Thanksgiving is a time for tradition, but that doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same thing every year! Whether it’s your first time hosting and you’re starting new traditions, or you’re looking for a way to infuse your usual holiday activities with a little excitement, here are four ways to juice up your Turkey Day.
1. Game Day
Thanksgiving is known for football, so if you’re a fan, make it the center of your plans. Invite family and friends over early to watch college games, and serve casual appetizers that are easy to grab from the coffee table as guests gather around to cheer on their team. Want to make things interesting? Organizing a betting pool where someone wins each quarter of the game.
At halftime, head outside for a pick-up game of two-hand-touch. Keep it friendly and festive, and everyone will be in the mood to play! If football’s not everyone’s bag, plan a bocce, ultimate Frisbee, or corn hole tournament, or—if it’s cold outside—a master game of charades. Whatever game you choose, including a little friendly competition in your plans will help everyone work up an appetite for the year’s biggest feast.
2. Group Thing
If you’re feeling like your Thanksgiving celebration could use a little extra fun, try including new people by hosting an open house. Start mid-afternoon and invite friends and extended family over for festive finger foods and hot toddies. It will give everyone an afternoon activity to enjoy while still allowing enough time for people to head home and enjoy their individual dinner traditions.
Or, invite a larger group for dinner, and ask guests to RSVP with their signature Thanksgiving dish (so you don’t have to do all the cooking!). Not only will fresh conversation add conviviality to your event, but you’ll get to try staple dishes from each guest’s holiday table. If everyone you know already has plans, try combining dinner plans with one other family. Choose each of your favorite traditions and combine them to create a new one.
3. Foodie Fest
If there is a day of the year that’s all about the food, it’s Thanksgiving! So celebrate the foodie in you and host a cooking contest. Not only will it save you some time in the kitchen, but you’ll get to enjoy the best culinary effort of everyone you invite!
Assign each guest a traditional dish or let them choose their own. (Or, if you have your heart set on making dinner, have a cocktail or dessert contest instead.) For an added twist, make it a blind contest, where only you will know who brought what! Have guests vote on the best dish, then come up with a fun or silly prize for the Turkey Day Top Chef.
4. Formal Affair
If you love your annual Thanksgiving traditions, but want to do something extra special this year, make it a formal affair. Print and send formal invitations asking guests to dress in their holiday finery, and include a set cocktail hour and dinner service time. Have enough seats at the dinner table to accommodate each of your guests (no coffee-table eating!) and break out your best china and crystal. Honor special guests by asking them to carve the turkey or say the Thanksgiving grace. Then go around the table and ask guests to share what they’re thankful for on this special day.