What to Celebrate Instead of Thanksgiving: Alternative Ideas

Thanksgiving, a holiday traditionally celebrated in the United States, has long been associated with turkey, pumpkin pie, and the gathering of loved ones. However, as time goes on, more people are questioning the origins and impact of this holiday, particularly on indigenous communities. While the holiday season is a time to express gratitude, it is also an opportunity to reflect on alternative ways to celebrate and honor the spirit of thanksgiving. In this blog, we will explore alternative ideas to celebrate instead of the traditional Thanksgiving, with a focus on understanding the unspoken truth, re-inventing celebration, the role of cultural awareness, making a positive impact during the holiday season, and embracing indigenous foods like turkey, corn, beans, pumpkins, maple, wild rice, and the like in our thanksgiving recipes.

Understanding Thanksgiving: The Unspoken Truth

Thanksgiving, as it is widely known, has a deeper history that is often not taught in schools or acknowledged in mainstream narratives. The impact of colonization on indigenous communities is evident in the land we occupy today, and the holiday weekend may not be celebrated the same way by indigenous communities. It is important to recognize the great way to show solidarity with indigenous communities is to educate ourselves about the indigenous land and the alternative harvest celebration traditions that native people, such as the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe, hold dear.

The Impact of Thanksgiving on Indigenous Communities

The colonization of the Americas by European settlers had a profound impact on indigenous communities, which continues to be felt to this day. When we celebrate Thanksgiving, we must remember that the land we gather on was taken from native people, often through violent means. Thanksgiving weekend, for indigenous communities, holds a different significance, one that acknowledges the resilience and survival of native people despite the injustices they have faced.

The Reality Behind the Traditional Narrative

The traditional narrative of Thanksgiving, as it has been passed down through generations, may need to be reexamined. The first Thanksgiving celebration, often romanticized, was not the same for all settlers. It did not represent the native people equally, and the feast shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people was a rare occurrence, rather than the start of a harmonious relationship. Understanding the reality behind the traditional narrative allows us to approach Thanksgiving with a new perspective on the interactions between Pilgrims and indians.

New Traditions: Re-inventing Celebration

To truly honor the spirit of thanksgiving, we can shift our focus to new traditions that emphasize togetherness, gratitude, and understanding. By re-inventing the celebration, we can create new traditions that resonate with our values and promote deeper connections with our loved ones.

Shifting Focus: Laughter and Relaxation

Laughter and togetherness are great aspects to focus on during Thanksgiving day. Rather than solely focusing on the food, let the holiday be an opportunity to create new traditions that prioritize the good time spent with friends and family. Emphasizing the togetherness allows us to shift the focus away from the historical controversy surrounding the holiday and to simply enjoy the day for what it is—a time to connect, laugh, and relax. National Family Week (Nov. 21-27) is a perfect time to break out the photo album and home videos and further enhance the quality time spent together.

Incorporating Physical Activities

Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to incorporate physical activities into our celebration traditions. Instead of spending the day indoors, consider taking advantage of the great outdoors. Whether it’s a friendly game of touch football, a hike in the woods, or a walk to admire the changing autumn leaves, incorporating physical activities can make the day more enjoyable and help create new traditions centered around movement and gratitude for the natural world.

Role of Cultural Awareness in Celebrations

In addition to creating new traditions, the holiday season provides an opportunity to deepen our understanding of different cultures and histories. By learning about the indigenous land, native people, and other aspects of American history, we can approach the holiday season with a greater awareness, respect, and gratitude for the diverse communities that make up the United States. Spending your time helping Native communities is a simple but crucial show of support in a time when we need solidarity the most.

Learning About Different Aspects of American History

Thanksgiving day, in particular, offers a great time to learn deeper about American history, including the Wampanoag people and the indigenous land they inhabited. By understanding the traditions and experiences of the native American people, the colonization they faced, and the ongoing struggles for human rights, we can create new traditions that incorporate gratitude to the native people, the land, and the deeper understanding of the holiday season.

Creating Safe Spaces for Sharing Stories

Another way to incorporate cultural awareness into our celebration traditions is by creating safe spaces for sharing stories. Thanksgiving dinner, with its emphasis on togetherness, provides the perfect opportunity to create new traditions that encourage the sharing of personal narratives, traditions, and experiences. By inviting our loved ones to share stories, we can foster deeper connections, understanding, and appreciation for the diverse backgrounds that enrich our communities.

How Can We Make a Positive Impact this Holiday Season?

While the holiday season is a time to express gratitude, it is also an opportunity to make a positive impact in the world around us. By looking beyond the traditional celebrations, we can find alternative ways to give back, support charitable organizations, and create meaningful change during the holiday season.


Frequently Asked Questions


What are some alternative ways to celebrate the spirit of giving thanks?

There are many alternative ways to celebrate the spirit of giving thanks, even if we choose to step away from the traditional Thanksgiving feast. For example, we can volunteer at a local charity or food bank to give back to our communities. Hosting a potluck with friends and family, where each person shares what they are grateful for, can be a beautiful way to express gratitude and create new traditions. Taking a gratitude walk, reflecting on the things in our lives that we appreciate, is another alternative way to celebrate the spirit of thanksgiving. We can also write letters of appreciation to loved ones who have made an impact on our lives, expressing gratitude for their presence and support.

How can I incorporate cultural and religious traditions into my non-traditional holiday celebration?

Incorporating cultural and religious traditions into our non-traditional holiday celebration can be a meaningful way to honor the diversity of the holiday season. To do so, we can research and learn about different cultural and religious traditions, including traditional foods, decorations, and activities that align with the chosen culture or religion. We can also invite friends or family members who practice the chosen culture or religion to share their customs and practices, deepening our understanding and appreciation. It is important to respectfully acknowledge and honor the significance of the chosen culture or religion in our celebration, creating new traditions that merge the old with the new.

Are there any volunteer opportunities or charitable organizations that align with non-traditional holiday celebrations?

Yes, there are numerous volunteer opportunities and charitable organizations that align with non-traditional holiday celebrations. Many charitable organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and Feeding America, accept volunteers year-round, including during the holiday season. Additionally, local animal shelters, food banks, and community centers often offer volunteer opportunities that align with the values and beliefs of alternative holiday celebrations. By researching online, we can find volunteer opportunities that resonate with our desire to make a positive impact during the holiday season.

How can I respectfully decline traditional Thanksgiving invitations and explain my alternative plans?

When respectfully declining traditional Thanksgiving invitations, it is important to be honest and straightforward about our alternative plans. Express gratitude for the invitation, acknowledging the kind gesture, and then explain that we have chosen to celebrate the holiday differently this year. It may also be helpful to offer to celebrate with the hosts on a different occasion, or to suggest alternative ways to stay connected, such as a holiday gathering in the future. It is crucial to be respectful of others’ beliefs and traditions, even if they differ from our own, understanding that each person has the right to celebrate the holiday season in the way that feels most meaningful to them.


In conclusion, celebrating Thanksgiving in alternative ways allows us to acknowledge and address the historical and cultural implications associated with this holiday. By shifting our focus towards laughter, relaxation, physical activities, and cultural awareness, we can create new traditions that are inclusive and respectful. It is essential to learn about different aspects of American history and create safe spaces for sharing stories. Making a positive impact during the holiday season can be achieved by volunteering or supporting charitable organizations that align with non-traditional celebrations. If you have any alternative celebration ideas or thoughts to share, please leave a comment below. Let’s continue the conversation and explore new ways to celebrate the spirit of giving thanks.

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