Do you hate Thanksgiving? You're not alone. Many people enjoy spending time with their families and getting way too full on turkey and stuffing, but there are plenty of people who find the whole holiday trying. That can be especially true if you don't get along with your family, or if some of the people you love most are far away, or if you've lost someone you loved.
If you're dreading Thanksgiving, don't blame yourself--that's a perfectly reasonable way to feel. But there may be some things you can do to make the holiday less unpleasant for yourself.
1. Ask yourself if you really have to follow Thanksgiving tradition.
Maybe you're the one who cooks the turkey and all the trimmings every year. Or maybe you're simply expected to show up at a relative's or friends with a bottle of wine or a pumpkin pie. Either way, ask yourself what would happen if you decided to skip it this year. If you're accustomed to doing the cooking, can someone else do it for a change? Or can you switch in a turkey-less potluck so you're not stuck with all the cooking?
If you're expected at someone else's turkey dinner, ask yourself whether it's truly necessary for you to go. Your hosts may be disappointed, but they're likely to forget it in a day or two. Keep in mind that if you suck it up and go anyway, you're basically exchanging your own happiness for theirs, at least for that one day. Is it a worthwhile trade?
2. Set a time limit.
If you're going to Thanksgiving dinner and you're dreading it, find (or invent) a reason that you can't stay too long. You could sign up for the evening shift to help serve Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter, or tell your relatives that you have to get on line for Black Friday. Whatever you come up with, let your hosts know in advance you'll have to leave shortly after dinner so that no one is surprised or offended. A Thanksgiving dinner where you only have to stay an hour or two is a lot easier to take than one that goes on all evening.
3. Try a change of venue.
Maybe this is the year you finally try having Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant. If you don't enjoy the at-home version of the holiday, maybe eating out would make it easier, especially since you can order something other than turkey if you prefer. Besides, meeting in a restaurant is likely to make for a shorter Thanksgiving than if you were in someone's home.
4. Set some ground rules for dinner conversation.
In these polarized political times, loud arguments at the dinner table are more likely than ever. So much so that a recent survey found more than half of Americans fear they will have to endure arguments over politics along with the cranberry sauce.
You can stop this problem before it starts by setting or requesting some ground rules for Thanksgiving dinner conversation. Discussing politics should definitely be off-limits. Depending on your particular family or friends, you may also want to ban conversations about local sports teams, family members, and other topics likely to cause unhappiness or controversy.
5. Pick an after-dinner movie everyone will like.
Once dinner is over and everyone is lying around in an tryptophan-induced stupor, you can make the holiday more enjoyable by supplying a movie that most of the dinner guests will want to see, whether a recent Hollywood movie that you didn't catch in the theater, or a classic that you want to see again. Having a DVD or streaming service ready to go can help. Or, if your family isn't the movie-viewing type, consider a different after-dinner activity.
6. Plan to reward yourself.
If you've decided to go through with Thanksgiving dinner to make your friends or family happy, then you deserve a reward. So plan to do something fun--just for you--on the day after Thanksgiving or sometime over the weekend. Take yourself to the movies, get a massage, go for a hike or a drive through wine country with a friend, or even give yourself permission to lounge on the sofa all day with that mystery you've been dying to read. Whatever it is, just make sure it truly makes you happy.
7. Remember what the holiday is about.
Forget the history about Pilgrims and Native Americans for a moment and consider the true message of the holiday, which is to take one day out of the year to be grateful for the good things in your life. Whatever is going on in your work or your family life, I'm guessing there's a lot there to be grateful for.
If you hate the idea of Thanksgiving dinner, remembering to be grateful for the good things in your life might not make it any more palatable. But it will put those few hours of tedium and excess consumption into perspective. After all, it's just one evening out of what is generally a pretty good life.