Thanksgiving for One

Today’s post is for people who are going to be alone on Thanksgiving. Dealing with a huge family fest will be posted tomorrow.

Going to be alone this Thanksgiving? No problem, unless you are dreading it. There is a cultural press to partake in some sort of perfect Norman-Rockwell-fantasy dinner, with food magically prepared and shared by a big, friendly, supportive, charming, happy family. The fact that this fantasy is exactly that–a figment of someone’s imagination–does not ease your pain. In your head, it is what you deserve, and you are feeling bad because you don’t have it.

first_thanksgivingSome years ago, I was alone at Thanksgiving. I’d moved to the Southwest ahead of my husband and was house-sitting for a friend. I didn’t want to mess up someone else’s stove, and part of me didn’t want to admit I hated being alone. But I also didn’t want to be at someone else’s table, feeling like the fifth wheel. I created a fun day for myself, and still remember it fondly. It makes me smile to think that there are many people around me who do not remember last Thanksgiving fondly, or can’t remember exactly what happened at all. And I can remember Thanksgiving 2007 with great joy.

Here are some suggestions to help make Thanksgiving a good day for you:

1. Plan ahead. Decide the kind of day you want to have and work on creating it. No Thanksgiving comes together without planning, and you don’t want to wind up standing in the grocery store aisle half an hour before the store closes.

2. You don’t have to cook an elaborate meal for 10 and eat it all by yourself. Kent McDonald, a personal chef in the Phoenix area, has some suggestions for an easy, special Thanksgiving meal you can make without a lot of fuss. Yes, Kent is my husband and he’s cooking this year.

3. Ignore it in style. Stay out of the kitchen–or the entire house–during the dinner hour. Go to the movies, take a bubble bath and give yourself a pedicure, plan that big art or craft project, take a walk with your camera, go to the library now and check out a book or DVD, and spend the time doing something appealing to you. Time to spend on yourself or your favorite pastime is precious and rare, use it with delight.

4. Plan a project. Paint the kitchen, or your bedroom. Organize your closet, your desk, your attic, your garage. Tackling a big project will make you feel organized and satisfied. Not a bad plan.

5. Make the turkey dinner happen. Let friends know you’ll be alone. Make it sound like you are available rather than desperate. Offer to help cook, clean up, bring a dish, or take the dog for a walk. Make yourself useful and you’ll be eating with a big, noisy, arguing dysfunctional family before you can say ‘turkey.’

The secret to having the Thanksgiving is to decide what you want and create it. Don’t let others define your joy.  Decide what you want, and make it happen, traditional or not. Celebrate yourself and allow yourself to enjoy.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who has celebrated a lot of different Thanksgivings.

–Image: The First Thanksgiving, reproduction of an oil painting by J.L.G. Ferris, early 20th century. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZC4-4961)


8 thoughts on “Thanksgiving for One

  1. Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for the link to your husband’s blog. I just signed up!

    We have been invited to a parishioner’s house for the Thanksgiving mid-day meal. I’m taking gluten-free and diabetic friendly food offerings. And for a late dinner, we are celebrating with rockfish (striped bass). I don’t eat turkey and am thankful I don’t have to prepare it!

    • Rockfish is yummy! I’ll take a bite of that, please! Turkey was not my favorite until my husband started brine-ing it. I cannot believe how juicy even the white meat is. Much love with the mid-day AND dinner meals!

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Quinn. Why not have dinner where Kent is cooking? We’re living here in Israel for over 30 years. About five years ago or more, my sister in law decided she misses Thanksgiving dinner. So, we’ve been going to her every year. Her and her daughter, my inlaws, and us are the constants and every year there are a bunch of different people. It’s fun and someone else is doing the cooking! Maybe this comment really belongs on tomorrow’s post?

    • My sister who lives in Switzerland does Thanksgiving every year, too. We *are* eating where Kent cooks–he’s a personal chef who cooks for people on special diets, so he’s cooking in our house. He loves it, and we each have our specialties–I do the cranberry sauce and dessert, to keep them diabetic-friendly, and the gravy because it’s a skill I have, he does the rest. Works for us!

  3. I will gladly offer my place at the Thanksgiving table to anyone who wants it! I would love a calm, peaceful day doing nothing but art and eating any of my favorite foods that I wanted. I have many things to be thankful for but I don’t necessarily need or want to share all of those things with throngs of people at the Thanksgiving table, along with an orgy of food. I like simple and quiet. One of my best Thanksgivings was when my husband and I took a picnic lunch to the mountains, just the two of us!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Kent. I’m so thankful for friends like you, Quinn…you are truly at the top of my list!

    • I think Kent misses big family Thanksgiving–he has a pretty big, extended family. Like you, I like it small and simple. We’ll have a big turkey because both Kent and I love leftovers. But there will be a simple vegetable, stuffing, and cranberry sauce–all homemade and diabetic friendly. And I will work on either of my art projects or read some books I just ordered. I have a lot to be thankful for Traci, including you!

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