A Thanksgiving Tradition That Doesn’t Involve Cooking

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I don’t readily admit this, but I believe in my 11 years of marriage I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner once. MAYBE twice.

Our first Thanksgiving as a married couple I somehow remember vividly. We were poor. We had upgraded from our cardboard box table to a real table thanks to my husband’s grandparents giving us one.

We had a thrift store futon in our living room that was my pride and joy. A couch AND a bed. Sweet!

We might not have had much of a Thanksgiving that first year had it not been for my job. I worked at a call center after school doing sales. I don’t remember the details, or how it happened but I won a turkey! Still a newlywed, I was thrilled to cook a turkey for my husband.

But how?

Holiday newlyweds interracial couple

I called my mom. She isn’t a human cookbook who can rattle off recipes like nobody’s business, but I do remember her making Thanksgiving turkeys… In a brown paper bag!

She told me how it helps keep the juices in the turkey, and no, it wouldn’t blow up my kitchen.

I made green bean casserole (my favorite Thanksgiving dish) cranberries, scalloped potatoes and mac and cheese. It was delicious, and our full bellies told us all of the dirty dishes were well worth it.

It’s basically my one domestic success in my marriage. And sadly that was 11 years ago.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a great excuse for dropping the ball the last 10 or so years (there were a couple years where we visited family and I didn’t have to cook. Let’s just count those as wins). I hate admitting this but at least three of the last seven Thanksgivings have been at Golden Corral. No cooking, no dishes. No fuss.


Now is the part where I’m suppose to tell you I’m turning over a new leaf and cooking for my family of four this year. Nope. We are celebrating Thanksgiving in Utah where my fabulous in-laws are providing the meal. Sure, I’ll pitch in. But the pressure isn’t on me. Does that even count? (I’m counting it.)


We’re going to be surrounded by family, once-removed cousins “so many cousins!” as Lil’ J puts it. Lots of food, family and fun. I’m hoping it’ll be the kick in my pants to remind me about the importance of these traditions. Lil’ J is five now and I don’t want her memories of our Thanksgivings together to be crowded buffet restaurants.

I want her to remember me attempting to cook a turkey in the oven with a brown paper bag. Or baking a homemade pie. Or SOMETHING.

Something my children will remember when they’re celebrating their Thanksgiving as a new husband or wife, and want to call me and ask for tips.

I may not be a Betty Crocker mama, but I can learn a thing or two, and hopefully make it a tradition worth treasuring.

Here are a few things I’m considering starting this year:

Dish duty: From lessons in table-setting, to doing the cleanup together. Seventh Generation natural dish liquid is tough enough for all the grease, but natural, hypoallergenic without dyes or synthetic fragrances. Stuff I can let the kids use. I have fond memories of large rubber gloves and a sink full of bubbles. I think my kids could get in on that.

Mommy and me dishes Seventh Generation natural dish liquid

Making a dessert with the kids: Let them choose one, and we shop for ingredients and make it together. Technically this is baking, not cooking. And I actually appreciate the exactness of baking that cooking seems to neglect.

Hunting for the wishbone: We did this when I was a kid, my sister and I always pulled it apart together while making a wish. The one with the longer piece’s wish would come true. I haven’t even introduced this concept to my daughter yet.

What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions that don’t involve food?

A big thanks to Seventh Generation for sponsoring this story. I’m partnering with them as I share my imperfect life and ways I’m trying to improve it with you. If being more conscious of natural cleaning products, dish soap, and eco-friendly diapers are on your list of priorities, head here for more information. As always, all opinions are my own.

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  1. I wouldn’t count it as a fail, your family got a warm dinner and didn’t go to bed hungry. That’s already winning on lots of levels. So you’re not an eager chef, so are LOTS of other people. No sense in having a stressful holiday every year. If you want to try out some recipes go ahead, but don’t do it because others, or pinterest, says you should.
    What you could do is keep little traditions. I love the idea of picking a desert and making it together. Do a thankful tree. Buy little thanksgiving dishes (pottery barn has cute ones on sale) for the kids and let them start using them the week before thanksgiving. That way, not matter where you guys land on thanksgiving day, your traditions are still the same.

  2. This will be one of the firsts years that I am cooking the turkey and I am excited. Non food traditions really are just watching football, playing games and hanging out with friends and family.

  3. I think if you’re not cooking, it’s a good idea to roll up those sleeves for the dishes after the meal! At least, if you want to get invited back 🙂 I feel like Football can be a great way to ride out a turkey coma.

  4. I am not much of a cook even though I have cooked my whole life. We have done it all on Thanksgiving…went to Disneyland, ate out, catered in and I have cooked. For the last 10 years or so we have settled on buying the turkey and ham from Honey Baked Ham and some of the sides, and me doing the rest. And that works for us. There is a campaign sponsored by “The Mrs” band right now called #EvenThough…#ImEnough. I think we as women have to remember that #EvenThough we might not have the kind of Thanksgiving that we set as an ideal…what we do have is just fine because #WeAreEnough.

  5. Non cooking tradition include watching The Macy Day Parade together and going to a late afternoon movie. Also vegging out on pie for dinner instead of real food. Grandma makes the best apple pie for Thanksgiving.

  6. One of the traditions we have is taking a shot of Grandpa’s favorite alcohol each time a new family arrives – that’s always fun. But we also move all the furniture out of the way after dinner and get a big festive game of spoons going with all the cousins. It’s crazy fun and a little rowdy, but such a great memory year after year. – Katy

  7. When I was young, My grandparents hosted very formal Thanksgivings. We would help polish the real silver and set out the best chins and crystal. We even dressed up in our church clothes. Our Thanksgivings are much less formal but still with a lot of wonderful food. Sometimes, though, I miss the fancy Thanksgiving a little bit.

  8. I love hosting Thanksgiving. I don’t cook the turkey though. I leave that to my hubby or another family member. One of our favorite traditions is making a fun craft to decorate the table. Something like pine cone turkeys, turkey handprints or something like that. Each year something we try something new.

  9. Our favorite non-food holiday tradition is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The kids love the balloons and I love the musical and broadway performances. It’s a win-win for everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. I’m a newlywed and this was the first Thanksgiving my husband and I celebrated together. I cooked Thanksgiving Breakfast, if that counts but I didn’t cook Thanksgiving Dinner. We went to Golden Corral instead. This is pretty much how we will be celebrating our Thanksgiving from now on. Next year we will be taking our whole little family. I’m pregnant right now and we also have a 7 year old and a 2 year old. This Thanksgiving was more about spending it together with each other. The kids were with their grandparents.

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