Do you find yourself falling into the same Thanksgiving routine: show up, mingle, sit down, state what you are thankful for, induce a food coma, go home, and repeat next year? Here are 5 ways to break out of that cranberry-can mold, have some good laughs, and create lasting memories with your friends and family.
1. Party favors at the place settings
A long time ago, when I was a freshman in college and far from home, a new friend invited me over to their aunt's house for a family dinner. I felt a little shy, being the newcomer, even though Aunt Allie greeted me with a warm smile and a big hug. But what really broke the ice were the favors that she had set out at the table. Each seat had it's own little prize -- a whoopie cushion, temporary tattoos, and a twisty-twirly drink straw, to name a few. Before I knew it, I was goofing around, enjoying everyone's company, and playfully bickering with another guest over who had dibs on the little, rubber cow on a keychain that "pooped" jelly beans. We all felt like kids again -- and that is priceless.
Who put away the most turkey and fixings? Let's settle it right here, and give the winner bragging rights for the whole year. Put a digital scale, because a tenth of a pound could make or break it, in a back bedroom or bathroom and have willing guests weigh-in before and after the big meal. One year we went as far as putting up a chart that guests, identified only by the last four digits of their social security number, filled in, with before and after weigh-in information -- but we're a competitive bunch. The winner, who ate a whopping 3.8 pounds of Thanksgiving dinner, was awarded with gift-wrapped Tupperware and was given the first-pass at wrapping up leftovers to take home. If you can't indulge on Thanksgiving, when can you?
3. Cranberry Carving
Unleash your inner artist! Who would have thought that a can of jellied cranberry sauce would provide the perfect medium? Open the quintessential can and slide out the cran so that it stands upright on a plate. Each guest or team is given one plate of cranberry and one plastic knife -- the ideal carving utensil. Give guests 15 minutes to carve. Afterwards, everyone votes on a winner. One of my all time favorite sculptures was "Can," in which our friends Ellen and Jason carved a toilet. Brilliant!
4. Gratitude Picturades (Pictionary + Charades = Picturades)
Instead of going around in a circle at the dinner table, with each person sharing what they are thankful for, have the guests work for it. Divide the group into two teams. Have each person write down what they are thankful for on a small slip of paper. Be specific, be yourself, and be a little silly --like "Pumpkin Spice Lattes" or "GPS on my phone." Write your name below, fold the paper, and put into your team's hat. Each team will pick a clue from the opposite team's hat to either act out or draw, their choice, on a large sheet of paper. If their team guesses the clue, it's a point. If their team guesses who wrote that clue, in other words, who is thankful for Pumpkin Spice Lattes, then it's an extra point. Go back and forth, following the classic rules of charades.
5. Good Old-Fashioned Board Games
At the end of the day, you cannot beat a classic board game or card game. They have a delicious, nostalgic quality and are tried-and-true. Unearth Scrabble, Apples to Apples, Taboo (my favorite), Monopoly, Yahtzee, whatever -- and set the boxes out in stacks so that they are visible and within arms reach. After pie is served and guests are starting to dwindle, gravitating back to their cellular devices or the TV, a board game is a great way to stretch out that family bonding time and share in some laughter together.