Finding Gratitude this Thanksgiving in the Non-Traditional – like Frozen Pizza and Pajamas

By Kate Kovats

Newly separated or divorced might not sound like a recipe for a great Thanksgiving. I promise you it can be – even if you are missing family traditions or it’s the first time you won’t be with your children for the holiday.

You still have things in your life to be grateful for – friends, family, a house, a job. Or maybe it’s not having to cook a big meal or fight holiday traffic. Maybe it’s the long weekend reprieve from divorce negotiations. Maybe it’s the joy of a quiet house and being free to hang out in your PJs all day (or all weekend – no judgment) and binge on carbs, wine and Netflix.

For me, Thanksgiving has long offered the perfect time to reset. It started when I was in law school at Florida State University and was simply too worn out to think about driving home to Orlando from Tallahassee for a weekend. I told my family I’d see them at Christmas. That first year was the first of many in which I’d change into my pajamas on Wednesday night and rest, watch TV and eat and drink whatever I wanted through Sunday. It was glorious!

Some years I might emerge to go to a friend’s parents’ house for dinner. But it was always right back to vegging out in stretchy pants at home. Or others years I might put on real(ish) clothes for a bit and entertain my friends in my own home – a tradition that many of us singletons call Friendsgiving.

And while stuffing and cranberry sauce are probably my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, sometimes I don’t do traditional at all. If I’m solo, I might bake a frozen pizza. If I’m hosting, I might make Hungarian dishes like chicken paprika and nokedli (dumplings) that I grew up eating, and my friends never complain.

My point is you can make Thanksgiving whatever you like and whatever you need it to be this year or any year. You might find that you secretly enjoy the break from family life and even the kids. And that’s OK; nobody has to know you love your solo holiday weekend or Friendsgiving festivities. Plus, there’s always next year if you and your ex are trading off having the kids.

I like my traditions, too

While I’ve never been married, I understand what it feels like to love a holiday tradition so much you never want it to change. A few years ago my then boyfriend invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Chicago. I tried every excuse in the book for why I couldn’t go. I really wanted to protect my do-nothing restorative holiday weekend. Ultimately, I relented and ended up having some of the best  Thanksgivings with him and his family.

Now that we are no longer together, I miss the togetherness of those Thanksgivings and the fun we had – but maybe not enough to make new plans and give up my laid back weekend.

Here’s the thing: This is your chance, maybe your first chance, to reimagine and reinvent rituals and traditions. The fact is you aren’t going to be able to hang onto every holiday the way it used to be. Embrace it. Lean into it. Be grateful.