A Truly Satisfying Thanksgiving

Let’s be honest for a moment here.  Your Thanksgiving might not look like a greeting card or a commercial.  Someone might get pneumonia.  The upstairs bathroom may leak water as you’re eating pumpkin pie.  If you’re flying or driving, you might get stuck with some shitty delays or traffic.  You might burn some of the food or your house might not be as clean as you wish it was.  You might really miss the people you’ve lost in the past few years.  And as you’re feeling kind of bad about this, you’ll start to feel even worse, because everything around you – all the advertisements, all the TV specials, all the music – has told you that you shouldn’t feel this way.  America’s consumer-driven culture tells us that perfection is the goal for the holidays.

I think we have a tendency to over-eat, over-drink, and over-spend during the holidays because the ideal of perfection that commercials (and seemingly everyone else’s Facebook posts) give us, is just too much to handle.  So, we eat (or drink or spend) too much because we feel a little empty, and everything out there in our culture has told us that all these products we have access to are supposed to make us feel full.

One way we can combat the depression that the holidays can bring is to turn away from consumerism and towards spiritual traditions. Winter holidays of course aren’t actually about perfect decorations and too much food, they’re about the fact that life has been really, almost unbearably hard this year.  And it might be really, almost unbearably hard tomorrow.  But for today you stop in the midst of all the imperfection, all the sorrow; you light a candle, and feel – for even just a moment – truly perfect.

Here are 12 things you can do this Thanksgiving break, none of which are tied to a particular religion or system of beliefs, but all of which I find spiritually satisfying.

IMG_19191.  Go for a hike, walk, or jog.  Even if it’s a short one because the weather’s bad, getting out into to nature is reinvigorating.

2.  Make a list of winter activities that you would enjoy.  My husband and I started doing this when we moved to Portland and suffered through the lack of sunlight in our first winter.  A list of fun indoor activities will give you something to look forward to.

3.  Play a game or do a puzzle while listening to music.  This indoor activity brings everyone together, and cuts down on screen time.

4.  Make a fun craft.  In one of my favorite Thanksgivings, my sister and I made lotion and other beauty products at a friend’s house.  Crafts that can be given as gifts are particularly great this time of year.  I’d recommend making origami that you can hang on a Christmas tree or cards that you can give out throughout December.

5.  Donate to charity.  Donating money on Thanksgiving reminds me of all the great work that’s being done in the world, and how lucky I am to be able to give.

6.  Go through the pictures you took this year.  Reminisce about your favorite memories and choose some to make prints of IMG_2804for frames, albums, or Christmas gifts.

7.  Make your own music.  Even if you haven’t played an instrument all year, get it out again, and spend some time playing music and singing.

8.  Write to people you care about.  I think writing handwritten cards (maybe your Christmas cards) is the most relaxing thing you can do, but you can also use technology to do this.  Recently, I heard someone say that technology helps us feel connected as long as we use it with intention.  I think that’s a great way of looking at it.

9.  Make a list of what you’re thankful for.  This is fun to do out loud over dinner, but it’s also nice to take some time to write it down, and maybe post it where you can see it.

10.  Spend an hour re-reading things that you love.  Maybe your favorite poems, or short story, or children’s book.  Read out loud to each other.  Celebrate the words that always bring you back to yourself.

11.  Make a list of what you’re leaving behind as this year begins to end.  Once you’ve listed all you’re ready to get rid of, burn it in a fireplace or fire pit.  You may or may not want to discuss your list out loud.  After this list, you might want to write a list of what your intentions are for the coming month, now that you’ve left that junk behind.

12.   Shop at local businesses.  Not on Thanksgiving of course, but maybe on Small Business Saturday.  Try to buy as many presents as possible from small, locally-owned, independent shops.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving and holiday activities?  Leave them in the comment section below!

PS – If you’re looking for food in addition to activity ideas, I thought this article on Vegan Thanksgivukkah did a good job combining the two.



  1. On Thanksgiving morning I like to stay in my pajamas and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I have been doing this since I was a little girl. My favorite thing to buy for the holiday season is a special a Advent calendar.

  2. Thank you for the list of suggestions- wow they are beautifully refreshing! I like to make cookies and listen to Christmas music and lick the bowl too! 🙂

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