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Thanksgiving doesn’t feel the same way for everyone. Some refuse to acknowlege it because it perpetuates lies about the relationship between European settlers and Native Americans. Other people find Thanksgiving a source of anxiety; a time when they have to pretend like they have a fully functioning family to have dinner with, and feeling ashamed when a colleague asks, “Why aren’t you seeing your family this year?”

Then there’s the people who just downright don’t like turkey and find the overall Thanksgiving feast unappealing.  Regardless of where you stand, we are different people coming from varied backgrounds, belief systems and preferences. We should never feel obligated or pressured into participating in any holiday just because everyone is doing it. That being said, many of us have the days off and want to make them count. Here are five alternative ways to spend your Thanksgiving holiday. 

1. Visit a state park and be at one with nature.

Thanksgiving park time

Many state parks have free admission deals during Thanksgiving weekend. Take advantage of it and strengthen bonds with your loved ones in nature.

2.  Host a “food and thought.”

Thanksgiving "food and thought"

Ask your friends to each bring a dish (turkey isn’t a requirement) and ask everyone to pick a poem or reading passage that has inspired them. Eat and share food and words with your friends!

Related: 7 Ways to Cope With the Holidays if You’re Estranged From Family

3. Help someone.

Thanksgiving help

We all have different capacities in terms of what we are able to do, based on access to resources, physical condition, emotional wellbeing, etc. However, we all have unique gifts we can share. This can go beyond a turkey giveaway or serving food at a homeless shelter. Do you have a friend or loved one who’s ailing? Visit them. Do you know a child who can use some extra love and guidance? Have a play date. Take the opportunity during this season to stretch your heart a little.

4. Create a gratitude wall.

Thanksgiving gratitude wall

Just because you decide to opt out of Thanksgiving activities doesn’t mean you can’t reflect on gratitude! Write down all of the things you’re grateful for this year and make it visible in your home. This can be a solo project or done with your loved ones.

5. Have a day of health and wellness.

Thanksgiving health and wellness

Many things that are associated with the Thanksgiving holiday, including unhealthy dishes, food comas and vegging out in front of the T.V. Why not flip the script and have a wellness day? This can include: taking a run, hiking in nature, having a day at the gym, doing yoga, meditation, juicing, etc. Why not use Thanksgiving as a day of detox? Just a thought.

The moral of this story is simple: do whatever the fuck you want during this Thanksgiving holiday. Just make sure it makes you happy.


Heather was born in Chicago and raised in Pasadena, California and proudly claims Oakland as her adopted home. She has a B.A. in African-American Studies from Smith College (proud Smithie), and a Masters in Education Leadership from New York University. Heather's spent the past decade working in the field of educational equity and advocacy. She currently teaches Child and Adolescent Development at San Francisco State University and manages a blog called What's Happening Black Oakland? She also contributes to Blavity, a blog for black millennials. Heather's committed to writing interesting and relevant stories that aren't being covered by the mainstream media, while straying away from the single story that is usually imposed on people of color. In her free time she enjoys traveling and going to live shows.

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