On Your Own This Thanksgiving? That Doesn’t Mean You Have to Feel Alone

Woman holding pumpkin pie
On your own this Thanksgiving? We're got some survival tips to help you stay sane, and even flourish, as we head into the holidays.

So we’ve talked about how to survive Thanksgiving 2020 when you’re surrounded by family, because oh my are we in for an extra dose of family drama this year. But what if circumstances are causing you to spend the holiday with limited interaction—or even completely alone?

Well in this oddball of a year, take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone in the grand scheme of things. With current health concerns, many aren’t traveling, or spending time with their nearest and dearest.

I’m one of them, and it hurts. I love to cook, and to cook for crowds specifically, but with most family out of state and unable to travel, this year it’s just me and the husband.

Of course, you could be on the other end of the spectrum. You could be laying low because you want to, or you don’t have family or friends that are easily accessible on the day. Or maybe you recently experienced a loss, and are missing your favorite holiday with one specific person.

No matter the reason, today we’re talking about how to make a low-key Thanksgiving feel special no matter how many people are joining you.

Stop Putting Pressure on Yourself

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. If you don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving, you don’t have to. No one is demanding that you churn out an Instagram-worthy celebration all on your lonesome. Wanna veg out in yoga pants and eat grilled cheese and Funyuns? More power to you.

Same goes for if you’re uncomfortable with the questionable origins of the holiday, or if you’re just feeling bummed out and need a distraction.

That said, if you do want to go full Turkey Day just for you, read on.

Keep the TV On

If you’re used to the hustle and bustle of kitchen noises and family bickering, pure silence can just make things feel sad. So either put together a fun playlist for the day, or do what most American families do anyway: keep the TV on.

For me, Thanksgiving doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without watching the Macy’s Day Parade. And while various bowl games seem to be a classic Turkey Day entertainment, I was never one for sports ball. I stick with the National Dog Show, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

You can also find online roundups of the best Thanksgiving sitcom episodes. Friends always had great ones, and I remember a few from New Girl that makes me smile just by thinking of them. Why not treat yourself to a marathon?

Cook Something Just for You

So like I said, I love cooking for a crowd. But it’s also just downright exhausting. You might have the perfect menu swimming around in your head, but then reality hits.

Because your cousin is gluten free. And your aunt doesn’t eat nightshades. And your brother’s new girlfriend is vegan. Also, your nephew only eats “beige” food. (Enjoy the rolls, kid.)

Suddenly you’re trying to reconcile four different menus at the same time, and the fun stuff you wanted to make probably went out the window because no one seemed too excited about roasted butternut squash mash with sage and crispy shallots.

But guess what? This year you can dictate everything. Wanna go full on gourmet? Perfect! Want to skip the turkey and eat nothing but mashed potatoes and stuffing? It’s your day! Wanna skip straight to dessert? Make (or buy) four different types of pies! The world is your oyster (stuffing), baby.

OR Get Fancy Takeout

No one says you have to cook if you don’t want to. Whip yourself up something non turkey-related, or even better yet, have someone cook for you.

Treat yo’ self to takeout from your favorite restaurant. It’s a simple way to make things feel extra special without the mess or the fuss. You could even dress it up on good plates and serving ware if you’re feeling extra.

And honestly, if you’re anything like me, whipping up your ideal Thanksgiving meal for two would probably end up costing as much as the takeout anyway.

Blend Old and New Traditions

If you’re feeling isolated from the people you love, one of the best things you can do is honor and recreate traditions you had when you were together.

That might mean putting on an apron like your grandmother’s when you make pies the night before. Or setting the table all fancy with cloth napkins and place cards like your aunt. Or yelling incoherently at the football game like every male member of your family.

But perhaps you have new traditions you’d like to start. I’ve always been a procrastinator with holiday decorating, but as gloomy this year has been, I’m hopping on the Christmas bandwagon early. I’m hoping to go get a tree after dinner (assuming we can move afterward.) And you’d better believe the Christmas music will be a-rockin’.

Finding a blend of old and new traditions will allow you to feel connected to your roots while also giving you a welcome distraction and buzz of excitement for making this holiday your own.

Find Other Ways to Connect

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be able to reach out to family and friends, please do so. Skype and Zoom are wondrous creations, so try to set up a time to do some Friendsgiving drinks with your girlfriends or coffee and pie with your fam.

It’s no substitute, obviously. You won’t really be able to feel the sting of your Great Aunt Sally pinching your cheek. But being able to see and hear each other will be a gift to both of you.

Plus, video chat naturally imposes time limits on family gatherings. And that can be a truly wonderful thing.

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