By Heidi Vegh, Crosswalk.com
Being far away from family is difficult, but not being with them on holidays can exaggerate our feelings of missing them. You may miss the way your mom makes the potatoes or the way your dad always burns the pies. You may miss your family traditions or snuggling with your siblings on the couch watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. These things can put a damper on your holidays, but they don't have to.
I have lived away from my family for just over five years, and I know that it can be upsetting or difficult, but I believe there are things that we can do to bring life to Thanksgiving in new and fresh ways. We are still able to live in thankfulness for all that God has done in our lives. Even though these are hard seasons, He is here with us and gives us joy and peace amongst the missing. Shift your thinking and realize that you could make it exactly as you want it. A clean slate!
Here are five ways you can bring your Thanksgiving to life, even without your family close by.
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1. Embrace New Traditions and Try New Recipes
I grew up having the same Thanksgiving meal every year, with little variation. I appreciated this and was sad when I didn't have the opportunity to partake in the familiar goodness. However, I have learned to enjoy creating our own traditions and scouring Pinterest for new and fresh ways to make comforting favorites. So, this year, while you are away from your family, brainstorm new and fun ways to create the dishes, come up with fun new games you can play, or ask the kids how they would like to spend the day. Perhaps, spend the morning writing out thank you/love notes for the family that you miss so dearly. Without the limitations of family obligations, the sky's the limit. Here is a list of fun Thanksgiving games you can try. Pick your favorites and make it a new tradition to play every year.
2. Volunteer Your Time
"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35
As we all know, the needs of the less fortunate are year-round; however, in our American society, it tends to be more recognized around the holidays. So, this year, reach out. Visit the website of your local rescue mission and sign up to serve. If you are not around family, you won't have the obligation of planning around family events. You will be free to serve on or around Thanksgiving. It may pull you out of whatever funk you have fallen into while being sad about your family and give you a fresh perspective on the blessings that surround you.
A good resource is Feed America. They have thousands of opportunities all over the country to help you give back. Whether it is volunteering at the local food bank, serving food at a local shelter, or organizing a food/clothing drive. There are many things you can do to shift your focus to others less fortunate. In Ephesians, Paul teaches us that living for Jesus means putting others before ourselves.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Ephesians 2:3-4
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3. Go Out to Eat
If you find yourself without anywhere to go because perhaps you have just moved away from family or you have not been invited to anyone's house, eating out is a fun option. Make reservations early as they can fill up fast. My family and I did this a few years into life in our new home away from family. Although the Thanksgiving meal served at the fancy restaurant wasn't what we were used to, it was delicious, and we enjoyed every bite. We enjoyed our time, complete with one of my children breaking a wine glass and my two-year-old running amuck through the quiet, candle-lit restaurant. We sure created some funny memories.
Enjoy a Thanksgiving meal prepared by someone else and think of all the benefits. You don't have to cook, and most importantly, you don't have to clean up. This may feel completely different, but it's good to expand our horizons and try new things. You may miss dad's burnt pies but try to savor and enjoy the new fresh flavors. Eat all you can, and then go see a movie. Make the day about being out, not about being in. It is hard to miss family, but this can serve as a good distraction that creates lasting memories.
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4. Celebrate with Friendsgiving
If you live far from your family, chances are you have friends who also do. Seek these people out and begin new traditions. Invite your friends over for a Friendsgiving. Find some fun Friendsgiving decor, such as this cute sign from Amazon, and make it fun and festive. Help other people feel loved when they are most likely sad about missing their family as well. It will be exciting to experience everyone's different take on traditional Thanksgiving dishes and will be a great opportunity to connect with the people that do live near you. If you are part of a church, offer to host a Thanksgiving meal at your church with all the families that are family-less this year. In Christ, we are all family, and being together with other people can be life-giving.
5. Take a Family Vacation
Take advantage of the long weekend and the freedom from obligation and take a trip. It doesn't need to be exotic or expensive; even taking a small road trip to a new town, renting a house, and enjoying the freedom of expectations will soothe your soul. Holidays can be an expensive time to travel, so plan early. Now that the pandemic has somewhat subsided and the travel industry is inching its way back to normalcy, you can find many great deals. Many travel companies are offering low rates to get people back out there. This provides a nice distraction and almost makes it feel like it's not even a holiday.
Don't get bogged down by missing your family; take advantage of your newfound freedom and try living it to the fullest. If it is difficult for you, perhaps, plan to travel to your family every other year so you can get the best of both worlds, or plan to meet your family somewhere fun. However difficult it is, being away from extended family can strengthen the bond with your immediate family and bring you closer as you create a new life, new traditions, and new memories.
"That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." Romans 8:28
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