Celebrating the Holidays after a Divorce

holidays life after divorce
celebrating holidays after a divorce

Whether Thanksgiving will be your first major holiday after your divorce or whether you’ve been divorced for many years, the holiday season can be tough. November and December holidays usually include a lot of annual traditions, and those may feel quite different after your divorce. 

Sometimes people try to recreate those same traditions minus one person, and it doesn’t work out - it usually ends up being so obvious that someone is missing, and everyone ends up feeling sad about the loss.

So instead of trying to keep all of the same traditions, this is the perfect time to make new traditions - or at least try something new, even if it’s only for this year. It’s not set in stone that you do have to do the same thing year after year. 

Here are some ideas to add to your Thanksgiving list of traditions (or maybe replace some that don’t fit into your life anymore).

Go Informal...or Formal

If your family usually eats on fine china with cloth napkins, consider changing things up this year and get those festive (and sturdy) Thanksgiving themed paper plates and napkins. If guests are usually dressed nicely, tell them to wear their most comfy clothes, loungewear or even PJs! 

And if you’re normally the informal type, and you don’t even own nicer dinnerware, you can add a nice tablecloth and candles, and you’ll be all set!  

Make It Pot Luck (or some other theme)

If you’re the one who usually does all of the cooking, mix things up this year. Ask everyone to bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish to share. Or maybe a big dinner is not your thing - or you don’t want it to be this year. How about asking everyone to bring their favorite dessert? Or maybe their favorite Mexican dish, meatless meal, or anything else you think would be fun! Thanksgiving doesn’t always have to include turkey.

Get Outside

Take a walk in the morning before you eat or take one after lunch or dinner. You can do this alone or with a friend or some family members. Being outside (even when it’s cold) will make you feel refreshed.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, check out a local Turkey Trot run or walk. Even if you go by yourself, there is a certain camaraderie among runners and walkers who get up early on Thanksgiving morning!

Focus on Gratitude

Instead of just saying or thinking about what you’re grateful for, write it down. You can use a brown paper table runner and each guest can write down what they’re thankful for. You can use paper leaves as decorations and people can also write on those. Be creative! 


If you find yourself with quite a bit of free time on or around Thanksgiving day, donate your time by helping to deliver or serve meals. There are many local organizations who could use help this time of year. Another idea is to collect canned goods and non-perishables and deliver them to your local food pantry.

Host a Movie Marathon

Relaxing in front  of the TV after a big meal can be fun, but you could also skip the big meal and just invite people over later in the day to watch holiday movies or maybe a movie series that you all love. Pop some popcorn, bring out the boxes of dollar store candy, put your feet up and enjoy! 

Have a Girls Night In or a Sleepover

Who says adults can’t have sleepovers? What better to relax and enjoy quality time with those closest to you then to have them spend the night. You can include some pampering like manicures, face masks and foot spas, or make some festive beverages and appetizers to enjoy while catching up on each other’s lives. 

However you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, know that it’s okay to do things differently. Divorce is not easy, and those first holidays after a divorce can be rough. But remember that change and new traditions can be exciting and give you an opportunity to grow and see what matters most to you during the holiday season. 

Related Reading: 

Developing a Gratitude Mindset to Grow Personally & Professionally

Resources for Your First Holiday after Divorce

Talking to Your Family Members at the Holidays about Your Divorce

30 Quotes about Gratitude to Inspire You During Tough Times

 A Letter of Gratitude to My Ex

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