I’m not saying that it’s not a lot of fun making and eating a lot of elaborate vegan dishes–it’s a blast. Still, I always wondered why Thanksgiving can’t be more about other things too. An entire day devoted to making food, eating food, and then languidly digesting food in front of the TV blaring football isn’t exactly my idea of a great time. Nor will I be heading to stores on Black Friday, getting mowed over by crowds just to feel as though I saved a little money on Christmas presents. (The best tip to saving money isn’t shopping on Black Friday–it’s shopping very little). In fact, American Thanksgiving is pretty lacking in tradition as far as holidays go across the globe, partly because we’re a relatively young nation, and also because so much of it revolves around food and the retailers’ own agenda. Even the most stalwart of Thanksgiving traditions–tellingly named the Macy’s parade–reeks of consumerism.
The great thing is that we are each free to make our own rituals and traditions for this late fall holiday. As the days become shorter and the year draws to a close, we are naturally drawn to offer thanks for this past year’s successes, look back on any major changes or hardships, and reflect on how much we’ve grown. And there are more ways to do these things than just eat unto food coma. Here are 10 ways to celebrate this Thanksgiving weekend that doesn’t involve food.
1. The best way to offer thanks is to do something good! Visit your local animal shelter with some pet food, blankets, and toys, and volunteer to walk the dogs. You can also help rescued farm animals and donate to Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey program.
2. Attend service or mass at your church. And if you’re feeling extra thankful, bring some homemade vegan dessert to your priest or minister, or the kind old man who always volunteers for functions. Your church is also probably doing some kind of fundraising or food drive this time of year, so bring canned food, etc.
3. I don’t know about you, but I think playing football with your family is much more fun (and invigorating) than parking yourself on the couch after a big meal. Why watch when you can play? Also acceptable are playing frisbee, basketball, or anything else that gets you moving.
5. Do yoga, which will help relieve any holiday stress and put your body in a happy place. For Thanksgiving, open your heart chakra and your root chakra to both ground yourself and open your heart for love and gratitude. Add sun salutations for a complete practice.6. Go hiking! It’s one of my very favorite things to do, especially in fall. If you don’t live near any hiking trails, even a walk around your local park will do. Bring some colorful leaves or fallen branches back for your Thanksgiving centerpiece! Here are some decorating ideas.
7. Call or email people you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up! We all have them–your best friend who lives out of state, your favorite uncle, etc etc. Let them know you’re thinking about them.
8. Read some good books. I have a thing for powerful women, so I can’t wait to read Jung Chang’s Empress Dowager Cixi and Somerset’s Queen Anne (my favorite book of 2011 was Robert Massie’s Catherine the Great). If you don’t have a lot of time for a big novel or biography, I recommend taking up a short story collection by Alice Munro. Here are some books we’re reading this fall.
9. Meditate. You know it’s one of the best things you can do for your mental, emotional, and even physical (!) health, but how often do you actually take five minutes for yourself to just breathe and let your mind rest on the present? My favorite way to meditate is in lotus pose–rest your sit bone on a pillow or a blanket to raise yourself a few inches from the floor. Straighten your spine and open your shoulders, aligning your crown over your spine. You can also explore deep belly breathing lying down. Whatever you choose, allow yourself to breathe, wander, and just be, without judging and with deepest kindness.
10. Play old-fashioned board games. Monopoly, yes. Jenga, yes. Chess, backgammon, and Scrabble, all yes. Logo, no! (Anyone else creeped out that logo recognition is being sold as fun past time?)
11. Okay, so this wasn’t originally on the list, but read Peaceful Dumpling! That’s it! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend filled with family, fun, and gratitude. I am thankful for so many things this year, but especially all our Peaceful Dumpling readers, editors and writers.