What to Do on Thanksgiving If You Can't Go Home

For whatever reason, you're one of the few people you know who's staying in town for the holiday. So how best to enjoy it? Here are some suggestions.

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While everyone scrambles to get home, or at least to where their relatives live, on this worst traveling day of the year, you're staying put. Maybe your parents live too far away, maybe the planet ticket was too expensive, or maybe your family is an utter nightmare so why would you ever want to spend your precious few days off of work suffering with them? Whatever the reason, you're one of the few people you know who's staying in town for the holiday. So how best to enjoy it? Here are some suggestions.

Have a "Friendsgiving." You've heard this slightly odious phrase before, probably. Like an orphans' Christmas, "Friendsgiving" is basically, well, what they did on Friends. You're young and free-wheelin' in the city, and so are your friends, so forget those biological ties, these people are your real family, and real families have Thanksgiving together. Stock up on booze and have the gang over to your shabby chic apartment and drink wine out of mason jars and take Instagram photos of all the creative, kale-filled side dishes your hip, hip friends have made. Oh god, take so many Instagram photos, and be sure to use the hashtag #friendsgiving so people know what you're up to. This will be especially useful in annoying your friends who did have to go see family, and are currently stuck in some musty house in Albany with their great aunt and uncle, wistfully scrolling through their phone and promising themselves that next year, they'll stay in the city and be just like the Friends too. And making those people jealous is really what the holiday is all about.

Have an early Jewish Christmas. You know Jewish Christmas, right? The whole Chinese food and a movie routine? Well, who says you can't do that on Thanksgiving too? There's gotta be a Chinese restaurant open somewhere, so grab a friend, or hell, go by yourself, and get some Moo Shu and go see Frozen or Thor or any of the fall movies you've been meaning to see — Gravity is very good! You should go see it! That way you're getting out of the house and doing something sorta communal but without all the hassle of cooking and hosting and all that bothersome stuff. If it's good enough for Christmas, it's good enough for Thanksgiving.

Pretend it's a normal day. Maybe you're feeling a little down about not being able to go home to see your family? If that's the case, it's possible that you could distract yourself by treating Thanksgiving like any other day. Meaning, wake up at the same time as a normal work day, shower/shave/whatever like you always do, and head off to work. Is your office locked? Well, no matter, you can just sit in your car for eight hours. You've got a smart phone, right? Do whatever you can to get some work done and pay no attention to the otherwise empty parking lot or the odd availability of seats on the subway or any other indicator that everyone else is home enjoying the company of friends and loved ones. You kinda block out the happy world and pretend it doesn't exist on a normal work day, don't you? This is the same trick, only slightly more difficult. If you live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan this may, in fact, be impossible, unless you are really really good at pretending there isn't an enormous parade happening outside your window. But otherwise, good luck, everyone!

Be modern. If you're alone for Thanksgiving, you could always do one of those Skype/Facetime/video phone/satellite teleconference/space magic/who knows things. You know, on the computer. Call your family on the computer and "have" Thanksgiving "with" them. What are you waiting for! It's the new millennium, after all. Of course, there's the slight matter of your parents having no idea how to even turn on a computer let alone communicate through one, but isn't your cousin Ricky supposed to be there this year? He works at Best Buy, he can show them. Though, hm, that means that in theory you'd have to talk to Cousin Ricky, which is always an awkward and unpleasant adventure. Maybe just call your parents on the regular phone. Maybe just do that.

Wallow, beautifully alone. Basically take the booze part of Friendsgiving and then remove everything else. No lovingly made artisanal mashed potatoes, no rare Beaujolais drunk out of cutely mismatched glasses, no laughter over funny old stories. Just you, alone on a couch, Wicked souvenir cup full of Franzia clutched in hand, mumbling at the TV. Sometimes the best thing to do if you feel down is to just give into it, and Thanksgiving being a special day about giving, maybe you should really give into it. Swaddle yourself in whatever soft thing you can find and let yourself go. Leave strange, vaguely menacing comments on people's Instagram photos, laugh maniacally as you order one of everything from a Chinese restaurant on Seamless, curl up into a ball and sleep for eighteen hours. Do whatever you want! Revel in your misery. I'll bet that somewhere between your fourth Wicked cup of chablis and your tenth egg roll, you might even start to have fun.

Image via Shutterstock/Everett Collection 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.