5 Alternative Ways to Give Thanks

In an effort to get more joy out of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking of alternative ways to give thanks this year.
Alternative Ways to Give Thanks & Bring More Meaning to Your Thanksgiving. Personal essay about finding more meaning and being more intentional during the holidays. #thanksgiving #turkeyday #holidays #personalessay #givethanks #gratitude

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means the holidays are pretty much here. Where did 2019 even go?! This question pops up in my mind every time I publish a gift guide or share anything else holiday-related on the blog. It causes me stress with how quickly time passes, anyone else? Lately, I’ve been very aware of how it can be hard to take time to slow down and and give thanks. And although this is typically a time of joy and celebration, sometimes the holidays are a little more complicated than just pretty tablescapes and delicious food. With allll of that in mind, I have been thinking of alternative ways to give thanks this year. If you’re feeling anything remotely similar, I hope this post helps you… and at the very least, I hope it inspires you to view Thanksgiving in a new light.

Alternative Ways to Give Thanks & Bring More Meaning to Your Thanksgiving

I definitely do not want to rain on anyone’s parade or evoke guilt — not at all — but I think it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone celebrates the holidays in the same way or even has the opportunity to. Maybe you don’t have family you’re close with or you live far away from loved ones and will be alone on Thanksgiving, etc. and if that’s the case, I want to share 5 alternative ways to give thanks this holiday season. Or heck, maybe these are things you can do in addition to getting together with friends and family? Either way, don’t be afraid to make Thanksgiving YOURS!

So, without further ado, here are some alternative ideas that could help add more meaning to your Thanksgiving:

Celebrate in a way that gives you joy

With the holidays, for most, comes lots of time with family. But ya know what? Family doesn’t always bring everyone joy. And I think that is completely OK. The holidays, to me, should be about making yourself happy and feeling all the good feels, and if that means finding something else to do, that is totally fine. The same goes if you don’t have any blood family. I am lucky enough to have a great family and to be surrounded by good friends who are just as amazing as family. No matter where I spend Thanksgiving, I know that I’ll be spending the day with my people, blood relation or not. 

If you find yourself in a new city and don’t immediately have a network of people to spend that time with, look for ways to get out in the community. There are a lot of local restaurants in here Seattle that I know put on Thanksgiving events. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere like that alone! I guarantee you’ll find new people to mingle with! Or you could go on to my next idea…


Whether you have family and friends to celebrate with, live in a city alone, or whatever your situation is, a great way to give thanks and show appreciation is to get involved with a local organization and donate your time. Volunteering can mean so many different thins, too. Spend the day making meals for homeless people or packaging up food to send to troops overseas. You could also head to your favorite animal shelter and snuggle animals. Help out with whatever cause means the most to you.

And if you don’t have time to give, there are still ways to get involved. This time of year, clothing, food, and/or monetary donations always go a long way. Maybe even get your friends and family (near and far) to chip in and make it a yearly tradition. There are so many ways to give back at Thanksgiving.

Write thank you notes to people who have made an impact on you

If you truly want to spend Thanksgiving showing people in your life how grateful you are for them, but don’t have a gathering or meal planned, write them a note telling them. First, who doesn’t love getting a handwritten note either in the mail or given to them in person? I certainly wouldn’t turn anyone away wanting to give one to me.

Try to think outside the box on this, too. For example, if you don’t have family to write to, think about people in the community who have made a difference for you. Maybe it’s the founder of an organization or your local congressperson or representative. Anyone and everyone are eligible! The key is to express gratitude in a meaningful way.

Take shopping out of the equation

OK, I don’t want this to sound hypocritical because I’m fully aware I write about shopping (but I am also working to be more sustainable in this department) and it’s part of my job to “influence” purchases, but sometimes I think people forget what Thanksgiving is really about and instead only think of it as a time to get a good deal. So let’s take the shopping out of it, shall we? At the very least, don’t go out and shop on Thanksgiving day. PLEASE! Promise me! Spend that time talking to loved ones or giving back to the community instead. And, if you must shop, do it online.

Acknowledge the history of the holiday

I’m not trying to start a controversy with this one, but I know Thanksgiving as a holiday is taking a lot of heat in recent years because people are finally starting to acknowledge that the land that makes up the US was stolen from Native Americans by white settlers. The controversy of it all aside, I think one really meaningful way to give thanks on Thanksgiving is to acknowledge the indigenous people who have a deep history and connection to the land where your family is now celebrating. Maybe that means talking about this topic around your Thanksgiving table with your friends and family, or looking it up online and learning more about the tribe and traditions of the area you now consider home. I think it could only bring positive things to talk about this. I also love including younger generations in this conversation so that they are able to continue to bring this change into the world.

These are just 5 alternative ideas for giving thanks this year! I’d love to hear anything you have to add if you’re doing something a little different this year. And please do let me know what you think of this style of post.

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Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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