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10 ways to make Thanksgiving different this year

So much has changed since Thanksgiving 2019. Why not make some changes of your own—like a change of place, change of heart, or just a change for the better? Kettler Forlines Homes asked around to find out how people are taking a new approach to the holiday. Here are 10 ways to make Thanksgiving different this year.

#1. Start a new tradition. Just because you’ve always followed a certain Thanksgiving tradition doesn’t mean you can’t expand on your celebration. Many of the ways to make Thanksgiving different offered here could turn into a tradition. All it takes is deciding you want to repeat the activity or action. It could be as simple as deciding who graduates from the kids table to the adults table, having someone read a holiday poem, or sharing a favorite memory from a past Thanksgiving. 

#2. Set up a welcome station. Welcome your guests with a crockpot with hot apple cider, hot chocolate, or both by the entryway! Accompany the cider with a dish of cinnamon sticks for stirring. Leave an assortment of “mix ins” for the hot chocolate, like marshmallows and small chocolates in different flavors (Lindt and Dove are great for this!). Also place a basket of fluffy, warm, or just plain fun socks (new ones, please) by the entry, with an inviting sign, like “Cozy Starts Here” or “Get Comfy!”.

Your welcome station can include a Gratitude Jar. Provide pens and slips of paper (maybe in the shape of a pumpkin or leaf). Ask guests to write down what they are grateful for and place it in the jar, along with their name and the date. When everyone is together, read each thankfulness note out loud to the group.

Here’s another fun way to change up your Thanksgiving party. Print Thanksgiving Bingo cards—one set for kids and another for adults. The kids game has pictures of things they might find around your home or on TV (like while occupied with watching a Thanksgiving parade). The adult Thanksgiving bingo card could feature common phrases, like “What time is dinner?”, “I’m so stuffed!”, and “Are you sure it’s cooked enough?”

#3. Change up your menu. If you’re a staunch turkey and mashed potatoes fan, you can keep those menu items and also expand your menu. Prepare your traditional items in a different way, like changing to another stuffing recipe, switching to garlic mashed potatoes, or using a slow cooker, air fryer, or Instant Pot to free up your oven. Pick a side dish that’s different from the norm. Here are some Thanksgiving recipe ideas. If you’re one of those people who always has too much food at a gathering, cut back on the less popular items and save yourself some time.

The easiest place to make a change is on the dessert table. If you love pies, add a new flavor this year or make hand pies. You can prepare them ahead of time and stick them in the fridge. Then pop them in the oven or air fryer. 

Or, make it even easier…

#4. Let a local restaurant cook your dinner. Whether you choose to go out to dinner and just order it to-go, you’re supporting local business. Think of all the time you’d save by getting your meal prepped in advance and just popping it in the oven. There’s no shame in letting someone else do the cooking, and you might just find one more thing to be thankful for this year!

#5. Encourage creativity. Encourage your guests to come up with ideas to make Thanksgiving different this year. Give them a challenge to go along with a theme—like Thanksgivings Past memorabilia or a game or activity. How about  a scavenger hunt or a mini-pumpkin hunt? 

#6. Keep the kids entertained. Remember back to your childhood holiday celebrations. What was the most fun you had? While you’re planning for the holiday, include kid-friendly Thanksgiving fun. A few jigsaw puzzles of varying sizes can keep them happily occupied. Print out activity and coloring pages and place them on a table with crayons and washable markers. Set up an easy craft project they can do with minimal supervision (or ask someone to be in charge of the craft table). And set them free on the aforementioned pumpkin or scavenger hunt.

#7. Swap out the seating plan. Are you accustomed to having a separate kids table? Try mixing it up this year. Instead of separating adults from the children, blend everyone in at each table. If that’s too terrifying, feed the children first and let them enjoy their activities (see #6) while the grown-ups have dinner. 

#8. Plan some outside time. Thanksgiving falls at a beautiful time of year. Take advantage of the crisp air and get everyone outside. Take a walk or play yard games, like bocce, croquet, horseshoes, cornhole—something that’s good for all ages. Set up an outdoor movie theater for an evening showing. Include lots of seating, popcorn and movie snacks, and a cooler filled with drinks.

#9. Gather ‘round a campfire. The flickering flames of a campfire or bonfire are a pleasant way to wind down from a busy day. Provide a table with all the makings for s’mores. Keep it traditional—marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars—or try something out-of-the-ordinary. Peanut butter cups, chocolate mint wafers, Nutella, apple slices, pretzels, and cinnamon graham crackers are a few ways to customize your s’mores buffet. 

#10. Help someone in need. One of the best ways to make Thanksgiving different this year is to help someone else. Take a plate of treats to a person who is alone or a family who would appreciate extra goodies. Better yet, invite them over. Volunteer at a mission or food bank that is serving meals or delivering Thanksgiving meals to elderly or handicapped people who are unable to get their own Thanksgiving dinner. Be the reason that someone is more thankful this year!

From our home to yours, all of us at Kettler Forlines Homes wish you a safe, comfort-filled, and happy Thanksgiving Day!