15 Unique Thanksgiving Traditions You’ll Want to Steal

15 Unique Thanksgiving Traditions You’ll Want to Steal

Make this year’s celebration extra special with one (or more!) of these fabulous ideas.


By: Leah Maxwell

Much of what people love about Thanksgiving is the chance to eat the same foods with the same people and then have the same argument over whether the TV will be tuned to football or a holiday movie. Although many of us have similar elements in common for the day (a nice fat turkey, spending time with family and friends, taking a moment to say out loud what we’re thankful for), sometimes the things that make the holiday extra special are the customs unique to our own celebrations, whether that means something the family has been doing for generations or something they’re trying out for the first time this year.

We asked women to share their favorite nontraditional traditions, and we got a list full of fun, touching, and delicious ideas, some so great you might want to try them yourself this year. (The heirloom tablecloth idea is GENIUS!) Read on to see what women like you are looking forward to this Thanksgiving.

1. “A few years ago, we started a tradition of the ‘Thanksgiving tree.’ Throughout the year, each member of my family writes something they are thankful for on a fall-colored construction paper leaf and puts it in a box. On Thanksgiving, we put up a laminated tree on our pantry door [and] read what we wrote [as] we put the leaves on the tree. It has really helped to remind us all how much there is to be thankful for in our lives.”

2. “My grandmother on my dad’s side started a tablecloth in the 1930s. She put it out on Thanksgiving Day and kept it out until the 2nd of January. Anyone that came over between those times was asked to sign the tablecloth. Then she would embroider over the signatures. I have hers and started a new one in 1985.”

3. “We’re trying out a new tradition this year because no one wants to host. We’re doing dinner at a fancy historic hotel. Amazing food, no dishes, still having a feast with family.”

4. “Ask me about corn risotto: white and yellow corn stirred risotto-style with cream and butter and onion and jalapeño, then baked with fontina.”

5. “My husband’s family has a giant battle [with toy guns]. If you’re old enough to hold a gun, you participate. There are no teams, points, or winners. We literally just shoot each other all day. But no using babies as shields. (It’s a rule because it’s happened.)”

6. “Favorite: cooking from my grandmother’s recipes that are in her handwriting. (She died 18 years ago.) We have dressing, sweet potato casserole, and a gelatin-based fruit salad-type thing.”

7. “So it isn’t a tradition yet, but this year we are having Pie Fest for Thanksgiving! We are having only pie for dinner! Instead of having a full bird, I’m making turkey pot pies. Everyone who is coming over is bringing a different kind of pie. Quiche, fish pie, artichoke pie, pork pie, and let’s not forget the dessert pies! We are all getting creative with it.”

By: Leah Maxwell

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8. “Each family member writes down what they’re thankful for and it’s printed out on a piece of paper and baked in the buns. We like using those crescent rolls, so you just roll it up over the paper and bake it, like a fortune cookie. Then everyone gets theirs and they try to guess who wrote what.”

9. “I grew up outside of Washington, DC. Every year on Thanksgiving, my parents took me to the Smithsonian museums. Often, we seemed like the only visitors.”

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10. “We have never really done big traditional dinners with family, so each year we do ‘fun foods.’ One year it was nothing but appetizers, another year it was design-your-own-pizza, and last year was ‘eat what you want.’ One child had donuts, another pizza, and another pancakes. I had crab legs and my husband had steak and mashed potatoes.”

11. “We always go for a post-dinner walk as a family. Like, ALLLLLL 15+ of us, walking through the neighborhood together, with the dogs. We get so stuffed on food that we just want to walk it off and get some fresh air. Even if it’s like 30 degrees out, it’s tradition! We just bundle up!”

12. “We have chicken fried steak for Thanksgiving [instead of turkey].”

13. “My husband and I both detest turkey. We have all the trimmings, including corn, peas, green bean casserole, dressing, cranberry sauce, rolls, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie, but no turkey. Since his family is Italian, he grew up thinking pasta was an appetizer for every meal, so we have baked ziti for an appetizer, then our turkey-less Thanksgiving dinner.”

14. “It’s just my husband and me, so we order Thanksgiving food from a catering place we love, then have leftover sandwiches on bagels late that night.”

15. “I rent a house on the beach and gather my brood of 22 for an entire week of family time. I bake certain cookies and candies only seen this time of year, in addition to a homemade fruitcake from a recipe that is over 100 years old. Breakfasts are planned to include pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin pudding and homemade syrups. We rent a party boat for a day of deep-sea fishing, we always go to the movies at least once as a group, and we play games most of the nights. It is a week of laughter and great joy. No pressure, no presents, just a lot of love.”

What unique traditions do you look forward to on Thanksgiving?


Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/Liliboas



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