Challenging traditional Thanksgiving customs while still conserving the essence of the holiday

Spice up your break by engaging in various activities with friends, or reserve it to reflect and de-stress


Jamie Har

Two alternatives to having a big Thanksgiving meal include hiking with friends and flying to a destination far from home.

On Thanksgiving, the American tradition is to gather around a dinner table with family or close friends and share a large, extravagant dinner. While this is a great tradition that many families hold near and dear to their hearts, there are other fun activities that can be done alone or with a group.

Teens and adults alike are forced to spend Thanksgiving with family members they do not like or relatives so distant that they seem like strangers. Thanksgiving is a day set aside for people to spend time with those they love and give thanks for all the good memories that have occurred over the past year, so what could be a better way to honor that tradition than by spending time with friends? Going to the beach, watching a movie at home or just sharing a meal with one’s closest friends can be a great time to relax and reflect on strong relationships within the group.

The best part about celebrating with friends is that plans can be very low commitment and relaxed by setting loose dates and maintaining slight spontaneity. A simple potluck-style dinner with friends is not only fun and cost-efficient but, it could be a much more valuable bonding experience rather than sitting next to your fourth cousin, twice removed for five hours.

People often think that Thanksgiving should be celebrated in the comforts of one’s home, but when school gives time off, one must take full advantage of it. Many people take this school break as an opportunity to visit family or friends, but it is also acceptable to use those air miles to escape to serenity.

Families may take the holiday break to make new traditions. People on the West Coast tend to go to Santa Catalina Island or Cabo for the break, while kids on the East Coast will go to the Caribbean or Turks and Caicos. For those who have an affinity for colder weather, a good option is to go to Tahoe for skiing or to fly to the East Coast to see landmarks such as Niagara Falls or Washington, D.C. Another good option is to go to the Big Island for a three-day weekend and take in the ocean view. Take advantage of the break to go out of the same old Palo Alto weather and go somewhere and relax.

Another way to give thanks for what has happened in one’s busy life is to leave the city for the day, go out on a hike or bike ride and simply be one with nature.

Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to think about what one may take for granted and take the time to honor what is forgotten. Whether going down a beaten path or traversing through the path less taken,  going outside is a great way to get back to our roots, literally. Take a group of friends and go outside to make a day of it. Or just immerse yourself into nature and find beauty in the outdoors.

A phrase that is frequently asked during the autumn holiday is, “what are you thankful for?”

While it is important to realize what one may take for granted, volunteering for a wholesome organizations is an easy way to give back the community.

A fulfilling thing to do with family is to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, animal shelter or for any other causes that could use aid, especially during the busy holiday season.

For those more comfortable staying at home, sending small donations to other organizations, whether with money, books or toys, can make a difference. A group of friends or family can meet at someone’s house early and then go to the nearest non-profit to enrich others’ lives as well as your own.

Many people find that celebrating this holiday as Native Americans are still being persecuted is morally wrong, so some people think it better to just skip the holiday altogether. Although it is an American holiday, it is completely acceptable to take Thanksgiving break off to relax — think of it as a Saturday in the middle of the week!

While Thanksgiving is generally seen as a holiday geared towards family, many of the aforementioned alternatives to the traditional practice of Thanksgiving can be done alone and are arguably just as fun and memorable an experience as it could be with friends or family. By celebrating Thanksgiving alone, one could travel wherever he or she want instead of arguing with family, or you could get ahead on homework while others are forced to make small talk with distant relatives. Most families will stuff themselves to the point of obesity, but when alone, one does not have to pretend to like the dry turkey.

Instead of dropping a large amount of money on a oversized bird while raising the national food intake, go out and have fun alone. Or just simply stay inside and think about the many things in life there are to be grateful for.