Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. Nothing says “I’m so glad our forefathers stole this land” like gorging ourselves on a supply of food that could feed a small African village.

But, if you’re like me, you spend most of your Thanksgiving dinners with relatives you haven’t seen since last Thanksgiving. After 10 minutes catching up on the highlights of the past year you’ve run out of things to say and by the time the gravy is passed to you, you’re so glad you can stuff your mouth for an excuse to stop the small talk that you pretend that the green bean casserole is the best thing you’ve ever put in your mouth. You just can’t stop. It’s good to see everyone, and Aunt Barb’s pumpkin pie really is good, but when Uncle Steve starts in on race, religion and how Obama is a communist, you’re ready to go. And it’s only been 30 minutes.

So, here are some ways to pass the time so you, unlike the delicious poultry on your plate, can survive Thanksgiving.


You’ll need candy corn, nuts, or other small edible objects. Position yourself by a fun cousin or other family member. In the middle of dinner, quietly challenge him or her to a “dishing contest.” Each of you take turns trying to toss your small edible object into the gravy dish, or mashed potato bowl (whatever dish you can see from your seat) without getting caught. The one who gets caught loses. This can also be played if you eat out for Thanksgiving. Really, you can dish wherever there is small food and an unsuspecting dish.

2. RUN A 5K.

There’s always a Turkey Trot this time of year. If you’re not a runner, this is even better. It could take you upwards of an hour. An hour! By yourself! And then there’s the extra long shower afterwards – you earned it, you ran a 5K! Serious time killer this one.


Use the dressing as its name implies. Pile it on your slice of turkey to look like a dress, or pants, or ascot. Really, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination on this one. If used as a group competition, vote on the most stylish turkey. Winner gets the first piece of pie.


Bring a prototype of your new co-op-worker-placement-deckbuilding-futuristic-piracy game and offer to let family play test it. Grandma will get confused and stop trying to talk to you. At the very least, anything you introduce to them on FATFROG will seem less daunting.


Print off two Thanksgiving-y pictures. Make sure they are identical. Then tell everyone to spot 5 differences. That should keep them busy for a while. Here’s one you may use:


Strike up conversation with a relative by starting with “remember that one time…” and continue telling a completely made up story. The goal is to keep them trying to remember that one time that you know never happened without catching on to your fabrication. Bonus points if they jump in with details as they try to save face!


In the spirit of the full holiday season, grab some candy canes and a can of jellied cranberry sauce. The goal is to see how many candy canes you can pierce through the jellied cranberry sauce before it falls apart. (Note: your enjoyment of this game will increase exponentially if you remove the cranberry sauce from the can.)

8. “…”

Try to fill your plate with all the food you want – but there’s a challenge. You can’t use any words. A lot of sound effects, hand motions, movements, but no words as you try to convey to those at the table what it is you want passed.


Use mashed potatoes to work on your miniatures model making skills. Or, with a more playful group you can play Pictionary with mashed potatoes. Sculpt your favorite Turkey Day starch into shapes and get your family to guess what it is. When they get it, they’ll yell “Mashed PotatOOOOH!!”


This is a novel concept, I know, but actually focusing on what you are thankful for can help you overlook so much. When your mind is thinking on the ways your life is blessed, it’s a lot harder to let in the negative feelings and stress of the holiday.

On a personal note, I recognize that for some, the holidays are less jolly and more junky. While the title to this article is intended to be silly, “surviving the holidays” may be very real. This season can hold resentment, loneliness and sorrow for some. And if the focus is on those feelings, those feelings won’t likely change. But, I want to take my 5-minute soap box to tell you how I make it through times like these. In my life, focusing on the circumstances of life usually makes circumstances worse. But, choosing to focus on the one who gave me life – Jesus – not my mom (although she’s a good lady) always brings joy in the midst of whatever my circumstance. So, for you, whether it is faith, family, or maybe just enjoying a board game with friends, I hope that this holiday season, you can more than just survive. I hope you find joy whatever your circumstance.