How to Have a Happy Thanksgiving This Year

Going through a lot right now? Here is our Thanksgiving message to you that might shine a light for you.

Happy Thanksgiving — we’re throwing this phrase around a lot this week. As a greeting and surface-level well-wish, it’s great. But actually having a happy Thanksgiving this year might be a challenge. 

If you’re feeling like throwing in the towel this Thanksgiving, we understand. After the year we’ve had, everyone should reserve the right to take this one off. But if you’re looking for ways to navigate this holiday — by yourself or with family — we can help. 

Our Grotto community has been sharing insights about their experiences with this holiday for a while now. Here’s some of their wisdom that might shine a light on what you’re going through.

Getting along with family — and yourself

Whether you’re getting together with loved ones this year, or making it a smaller holiday to stay safe from Covid, it’s not always easy to spend time with family. It can be complicated — and stressful. Planning ahead and taking breaks can help. So can setting good boundaries. And if all that fails, consider some intentional self-care practices

If you’re looking at a holiday alone or remote, make sure to schedule time to connect with family by FaceTime or phone call. And getting those recipes for dishes that are traditional to your family’s celebration will make you feel like you’re having a real holiday.  

And let’s not forget that the holiday season is also a time when we most deeply feel the loss of loved ones who have died. Their absence during these traditional gathering points leaves a hole in the fabric of your relationships. Don’t run away from those feelings — grief is supposed to hurt. Finding a way to acknowledge someone you’re missing honors their place in your life. 

Navigating tough conversations

Now that the election is over, perhaps politics won’t be as top-of-mind around the dinner table as it’s been lately. But then again, maybe some of those feelings and opinions have only intensified! Family brings all sorts of folks together, and conversations can feel like walking through a minefield. 

If you find yourself in a sticky situation, remember to remain open-minded and respectful. Listen first, lead with curiosity, and look for common ground. If you have the courage to dig into a topic with someone you know you disagree with, remember that the most important part of the exchange is your relationship. There are ways to have a discussion without things falling apart

Then, of course, there’s always that sibling or cousin who’s just plain awkward. If the conversation hits a record-scratch moment, you can always redirect with humor or a different topic

Don’t forget to include others

Do you have someone in your bubble who is a vegetarian? Or even (gasp!) a vegan?! Don’t panic — preparing accommodating food isn’t actually that hard. From sweet potato casserole to a wild rice and mushroom stuffing, we have you covered

And the things we celebrate during the holiday season also call us to keep in mind those who are suffering or going without. Finding ways to serve them during the pandemic has not been easy, but there are things you can do.

This gourmet chef is a great example of how you can make a big difference with just a little effort and few resources. But if you’re being called to stick closer to home, there are still plenty of opportunities to serve — often those gestures mean the most precisely because they are so small. 

Remember to be thankful!

The whole point to this holiday is taking a beat to be thankful for what we’ve received, so make time to be intentional about that practice. Keeping a gratitude journal can help — it’s a proven way to be more happy and even grow in self-knowledge. And if you want a simpler exercise, you could always just take a few minutes to write a few thank you notes.

We have a lot of stories about how gratitude has transformed people — from studying abroad to a near-death experience. Turns out, gratitude is a particularly good coping skill for getting through this pandemic — even just taking a walk with the intention of taking in beauty can sustain us in a difficult time. 

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