How to Enjoy Being Alone on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Dinner for One
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. Lots of us Americans don't gather around a groaning board on the last Thursday in November surrounded by family and friends. Some people are alone by choice and some by circumstance, and whatever your situation, you can choose to get maudlin about the whole thing or have an enjoyable or maybe even a super fabulous day.
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, the widowed, all huddle together at holiday time, like cows under a tree before a rainstorm. Many of these will be spending Thanksgiving alone, and if you will be in their ranks, the trick is to not feel sorry for yourself but to let go and enjoy the day.
Personally, I enjoy my own company and really enjoy my solitude. I am often with family and friends on Thanksgiving, but have chosen to spend a few Thanksgivings by myself and 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 a turkey and presided over many a table, 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.
Tips for Celebrating Thanksgiving Alone
- 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. It's best not to spend the day at home alone watching sentimental holiday movies or The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV all by yourself. 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, and don't feel you have to eat turkey either. If your idea of a great meal is pizza, get a pizza. In fact, it might be a good idea to NOT go anywhere near traditional Thanksgiving fare 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 Thanksgiving 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 Skype: Through the wonders of the internet and video calling and chat, 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. Never mind—that's another article. I also love getting videos from everybody to replay later over the long weekend.
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 napkin, 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 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.
For those with greater culinary skills, here are some links to Thanksgiving menus for one and hints on how to enjoy.