, and pumpkins used as vases and filled with fall flowers.


Photograph of an autumn bridal bouquet, boutonniere, and pumpkins used as vases and filled with fall flowers.

Photo by: Deb Perry / Getty Images

Deb Perry / Getty Images

Forage for Décor

The most beautiful seasonal décor is hiding in plain sight in your yard. Fall branches, berries, dried flowers, pods and grasses will all look like a million bucks tucked into large vessels like baskets or vases. Here’s a styling hint: Figure out a rough color scheme before you pick up the clippers. Maybe it’s technicolor with all of your favorite fall reds, oranges and yellows, or maybe it’s a combination of neutrals. Having a loose plan ahead of time helps. If you’re working in a neutral palette, vary the shapes and textures of your foraged finds.

DIY the Decorations

A pile of pumpkins is an instant centerpiece, place them on runner with some candles and voila! To take it up a notch, use the pumpkins as vessels to hold flowers, simply open the top like you’re carving it, then scoop out the inside and place a vase of fresh or dried flowers inside. An oversized pumpkin that’s been scooped out also makes for an excellent vessel to hold a spiced holiday cider or a seasonal cocktail. If you have clear glass vessels, fill them with colorful dried beans or seeds and stick wheat stalks, cattails, or branches in. The beans help hold the stalks in place. If you’re short on containers, gather clear glass jars that you like the shape of and spray paint them in a matching color, start by priming the glass with a spray primer (let it dry completely) and then cover the primer with a coat of matte spray paint.

Swap Recipes

If you know you’ll miss your aunt’s famous sweet potato casserole, or that everyone looks forward to your stuffing, plan a recipe swap with the family members you won’t see on Thanksgiving. You can always ask them to shred the secret recipe after use this year!

Make a Playlist

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, there’s nothing like a little mood music. Creating a shared playlist with your family and friends will add a festive touch to the day, and help everyone feel connected even when remote. After all, isn’t it nice to know the people you love will all be rocking out to the same tunes all day long? Also, go nuts and add in some Christmas classics, this year you can start celebrating the holiday as soon as you want!

Make It an All-Day Feast

Dinner shouldn’t be the only main event! Since you’ll have a smaller head count this year take the opportunity to make something delicious for breakfast. Homemade cinnamon rolls, a French toast casserole, eggs benedict, or biscuits and gravy — go nuts on breakfast since there won’t be so many people staying at your house.

Go a Little Wild

If you normally get dressed up for Thanksgiving, come to the table in matching family jammies or give each family member a theme and some supplies, and arrive at the table dressed in surprise outfits. A beloved family we know plans a different wild theme each year, like "By the Sea!" or "The 60s" or "A Trip to Italy," leaving it broad enough for each family member to interpret the theme in hilarious, unique ways. It adds a little fun and surprise that we can all enjoy over great food.

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