Ask the Readers: What Are Your Alternative Thanksgiving Traditions?

By Ashley Jacobs on 17 November 2015 62 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Stephanie G, Chong, and Mattia for winning this week's contest!

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays with many traditional aspects like sharing a big meal with friends and family, carving into a whole turkey, and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. But sometimes, tradition can get expensive and stressful, so we come up with easier, cheaper ways to celebrate Thanksgiving — maybe offering different dishes on the menu, or substituting the big sit-down dinner for an outdoor activity.

What are your alternative Thanksgiving traditions? How did these non-traditional traditions come about? What Thanksgiving traditions would you never consider letting go?

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Guest's picture
Gina

We do a Thanksgiving potluck with friends and watch football on TV.

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Melissa Johnson

We like to do spaghetti for Thanksgiving! It's easy & everyone loves it! Plus we get to spend more time making gourmet desserts that way!!

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Mary

We have chicken instead of turkey because a large turkey often goes to waste.

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Julie Wood

We have Cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, and we also make spaghetti squash instead of sweet potatoes.

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Elena

We don't have any alternative Thanksgiving traditions

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Denise L

We are very traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving! No alternative traditions here.

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Mary W

I have hosted Thanksgiving at my house every year for decades. Over time I have pared down the menu and made the meal less formal. Instead of roasting a huge turkey all day, I now purchase a smoked turkey. It is already cooked and all I have to do is heat it and serve. Guests prefer this alternative and I don't have to worry about serving under cooked or over cooked turkey.

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Trish

When we have Thanksgiving at our house everyone brings a side dish and that is always a big help!

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Julie Lundstrom

Instead of doing a big turkey I am getting a turkey breast and putting it in the slow cooker. I usually buy a turkey and stuff one but last year I did it this way and it turned out so soft and good that we now make it this way. I will not stop having turkey and watching the parades with my kids.

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kim

Instead of eating turkey, which nobody really likes, we eat prime rib!

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Tina in NJ

We used to make Stove-Top Stuffing, but not anymore. I have high blood pressure and it has way too much salt. I'm making it in the crockpot this year.

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Amanda

My family has always done Thanksgiving on the Sunday following Thanksgiving - it's a small-scale affair that lets us focus on the few of us that are there (usually Grandma, Mom, Dad, me, and 1-3 guests). It's a nice change from the Thursday, which is usually a huge extended family affair.

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Emily S.

We do a very laid back Thanksgiving (think yoga pants and football jerseys). Not alternative per se, but we don't have to buy nice or new "Thanksgiving Dinner" clothes for the family each year!

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Mandy

Friendsgiving is my favorite Thanksgiving alternative tradition!

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Liz

Nothing too non-traditional! We try to keep it on the healthy side though.

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Guest

We often have ham at Thanksgiving!

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BRB

We've been going on a trip over thanksgiving. You don't have to use as much vacation time! I'd much rather be in Hawaii or Mexico with friends that in the cold and rain!

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Susan P.

Our alternative Thanksgiving is roast beef instead of turkey.

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Amanda Sakovitz

Ever year my family orders a pizza in honor of the time I dropped the turkey on the floor.

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jeannine d

Mine is playing football with my family in the morning

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Elle

I think we actually do Thanksgiving by the book per say..nothing really odd.

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Rich

We like to go to the 10am Thanksgiving Mass and then out for brunch.

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Angel

Our tradition is pretty much, among other things, cooking anything NOT traditional for Thanksgiving. Last year, we did enchiladas. This year going with a nice lasagna.

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Felicia

Our non-traditional Thanksgiving came about when our children got married and they began to share the day with both sets of families.

On alternate years, I host a Thanksgiving luncheon or brunch. It's what I consider a deconstructed Thanksgiving dinner.

Instead of mashed potatoes, I'll serve a cream of potato soup. Instead of a ham, I'll make a ham casserole. The turkey will be made the day before and the breast is carved into slices and served with green beans, corn pudding, dressing and gravy, a cranberry/orange relish and bread/rolls. Pie is dessert.

The food item that I could not give up for Thanksgiving would be the turkey. Two years we were traveling and dined at a restaurant for Thanksgiving. When I returned home, I made a turkey dinner!

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Catseye

Sometimes we have roasted chicken instead of turkey and just have a couple of sides like candied yams and green beans, with only one dessert.

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Karen Littman

We each make a dish, so not everyone has to prepare the entire meal and it's not a big ordeal for any one person.

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Clem

One time we had cornish hens instead of turkey.

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Monique

My family likes to exercise in the morning and then take a nice walk after eating our big meal. We don't have a lot of traditions that we absolutely have to do. Lately, we've been incorporating some Puerto Rican foods into the meal, since my dad's wife prefers to cook those foods. And the dessert I bake just depends on my mood, it could be anything as long as it sounds good to me. So the one tradition we'd never let go of is getting together with family and friends.

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Tara

We have ham for Thanksgiving!

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R. B. A. Ross

We don't really have any alternative Thanksgiving traditions, unless you count my husband having to work on Thanksgiving for the past 3 years.

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Lynda

my brother and i always play video games on thanksgiving

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Matt

We like to run a 5k in the morning

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Linda

We eat Thanksgiving dinner really, really late.

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C hui

We usually just buy a turkey breast and bake that since no one in the family likes dark meat.

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Jeff

lasagna instead of turkey

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Joyce

We are changing things up this year. We always give to others at this time but this year, in addition to donating the cost of our meal to a program to provide for homeless families, we are fasting. Easier to do when you do not have family around.

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Stephanie G

We always eat stove top stuffing

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Meg

We pack subs and take a drive to a town a few hours away and eat on the lawn of a federal park :) We stay until evening, take the holiday tram tour of the town to see the lights, and then we go home.

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Anna Pry

on thanksgiving night we play hide and seek in the dark, tradition my daughter started years ago

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Suz_Glo

We have always kept it pretty classic: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc. This year will include all of those things but we're adding and/or changing some side dishes for my newly vegan daughter. I'm excited to try it! (But I cannot give up my turkey.)

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An g

None of us like turkey so we make prime rib

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Louly

We do a Friendsgiving with friends instead of family for the holidays!

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Raina

My alternative Thanksgiving tradition is that I don't have a Thanksgiving tradition. In fact, this year I'm not sure I'll even leave my house or see anyone on Thanksgiving. Probably eat something light by myself.

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Evie B.

We also serve lasagna!

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Tabathia B

We don't cook an entire bird we just get a turkey breast and have about 4-5 sides

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Ernest S.

Our family does a lot of toasting during Thanksgiving dinner. It helps to remind us all that we are thankful to have in our life, as well as remember those that are no longer with us.

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SKB

I am still pretty traditional about Thanksgiving - making my Mom's stuffing - but we aren't doing any big deserts these days.

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Donna D

We don't have an alternative tradition.

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Bast

We have everyone bring a dish of their choosing.

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Roberta Buetow

We have a huge buffet and everybody helps themselves. We use Chinet platters so everybody can pig out. Everything is delicious and we spend quality time together.

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Guest

Not dressing up at all. Pajamas!

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Joyce H. D. H.

My father didn't like turkey much, so our family often had tacos, or pizza or some other fun dinner nobody had to cook. Instead of messing with a big dinner and clean up, we'd use paper plates, and devote the extra time to playing cards, talking and having fun together. Now, we often carry on the simple clean up tradition of paper plates, and precooking as much as possible.

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Liisa R

We hold celebrating really lightly. We usually have turkey in one form or another, but it varies from year to year whether we celebrate with family or friends. No kids yet, so it is easy to stay flexible and enjoy whatever come our way.

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Renee

As I don't usually travel to see family for Thanksgiving, I usually have a Friendsgiving potluck!

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Laura J

Hmm...I guess ours really have not changed over all these years. We still cook the same foods and all the family comes over. We still watch football and the parades on Thanksgiving, and the kids go outside to play with a football...and the adults wish they were all home at their own homes so they could take a nap after eating all the great food. :)

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J. Pario

We play Bingo with M&Ms for small gifts.

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Lisa

Every year, we adopt a turkey through Farm Sanctuary. It's a fun way to have a turkey involved in our Thanksgiving celebration since we won't be eating one.

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Carmen N

We usually have Thanksgiving at Grandma's and all bring a dish.

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Happy Love

Sleep in on Friday morning and skip the "sales".

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Kim

We just get some turkey breasts instead of a full turkey. This year we're hoping to start a new tradition and will be heading to the Caribbean for some fun in the sun for a few days!

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Jenny D

We've adapted our Thanksgiving dinner in a number of different ways. To make the day less exhausting, we've switched from turkey to a special chicken breast recipe. It cooks in much less time and uses up a lot less oven space. Another way that the menu has changed is for those who have special diets. I have a good quinoa recipe to replace stuffing for my son's gluten sensitive girlfriend - and the rest of us benefit from this healthier alternative that is also quite tasty. I also make more things from scratch, which not only saves money, but also results in healthy, delicious dishes. I make my own cream soup and my husband and I have learned to bake our own bread and rolls together. I've also been trying out new cranberry recipes to replace the canned cranberry sauce (I really like it but want something more special). This years recipe sounds promising and I hope it becomes a keeper. I'm changing to apple crisp to save some calories, but the crustless pumpkin pie recipe remains a family favorite.

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Miss kim

We experiment with one new recipe every thanksgiving.

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Thomas Murphy

I don't have any alternative Thanksgiving traditions

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Tara

For years my family has been having Brisket for Thanksgiving, instead of turkey. My mother will find the meat for cheap at a different time of year, deep-freeze it, defrost, and then cook for 5-6 hours in the oven. It's amazing, serves more people, and is far moister. The leftovers we then have as beef sandwiches for days.