You don’t have to go home for the holidays to have a great time.
Though Thanksgiving is a widely-celebrated holiday in the United States, those who attend college far from their hometown may find themselves unable to travel home for this short break.
If you will be struggling to make it back for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, there are plenty of alternative ways you and your other stranded friends can celebrate the holiday right from your new home.
Hold an “orphan’s Thanksgiving”
Just because you are stuck in your residence hall until your friends return stuffed with cranberry sauce doesn’t mean you have to ditch the tryptophan altogether.
Ask your RA or Residential Director if they know anyone else who will be sticking around. Since your dorm won’t be closing, there are bound to be other “orphaned” students and RAs you may not even know preparing to spend the day alone.
Gather them around and plan a potluck Thanksgiving dinner in your common area or multi-purpose room. Use it as a way to make new friends and try some new recipes.
Help out at a local food pantry
Get in the real spirit of the holiday by reminding yourself what you are thankful for and helping out those who are less fortunate. Look online for local food pantries, soup kitchens, and hunger coalitions by simply searching one of these terms and your city.
Pantries and kitchens get many volunteers over the holidays, so if they say they do not need more hands on Thanksgiving Day, ask if there is another way you can help. Spend the week leading up to the holiday gathering ingredients and holiday supplies to donate.
Explore a new restaurant
Start a new tradition by heading out to a local restaurant. Many restaurants have Turkey Day specials and deals to attract those who are tired of slaving over the stove each year.
Take advantage of this ploy by gathering a fellow Thanksgiving orphan or two and trying an eatery that is usually too expensive or too crowded to check out. If you’re up for a nontraditional meal, look for a French or Asian restaurant putting its own spin on the holiday.
While the rest of the town is sleepy, you’ll be taking a culinary adventure!
Have a viewing party
Even if it’s just you and your roomie or neighbor, organize a viewing party of one of the country’s many spectacular Thanksgiving Day parades. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City is always a favorite program, as is the 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia. Both, as well as countless other local parades, will be airing bright and early that morning to kick off the holiday season. Sit around the common room TV in your sweats and pajamas like little kids and let the milk and cereal flow.
Get a closer look at the parades
Not quite satisfied with watching the parade from your couch? Though by this time many parade organizations have all the volunteers they need, smaller, local parades may still need help.
If no help is needed, make an early morning of it with an RA and a few dorm orphans and camp out at the sidelines of your local spectacle. It will probably be very cold, so bring blankets, coats, gloves, scarves, and anything else that might keep you warm.
You might be a bit chilly, but having a front row seat to the beautiful balloons that float down our cities’ streets each Thanksgiving – plus the new memories you’ll make with your peers – will make it totally worth it.
Not being home for a traditional holiday like Thanksgiving can definitely be disappointing, but don’t resign yourself to wasting the break in bed with Netflix. Finding alternative ways to celebrate can ease your homesickness and create all new traditions to celebrate.
How will you celebrate Thanksgiving? Tell us in the comments below!
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