How to entertain the guests who are not into football on Thanksgiving

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bingo balls

If my dad read that headline, he’d probably be offended. Every year while my mom cooks a meal fit to feed at least 20 people, despite only needing enough food for half that many, he holds down the couch and watches football.

It’s not that I have anything against football, but I can understand getting tired of watching the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play every year. Not to mention football is on a lot more these days — Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, College GameDay (Saturday) and then Sunday Night Football. In a world where I can watch football any Thursday, I want to do something different on Thanksgiving.

For me, Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and eating good food. Over the years, between helping mom set up the banquet line and watching football with dad, my family has tested out a variety of other activities on Thanksgiving just to keep it interesting.

  1. Set up your old PlayStation, Nintendo or Xbox. When I was younger and all my cousins came over for Thanksgiving, we’d play Tomb Raider, Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Grand Theft Auto throughout the day. There was never an issue with arguing because we knew if we got too rowdy, dad would come unplug the whole system mid-game (whether you had time to save or not) and that was the end of that — Rule No. 1: Don’t disturb dad while he’s watching football. In recent times, my sister and I decided to purchase a used Playstation 2 to play our old PS1 and PS2 games on, realizing we have a ridiculous amount that we have no system to play them on. It’s been a blast. Every Sunday after we watch the Browns with dad, we revive a long-forgotten game and take turns trying to get to the next level/move on to the next mission.
  2. Start a tradition. We don’t do it anymore, but for four or five years straight we did an annual Thanksgiving day race — me and my mom v. my brother and my dad. My sister would run my leg with me because she’s 10 years younger. I think it all started with my dad reminiscing about a time he beat my mom in a foot race, running backward after multiple knee surgeries, and my brother chiming in that he’d never let me beat him. My mom and I never did win a single race. One year I was even taken out by my Great Dane, Cleo, who stepped into the middle of the driveway and stopped right in front of me. But it seems every Thanksgiving someone brings up the face full of gravel I got that year, and every other grudge match created by that tradition. It wasn’t so much the race as the memory of doing something together on Thanksgiving every year.
  3. Look through the ads together. It’s been a long time since I’ve been Black Friday shopping. I used to enjoy going with my mom, just because it was a way for us to spend time together when I was younger, but it has since lost its appeal. I do much cooler things with my mom now that I’m a little bit older and we can take my daughter to do things with us, too. Also, I’ve grown to hate fighting crowds and dealing with traffic. It’s just not how I want to spend my free time. Plus, Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime don’t force me to deal with those headaches. However, I still look at the ads with mom every year. For one, she never fails to freak out about how much things cost compared to 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago. I swear the woman shops in sale vacuums, refusing to buy anything until the next one hits. But it amuses me and makes me stop and think about the value of things. Second, any new technology is completely foreign to her, so I always get a kick out of explaining uses for things she categorically doesn’t think we need. Lastly, this is generally how I figure out what to get her and dad for Christmas. They never ask for anything, so unless you notice something that’s held together for 20+ years completely falling apart, it’s hard to come up with things they’d want. When we look at the ads together, mom will mention things she needs or things she’d like to try out.
  4. Card games. Whether you have a regular deck of cards or actual card games, sitting down at the table after turkey dinner and playing a game is always fun. In the past, we had poker tournaments when family get-togethers were bigger. More recently, we’ve played Old Maid and Mille Bournes. Maybe I just have a really competitive family, but no matter what game we play it’s always heated, fun and the trash talk is real. We’ve gone through at least three decks of Old Maid because my 8-year-old daughter, Vayda, doesn’t want to end up the “old mop squeezer.”
  5. Board games. Like the video games, it seems like tons of board games have been left behind at my parents. I guess as we grew up and stopped playing them, they started collecting dust on a shelf and sat idle until Vayda found them. Lately, we’ve been playing Clue a lot, but Uno, Trouble and Hungry, Hungry Hippos are favorites too.
  6. Listen to music. When mom is cooking, John Denver’s Greatest Hits is playing. It never fails — Rule No. 2: Don’t make fun of Mom’s taste in music. Although I’m not a huge fan of John Denver, I really appreciate hearing it before every big family meal. It just feels appropriate and I know it’s something I’ll always remember. With so many streaming services and ways to listen to music in 2019, everyone should be jamming while they’re preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Or even after dinner. Sometimes dad will YouTube old songs I either haven’t heard or can’t recall hearing for a long time and it’s like a forgotten gem from the 1970s or 80s has been bestowed upon me. Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves is not something I would typically listen to, but if dad wouldn’t have cracked it out of the vault one Thanksgiving, I may never have taken the time to listen to anything Cher sang in her prime.
  7. Go outside. I realize it’s not 70 F out anymore, but it’s not too bad out either. If you’re visiting relatives in the country do something you don’t get to do at home. Some of our go-to activities include shooting hoops and shooting trap.
  8. White Elephant Bingo. This is the only activity on the list that didn’t originate with my family, but I’m looking forward to it. For the first time, I’ll be attending Thanksgiving Bingo with my boyfriend’s family. Winners will be given white elephant gifts and the cuisine will consist of delicious leftovers. I have high hopes for the food and Bingo; however, I’m most looking forward to Uncle Sean’s overreactions when someone calls out Bingo. I’ve been told they are pretty animated. I might just throw in a fake “Bingo” to rile him up.

Whether you test out one of the activities I listed above or create something totally unique to your own family, I challenge you to do something other than watching football this year. Thanksgiving is so much more!

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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