Skip to main content

How to Enjoy Being Alone on Thanksgiving

Personally, I enjoy my own company. I am often with family and friends on Thanksgiving, but have chosen to spend a few on my own.

Table for one, please!

Table for one, please!

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Without Family or Friends

So, you are going to be alone and perhaps even in a strange city on Thanksgiving, and the very idea is getting you down. Cheer up, and welcome to the club! Many Americans don't gather around a groaning board surrounded by family and friends on Thanksgiving. Some people are alone by choice and others by circumstance. Whatever your situation, you can choose to get maudlin about the whole thing, or you can have a super fabulous day with help from some of the tips listed below.

Lower Expectations to Combat Stress

The holiday season is the time of year when our family problems, insecurities, personal vices, and other issues are inflamed. There are an infinite number of expectations we set for ourselves that make us look ourselves in the mirror with a critical eye and believe that we have something inherently wrong with us. It is important to lower our expectations to baseline this Thanksgiving to prevent succumbing to a depressive state.

Plan Ahead

If you know you are going to be alone and not working, try to find a kindred soul or souls ahead of time, and make plans to get together for a Thanksgiving meal. It can be a potluck at somebody's house or a seasonal feast at a fancy restaurant. One year, I went to a local diner with a group of women who were alone for one reason or another. It was great. It's a way of observing the holiday without pain. If you are working on Turkey Day, plan some sort of celebration with coworkers. Make a plan, and do something to give the day a little structure.

Make the Day YOURS

If you are going to be alone, do what you feel like doing and not what you think you should do. That is, don't go to somebody's house for Thanksgiving just because you think you should. Sometimes, being grafted on to somebody else's family celebration can make you feel more alone than being alone. Do what you want to do. Feel like going to the gym? If it's open, do it. Feel like taking a hike or catching a film or concert? Do it. Don't feel you have to eat turkey either. If your idea of a great meal is pizza, then get a pizza. In fact, it might be a good idea to NOT go anywhere near traditional Thanksgiving food if you are on your own for the day.

Do Unto Others

I know it is going to sound like a cliché, but if your church or temple has a soup kitchen or if there is a local food pantry or charity dinner, you might want to plan to work for them on Thanksgiving. There is nothing to make you grateful for what you have like helping those who have less—they do call it Thanksgiving for a reason, you know.

Stay in Touch via Facetime/Skype

Through the wonders of the internet and video calling, you can now stay in touch with your family on Thanksgiving without actually being with them. Sometimes, I think this is the best of all worlds, but then my family history is full of contentious Thanksgiving dinners (a story for another article). I also love getting videos from everybody to replay later over the long weekend.


It might be a good idea to explore some new terrain if you have the means. Plenty of vacation destinations offer single group tours, so just because you're by yourself doesn't necessarily mean that you have to travel alone. There are plenty of ways to get your healthy dose of social interaction while experiencing a different part of the world if you so choose.

Bunker Down and Survive the Day

It is important to be present with yourself and mindful of your own feelings, but keep in mind that the day will pass. Watch a couple of movies to help pass the time or tune into the big Macy's Day Parade if that's what you're into. A nice meal and a solid nap will have you back to your regular scheduled programming.

Make this Thanksgiving a party of one.

Make this Thanksgiving a party of one.

More Tips for Celebrating Thanksgiving Alone

Lots of people have to work on Thanksgiving. If that is your situation, know that your coworkers will be working too and make a point of enjoying the day with them. I have a friend who is divorced with grown children and who is a nurse at a local hospital—she always signs up to work on Thanksgiving and always has a wonderful time sharing the day with patients and their families. She also gets paid overtime which goes a long way towards making her thankful too.

Students, ex-pats, the recently divorced, and the widowed all huddle together at holiday time, like cows under a tree before a rainstorm. If you will be among their ranks, the trick is to not feel sorry for yourself, but instead to let go and enjoy the day.

My Experience

Personally, I enjoy my own company and cherish my solitude. I am often with family and friends on Thanksgiving, but have chosen to spend a few Thanksgivings by myself. I have had some wonderful, serendipitous Thanksgivings alone or with a band of other solo celebrants. Sometimes complete strangers can be better Thanksgiving dinner companions than far-flung family.

I've been on my own for the past decade and before that was married for 33 years, raising two children, working, playing, and generally juggling life. My husband and I were both only children of divorced parents, so the holiday season always presented familial challenges, but we were inventive, and it was always fun.

I have cooked many turkeys and presided over many tables, which is perhaps why I am so serene about being on my own for Thanksgiving. But even for me, it does take a bit of planning. Here are my tips gleaned over the years from here and there.

Thanksgiving Dinner for One

One way to take the lonely out of alone on Thanksgiving is to go all the way and cook yourself a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Whether you polish up the family silver and get out the best china or buy a package of holiday paper plates, set a festive table and make it special.

Frozen turkey dinners can seem pretty pathetic, but for the truly hopeless cook, they can be a Thanksgiving solution if, and ONLY if, you nuke the dinner and then put it on your best china plate, use real sliver and cloth napkins, and sit yourself down at a real table to eat it like a real meal. Ditto if you go out to your local deli or fast food place and get take out the turkey with all the trimmings.

Presentation, as the French are fond of saying, is everything when it comes to food. No scarfing your Thanksgiving dinner down in front of the TV. Sit down at a real table in a real chair and eat like a real human being off real plates with real cutlery and chew with your mouth closed, ok? Oh, you can listen to music if you want—but NO TV.


The Holiday Blues

Reported experiences of depression peak during the holiday season, often due to excessive self-reflection, obligations, and everyday stressors.

How you feel and what you get out of being alone on Thanksgiving is really all about your intention. Author Sasha Cagen shared insights with the Huffington Post from her book, Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics: “Spending time alone during a holiday, if you’re intentional about it, can be really meaningful and a beautiful experience."

Ultimately, it is always best to anticipate and recognize any feelings of sadness before proactively planning to combat them.

Managing the Holiday Blues

  • Be Genuinely Grateful: No matter our circumstances, we can always express appreciation for the little things in life. Use this time of solitude to take in the beauty of the sounds, smells, and sights around you.
  • Limit Your Alcohol and Drug Use: Now is not the time to magnify your feelings with stimulants or depressants. Try coping with exercise or meditation instead.
  • Practice Self-Care: Reduce stress levels by eating healthy, getting a massage, walking the park, or doing anything else that brings you comfort.

Being physically alone doesn’t mean that you are by yourself. One of our biggest illusions is that we are separated from others.

For those with greater culinary skills, here are some links to Thanksgiving menus for one and hints on how to enjoy.

© 2011 Roberta Kyle


Nella DiCarlo from Guelph, Ontario on November 28, 2019:

Excellent article!

D.H on November 28, 2019:

Hey every one has there personal aspect of thanksgiving. There are times when we all need to be thankful for the people that come into your lives and make it all worth it. There are people that i am so thankful for being a big part of me and i love them very much. So for the people out there that think they have every thing well you better think twice because life is to short , so make the best of every thing you got because it might just end any time

Johnny C on November 26, 2019:

Ah, just found the comment section, not ask a question! Anyway, what about those that work alone and have no families? i'm finding this article to be inconsiderate at best, chock full of ideas for folks who have the day off, or family and friends who are also free on this day.

Sarah Spradlin from Little Rock, Arkansas on November 22, 2019:

What a sweet idea for an article. I know lots of people are lonely during this time of year.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 04, 2019:

Hi Nico, and Happy Thanksgiving My condolences too on the loss of your parents I’m glad to hear you and your fur kids are going to observe the holiday in your own way Have a beautiful Turkey Day and give yourself and your pets some special treats

Nico on November 03, 2019:

Thank you .. my parents passed ... I just googled; what to do on thanksgiving if you’re alone .. I found this ... thank you ... I have a hard time ... I’m trying not too and it is a great odor to plan ahead it helps a lot even if I’m just staying in ... I took your advise and will go with my furry kids to the spillway ... they need to have fun too .. thank you happy thanksgiving

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 25, 2017:

you're welcome, Marie. Happy Thanksgiving.

Mary on November 23, 2017:

Honestly, I feel the media is to blame for idealizing our vision of family and holidays. Commercials show huge families gathered around a big table, complete with all the trimmings, fire roaring while snow gently falls in the background. Really? I live where it doesnt snow! Lol,

There's so much pressure to belong somewhere. Are we truly Thankful or are we just full? It's okay to be alone. I've been alone on several holidays when my kids were with their dad. I survived just fine. Take a relaxing bath, enjoy a good bottle of wine,burn a pleasant smelling candle, sleep in, read a good book, wrap presents, shop online, do a craft project, bake, stream music, try a recipe, binge watch a TV series, go on a walk and enjoy the fall colors, put up your holiday decorations, give your pets some extra love by bathing and brushing them, scan old photos onto a share drive, do yoga or meditate, write down all of the people and things you are thankful for.

Marie on November 21, 2017:

Thank you, these are some great ideas.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 19, 2017:

Love your attitude, Diane. You obviously know how to take the lonely out of alone :-) Happy Thanksgiving.

Diane on November 18, 2017:

This year my mother passed away, my son got married and moved away, my brother moved away, my two best friends moved away. It is crazy how fast so many things can change in your life. So this year is the first time I will eat Thanksgiving alone. I could have gone to my son's but I would prefer and wait to go for Christmas instead. So I bought some Turkey thighs to cook, already made dressing, already made sweet potato casserole and already made gravy from my local grocery store. Their Thanksgiving dinners are really good. I will also make some broccoli. I don't care that I will be alone. Life has many different stages and maybe next year I will feel up to traveling for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to be with family, but for now, dinner for one is fine with me. It's really not that big of a deal but I do love me some turkey and dressing so I wasn't about to miss out on that! :)

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 20, 2016:

Hi Anne-- If you don't have any friends or acquaintances and don't want to volunteer I suggest you think about some of the other options I outlined. Decide to go see a movie, play or sports event, for example. Cook yourself a festive turkey dinner or get gourmet takeout and binge watch Netflix.... the point is to NOT feel sorry for yourself because you ar alone.

Anne on November 20, 2016:

This article is about being alone on Thanksgiving, and yet you say to make plans with friends. That's not alone! If I had friends to spend Thanksgiving with I wouldn't be googling articles like this.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 24, 2013:

Way to go, chrisnstar. Thanks for a really inspiring comment and Happy Thanksgiving.

chrisnstar on November 24, 2013:

I am finding myself alone at Thanksgiving for the first time in my 62 years. I was feeling pretty blue about it. I don't have enough money to go shopping or go anywhere. I live in a small town. So I had my Thanksgiving last night, on Saturday. Our town had a community Thanksgiving dinner last night, potluck, at the senior center. I hate going places alone, but figured, why not. I ended up talking with people I know, had a wonderful dinner, won some door prizes and enjoyed my early Thanksgiving dinner out of the house. And I brought home a plate of food for my neighbor who didn't want to go to the dinner as she is losing her sight. She was so surprised and happy when I brought her the food. So I will spend the actual Thanksgiving day riding my horse and doing things I enjoy.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 16, 2013:

HI Mary... great idea... The shopping thing is a terrific alternative. When I wrote this hub several years ago, not many stores were open on Thanksgiving Day, but now, almost all of the big chains are open with doorbusters galore. Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks for stopping by.

Mary on November 15, 2013:

Interesting but some of it is harder said that done. Volunteering you usually have to do a month or so in advance as people are signed up months in advance.

I agree with not going to someones house just because they invited you ( I did that last year but felt like they invited me out of pity, she said oh if you have somewhere else to go that is fine with me, don't feel obligated). This year I am just not saying anything to people about being alone, well I have said it to one or two people.

I don't work, I am a student and most of the students I know that are far younger than I am ( I could be their mother) are having their dinners with their families which they live with. So I can't really do a gathering of people because my other older friends are married or have moved (95% of them are married).

I am honestly thinking of doing the shopping thing since a lot of stores are opening around 6pm. I could spend the morning and early afternoon watching movies and eating stuffing and ribs (not a huge turkey fan) and then head on the bus and hang out while waiting for the stores to open. I am not sure if I will do this but been thinking about it.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 05, 2012:

I'm with you on everything, Jennifer-- including the deviled eggs. Thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving thoughts and for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Jennifer on November 05, 2012:

I have done the big family Thanksgiving and I have done Thanksgiving at my own home with my spouse. All I can say is skipping the 8 hour drive the day before Thanksgiving and dealing with pushy and mean spirited relatives isn't for me or my spouse. We have stayed home and made our own traditional Thanksgiving and it is always bliss! We have also gone out with friends for Thanksgiving dinner and it has been fantastic as well. We both love to stay home most. It is cozy. We have the fireplace on, we are making deviled eggs and other fun appetizers before the dinner. We usually have a glass of champagne or some wine. It is a blast. I highly recommend skipping the long drive and the extended family nonsense and do a cozy Thanksgiving at home. It is the best. No drama. Lot's of deviled eggs!!!!!!

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on January 03, 2012:

Dear are welcome. Every word I type to you IS from the heart. I am NOT a faker. I dont like fakes. Nor will I fake myself to anyone. Im glad that you are "up" for the new year. That is great news. And I appreciate the sweet wish for my new year too.

I enjoy our visits. And talks. I will do this more often, if that's okay.


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 03, 2012:

That is so sweet, Kenneth, thank you. All is well with me and I am feeling wonderful and energized and looking forward to the new year, which I agree is going to be just the best. I hope it is for you as well. Thanks for dropping by.

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on January 03, 2012:

Hello, Dear Robie...are you okay on this the third day of 2012? I wanted you to know that I enjoy your work. Value your friendship and following and pray that 2012 is the BEST year of your life! I mean it.

Your Friend for Life,


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 03, 2012:

I'm sure you would be familiar with that part hahaha, Nice to see you.

Ann Ricker on January 02, 2012:

Well, very familiar with all of this, especially the "working at the local hospital" part!

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on December 07, 2011:

Dear robie, thank you! This is so sweet and understanding of you. I plan on more visits to your place and get into your hubs. And my kind words are nothing compared to your beautiful writing. And have the Christmas you have always dreamed of. I will see you soon.////Kenneth

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on December 07, 2011:

Dear Kenneth-- nothing to forgive :-) just delighted to see you. Glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you so much for your kind words. Merry Christmas right back to you--Robie

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on December 06, 2011:


Dear robie2, hello. And first of all, I sincerely apologize to you for NOT getting around to your place to read great hubs like this one that really spoke to me. Please forgive me for this slackness. I was busy trying to get as many hubs run before my health gets any worse. And yes, I voted up and away on this hub for YOU are a very-talented person. I mean that sincerely. Please forgive me for this being late. I am sorry. Loved this hub. Merry Christmas, Kenneth

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 02, 2011:

Oh dear, cgreen-- that is a hard one. You have my sympathy and whatever you decide is OK. Just be sure that you please yourself. Good to see you and thanks for sharing.

cgreen7090 from Tennessee on October 29, 2011:

This year will be hard for me. My fiancé died last week, and my son will probably go to his dad's. I'm debating on going to my sister's or staying home. Thanks for the helpful advice.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 17, 2011:

Thanks Wendy-- I'm a big fan of skyping with web cam on-- the video call really is fabulous for staying in touch with everybody on holidays-- and a group skype with three or four in totally different places is wonderful. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and thanks for dropping by.

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on October 17, 2011:

Very good tips and important advice that can be also applied for Christmas celebrations. Staying in touch through phone calls and skype is an excellent way to avoid feeling lonely, we use it a lot specially during celebrations to share with family abroad.

Thumbs up!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 16, 2011:

Thanks Tonipet-- I'm glad you liked this one and I love your expression " a joy of the heart" --- what a lovely way to put it. Thanks for the vote and the comment.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on October 16, 2011:

Great tips robie, loved them. I like this one the best "There is nothing to make you grateful for what you have like helping those who have less." It's very honorable and truly a joy of heart ALL THE TIME! Now I know how to be more "smiley" on occasions despite being alone. Awesome hub.. Just voted up!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 16, 2011:

Thanks, lovelonger and alekhouse-- so glad you stopped by and thanks for your excellent comments. Happy Thanksgiving to you both.

Nancy Hinchliff from Essex Junction, Vermont on October 15, 2011:

Robie, I'm with you on enjoying my own company and solitude. I guess as writers and thinkers we are pretty used to it and it feels like "home" This year, though, I decided to accept an invitation from a close friend who is a marvelous cook, so I'm really looking forward to it. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on October 15, 2011:

What a great Hub on a topic that gives effective answers to what probably a lot of people are asking. There are, in fact, many ways you can celebrate without a large family gathering, and make it feel special, as your instructions make clear. :)

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 14, 2011:

Hi Diogenes I think you've given me an idea for a hub about the challenges and joys of living alone. It is quite a trip, isn't it-- Facing Thanksgiving in the USA all by yourself for the first time can be hard-- it is such a major family holiday..... even more than Christmas I think. Oh well, anyway it is good to see another solo sojourner on the road-- thanks for stopping by and reading and commenting.

And Sally-- I know this has been a rough year for you and yours and I know the whole holiday trinity( Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) will be tough. My thoughts are with you and all I can say is, do what you feel like doing on Thanksgiving and I hope you do something you really enjoy.

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 14, 2011:

Our family's in a time of transition...TG has always been a time of getting together, but also a time of stresses that countermand the Norman Rockwell idealistic view. Issues, you know.

This year, we don't know where TG will be. There are about 35 of us who, in the past, have gathered at my mother's house or my cousin's house. But there have been losses this year and declines in health.

Truly, I'd like to celebrate this day on my own, maybe drawing a turkey or Pilgrims with their hats and buckles on manila paper with crayons. I need some time to digest these changes.

Thanks for generating a rich conversation about a thing we take for granted when we are are care-free.

diogenes from UK and Mexico on October 14, 2011:

Hi robie: This is an important hub as it helps people who are alone and/or lonely (there is a distinction). I have been alone for some years,too, and it can be overwhelming at times; at others, rewarding. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK and there's truly little to be thankful for at present. But I remember those loaded tables in 1970's USA and there's nothing like it anywhere! Bobx

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 14, 2011:

Hi Steph and Amy-- fancy meeting you here :-)))) Well, yes Steph, as a friend of mine observed on the subject of family " blood may be thicker than water, but sometimes water goes down easier" Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

.... and Amy, I hear you. It seems that with kids you go from feeling overwhelmed and ready to kill for an extra hour of sleep, directly to wishing they would write or call home more often -- trust me, the good books and movie marathons are coming in just a few more years and you won't believe how much you will miss all the commotion LOL ( I know I know, I'll shut up now) Anyway have a wonderful Turkey day and thanks for reading and commenting. Good to see you.

amy jane from Connecticut on October 14, 2011:

Great advice for spending Thanksgiving on your own here! I have to say, there are many years where I wouldn't mind a little solitude during the holidays. A good meal, a good book or maybe a movie marathon would be perfect for me! :)

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on October 14, 2011:

You know, this is really great! I especially love the idea of helping at a soup kitchen, which sounds a lot more fulfilling than sitting around a huge table arguing politics with the family.... ;-) Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 14, 2011:

you are my kinda girl, Jama-- I share your sentiments exactly.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on October 14, 2011:

After my kids left home, I always volunteered to work on TG so those with families could have the day off. The company would provide turkey with all the trimmings, sometimes with tablecloths and cloth napkins! - so in those years I was NEVER alone on TG.

But the years I wasn't working and the kids were with the Other Side relatives, I *preferred* to spend the day alone rather than being the Fifth Wheel at a friend's family gathering. I'd rent a favorite movie to watch after the meal du jour, which I ate on the good china, with the good silverware! ;D