by Adam Maurer, LMFT, LPC
Thanksgiving is one of the most challenging holidays for some folx. Sandwiched in between two major month-long events, Halloween and Christmas, turkey day seems rather charming from afar. It’s the kickoff to the holiday season. A short twenty-four hours packed with football, parades, and pumpkin pie. The hardest part of the day for some people will be to hold their tongue while their distant relative prattles on about their political beliefs (also check out our Survival Tips for Holiday Homecomings). A small price to pay for an all you can eat turkey buffet. If you’re really fortunate then you get a four day weekend out of the celebration. So, what is there not to like? There are plenty of reasons people don’t like a conventional Thanksgiving celebration. Colonialism and sexism are often an undercurrent of the holiday. A Disneyesque retelling of what happened to Native Americans challenges some folx ability to joyfully engage in the festivities. Check out this article from the Smithsonian to better understand this concept.
Also, The holiday centers on an elaborate meal that takes a great deal of time, thought, and energy to prepare. This task might fall on the shoulders of women, women who may not particularly enjoy: fighting for a butterball at a crowded grocery store, getting up at 6:00 AM to make sure the turkey is ready for lunch, playing hostess to guests, or cleaning up after a feast. The social script for men on this holiday often allows for much more free time, to either enjoy the game or to hunt. Thanksgiving can also be particularly painful for people with strained family ties. On a day that celebrates homecomings and family relationships, many members of the LGBTQ+ community are not welcome home simply for expressing their authentic selves. So, what alternatives are there to all of this? That’s where I come in! There are so many ways to enjoy some time off together beyond the traditional celebration, so here are some new ideas to get you started on creating your own rituals.
Make your Friendsgiving the best with a cooking competition! It brings together your community while having the task of cooking a feast spread out to everyone. You can really spice it up by making your own trophy. To be honest, I tend to be ultra competitive and the idea of bringing home a coveted trophy only makes the event more spirited in my opinion. Another beautiful thing about this activity is that it allows for folks to create dishes they love and they get to share them with their community. You might just find a new favorite dish, or experience something that is truly meaningful for a guest to make.
Another way to enjoy a day with your community is to do a tasting of your group’s favorite adult beverages. Last Thanksgiving I hosted a champagne tasting with guests, which was an absolute blast. You can rank the beverages by ballot or conversation, all so that the winning libation can emerge and be offered at future gatherings. You can even set up pairings with different courses of your meal.
Make your own putt-putt course at home. Community, competition, fun; and hot tip: if you have some restless kids let them design the course from items you already have. You can typically find some old putters at thrift stores or Amazon has one for under $25. What’s great about this activity is that it can be outdoors or indoors, depending on the weather. Here is an opportunity to make another trophy, I really love to win and take home the gold!
You can forgo all the turkey day hoopla and just enjoy time in nature. A few days away from it all can be relaxing before the gauntlet of holiday obligations begin in December. Also, you might just catch the last few warmish days of the year before it gets colder. What a great time to spend with your chosen family!
Thanksgiving, and any holiday really, are what we make of them. So why not choose to make holidays something that are wonderful for everyone involved? It can be time to reflect on what you want out of life, appreciate the love you have, or take a healthy risk and try something new. If the holidays are creating too much stress for you, therapy can be a wonderful place to find relief. Talking with a skilled clinician can provide a place to do the raw processing of your thoughts and feelings so that you’re better able to present them to loved ones in a way that might be easier to hear. Take care of yourself this turkey day, and every day.
If you feel that holiday stress puts a damper on your ability to enjoy this special time of year, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment. We have excellent clinicians and offer personal growth counseling for helping with stress and family and parenting counseling if you need assistance with family gatherings.