How To Be Alone on Thanksgiving

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So, you’re spending Thanksgiving 2016 alone. Maybe you live too far from your family and all your friends are gone, maybe you’re working on setting boundaries, or maybe this election season has made the idea of going home unbearable. Whatever your reasoning, I’m here to let you know this: spending Thanksgiving alone is not only just fine, it’s also damn fun.

I’ve spent the past six Thanksgivings all by myself on purpose and what used to be my most anxiety producing holiday has become my absolute favorite day, and even if you’re not necessarily spending it alone by choice, it can still be a great day for you. The key is having a plan. I’ve developed a yearly Thanksgiving routine for when the dinner party will just be you and your pets, and I’m here to share that wealth of knowledge with you.

Thanksgiving Breakfast


Does your mom cook Thanksgiving breakfast? My mom forgets that she only has two children and one husband and cooks enough bacon, eggs, sausage, and pancakes for a party of fifteen. Because of her over-preparedness, I too cook for parties, even when it’s only myself, but because I like to relax on Thanksgiving and not wake up at the crack of dawn and cook all day non-stop, I usually make something the night before that I’ve just got to pop into the oven like an overnight french toast or something I can throw on the stove to warm up.

Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


The only part of the Thanksgiving of my childhood that I looked forward to was waking up, jumping into my mom’s bed, and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together in our pajamas. This year the parade is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and there are tons of new floats, including one from my favorite feminist organization, the Girls Scouts of America. If you’ve got a television, you can always watch on NBC or CBS (which does like a weird unofficial broadcast?), plus NBC’s Livestream online if you’ve got a cable hookup. If you, don’t have a TV or fancy cable that lets you watch network television online, someone has put up an unofficial Livestream link online! Gather your cats, get your coffee, and snuggle up.



It’s Thanksgiving! You gotta eat! Listen, you’ve heard about my mom so I obviously cook for 20. I buy a whole 12-14 pound turkey, make at least 3 sides, usually bake a cake and a pie, and will probably make fresh bread this year. I go hard. But maybe you don’t want to spend the week leading up to the holiday defrosting and brining a turkey — that’s real. If you’ve got two sheet pans, you can make this Thanksgiving dinner. If you want something a little more traditional and have the means and desire to make an entire turkey dinner, here are some super simple recipes that are delicious (I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve almost made all of these). But maybe you’re like, “Alaina, it’s just me, myself, and I, and I don’t want a turkey!” And that’s your right! How about a casserole or a lasagna? Then you can just throw it in the oven and eat it in your bed OUT OF THE PAN! Whatever you cook, just please make sure you make enough for leftovers, because that’s the best part!

Get out of your house


Go for a walk or a drive, or go somewhere where you’re not going to make a minimum wage worker who probably doesn’t want to be at work do any more work than they should have to. Move your body a little bit. Do yoga on your porch. Even on my best Thanksgivings, I’ve still felt a little cooped up, and getting some fresh air is exactly what you need. Even in Texas, Autumn is trying to show off a little bit, so go outside and enjoy her!

Do something good


My church usually volunteers and serves a Thanksgiving lunch most years, and I’m there. Always. It’s another way to get out of the house. It’s a way to make the most out of what is a fucked up holiday that’s kinda centered around settler colonialism. It’s a way to make sure that everyone gets fed and to build relationships with the folks living in your communities in real ways. (Small note: don’t do this to feel good about yourself!! Savior complexes are not cute, especially on Thanksgiving!)

Call someone who loves you


Call your best friend. Call your mom, if you’re into that. Call your cutie. Just call someone who loves you. Remember that you are loved on Thanksgiving and every day and that it’s okay to be sad about being alone, and it’s okay to be lonely. Calling someone you love will make it easier to remember those things. I always call my mom. My brother always sends me a picture via text of their Thanksgiving dinner back home and says “you’re missing out Lane.” I call my grandma. I send lots of love notes to people. It feels good and leaves me feeling grateful at the end of the day, and isn’t that the whole point of the holiday?

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Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 330 articles for us.


  1. Bless you Alaina. I’m setting some boundaries this Thanksgiving and it was starting to feel very isolating. I swear Autostraddle, like, anticipates my needs haha <3

  2. It’s a little late for it now, but I’ve also had really good results with having the holiday party early before my family-and-time-off-having friends have to go and telling the actual day to suck it

    (If anyone wants to bother me on the internet Thursday, though, that would be A-OK)

  3. Or….. or…… you can throw a big gay bash. Turkeys! Sides! Rainbows! Loneliness! Netflix n’ Chill!…. Maybe not the last one…. Actually, just go ahead and Netflix n’ Chill. That’s my plan after family lunch.

  4. Alaina, you’ve totally inspired me! I am spending Thanksgiving alone for the first time this year, and I’m not terribly sad about it (I love being alone), but I was sad to miss out on the food and figured I would just treat it like a regular day. NOW, I’m totally inspired to make a delicious Thanksgiving dinner just for meee! Yum yum!

    Also, thanks for the shoutout to Girl Scouts-I am a Girl Scout leader and the young women I work with are some of the most awesome, most inspiring, smartest, and most feminist people I know! <3

  5. YESS!!! Spending holidays alone is the best!!! I’ve been doing NYE by myself for years but this is the first Thanksgiving I get to be alone. I’m making pizza and watching I Love Lucy all day long!!! I don’t like hardly any “traditional” thanksgiving food and I don’t want to go home. I’ve gotten a few friendsgiving invitations which would be okay but honestly I just know that the day I have planned for myself will be 100% better! I often am not sure of what I want, so when I do know I have to listen to myself. Its pizza time!!!!! Making the dough tomorrow!!

  6. An introvert’s perfect Thanksgiving! I love spending holidays alone, but this year I was guilted into going to a family dinner. I don’t have a lot of family members who understand why I would want to be alone, but I think the suggestions you make here are perfect and I will definitely be implementing them next year.

  7. I love this! I adore doing things on my own and it’s so validating to read an article about it without any condescension or misplaced pity.

  8. I’m tired of being asked what I’m doing for Thanksgiving. I’m working, which is Not A Big Deal. My roommates were going out of town, and then they weren’t, and I was kind of disappointed that I wasn’t going to have the time to myself anymore. I was going to come home from work Thursday, eat some good food alone in peace, and then probably go out. IDK it’s just another day to me, and I could have used some solace.

    • So, what are you doing Thanksgiving? Hehehehe, sorry. I get it though. I usually spend it with my family, and this year I found myself lying to them about having to study for finals, and then lying to friends about being with family just so that I could have lunch at a local ramen spot alone without anyone thinking it seemed sad. Eating alone on a holiday in public is one of those things I need to say I have comfortably accomplished. Have fun working!

      • I hope it went or is going well! Work was pretty easy, and then I came home and cleaned up and it’s actually not a bad deal that I’m basically getting food cooked for me and all I had to do was come home with a pie.

  9. You guys, Thanksgiving was 6 weeks ago. I believe the holiday we are celebrating this weekend is called “Release of the Netflix Gilmore Girls Revival” Day.

  10. Thank you for asking people not to make service workers labor on a day they should be given off, Alaina. I hate that people go shopping on holidays and force poor people away from their families. :(

    I hate black Friday and any store that is open on the holiday or cuts into a weekend block. EVERYONE deserves that time with their families. The only people who should be working are those who are essential, like hospitals, peace officers, dispatch, fire, first responders (including electricians who deal with downed lines) and others. No one should have to be at a restaurant or retail shop because some assholes can’t wait a few days. No reason the next Monday can’t be the day of all the sales and everyone can’t get four days off.

    GRR. I’ma calm down now. :P

  11. As a person who has been in the service industry for many years and who (thankfully no longer) worked at a location that was open on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the one type of person I could not get over are those who would come in on the holiday and say “oh, I’m surprised you are open! Don’t you get time off for the holiday?” And I would have to bite my tongue so hard to keep from saying “well, maybe if mouth breathers like you weren’t in here buying stuff I would!”

    • Hah! Preach! I’ve worked most holidays my adult life in vital services, but there were always people who acted as though I wanted to be at work and not with my family. Just… grr. No. :P

      • Yeah, vital services is a totally different story, imo. I work at Large Coffee Chain. Like, I get that maybe your mom doesn’t make monkey bread for Thanksgiving and even if she did, maybe spending it with her is not your jam and that’s FINE. You do you, for sure. But, MY mom makes monkey bread and gingerbread overnight French toast and I would WAY rather be eating that than serving you subpar caffeinated drinks. Besides, she needs my help cooking.

        The one good thing I can say about Large Coffee Chain is that there is generally a sign up that gets circulated so if you want to work a holiday for time and a half, you can, even if your store is not open. Therefore those who work at stores that are open and want the day off have a better chance of getting the time off. Also, at least where I am at, tips for those big holidays are counted separately. So if someone feels like dropping a large tip to think those who are there that day, it only goes to those who were working then, not mixed in with the rest of the weeks tips.

  12. I spend a lot of holidays alone and try to act like they’re normal days to not feel shitty about it, and then feel shitty anyways, but actually treating it like a special day and celebrating it with myself is brilliant, thank you for opening my world to this, brilliant

  13. Yay I loved this. I love the t-day cuisine so I happily make it for whomever is around to share it with around this time of year. This year was my first year making vegan t-day stuff and it turned out ok!

    I would add one item to this great list which is looking on to see if there is a holiday open thread to enjoy. :)

  14. Being Canadian, I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving this week, but I am bookmarking this post to go over before Christmas!

  15. When I read the title of this post I immediately said out loud: “THANK YOU”. I was feeling kinda sad but now I’m feeling inspired, and not-alone in my aloneness!

  16. This is a great article! I am married and part of a large family now- but I spent some years being a single Mom, kids sometimes not with me on the holidays. I looked for ways to spoil myself on those holidays- reminding myself that I could make it all about me for once. I didn’t *have to* cook a damn thing if I didn’t feel like it. I could just eat coffee cake and drink mimosas all day. And also, yes, Macy’s Day parade! Yes to taking hikes in the woods! I love my life now, but I do cherish some of those quiet holiday memories :)

  17. Thanks for the ideas. For some reason unknown to me my family has decided to blow me off this year. N call, no “we have other plans” – just silence. I’m so hurt I can hardly stand it, but instead of crying about it I’m going to go take a long hike, get a pizza and crack open that bottle of Moscato in the fridge. Screw ’em, I’m going to be thankful and have a good day despite them.

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