Somehow, not everyone is a football fan. So, we found some alternative activities for you.
I don’t understand it, exactly, but I get it: not everyone on the planet is a football fan. At least, not American football. For many families, watching football on Thanksgiving is as much a part of the tradition as is the turkey.
Football serves a unique purpose at Thanksgiving because not only is it inclusive of many people in the family, it is also a way to distract relatives from unpleasant political conversation, something that is especially important this year. We may not agree on who should be president, but we’ll all get excited about a great touchdown pass. Football is also, for many of us, the perfect background noise for taking that post-dinner nap. It’s been years since some of us have actually been awake for the end of the game.
Not everyone is as enthused about the sport, though. In fact, I’m pretty much the only one in my family who bothers to turn it on. They would much rather be doing other things. Unfortunately, too often, those “other things” leave open space for conversation and those conversations can go sideways in a hurry. What we need are after-dinner activities that the whole family can enjoy without risking an outbreak of politics. It took some doing, but we looked around and found a few things that might just work. Feel free to add your own items.
Netflix and Chill
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do some damage to your Netflix que. Chance are you’ve been adding a number of movies and/or series that sound really interesting but you never seem to have the time to watch. Now you have the time. The biggest decision comes in deciding what to watch, and that might be no easy tasks. Consider some of these matters before clicking that play button.
- Is it family-friendly? Those who watch Netflix often can easily forget that there are no censors on the streaming service. There is a preponderance of PG-13 and R-rated films that probably don’t seem that bad but we forget how sensitive Grandma is about “taking the Lord’s name in vain” and other language issues that slip right past those of us who are more secular. If one doesn’t have children it is also easy to forget that they repeat everything they hear.
- Is there a backstory? So, you’re on episode 4 of Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. There are no small children in your family and the show’s hilarious. Seems like a good fit—unless someone doesn’t know the backstory. Remember, not everyone has Netflix, as crazy as that may seem. Uncle Ned might be totally lost coming in so late on the story and trying to catch him up only interrupts the show. Be considerate of those whose lives are not as boring as yours.
- How well does it sit on a full stomach? I know a lot of people who just love screaming at movies, a trait which seems to run in families. Don’t jump into horror mode just yet, though. Remember, you just finished the largest meal of the century. Keeping all that food down is probably a good thing. Toss out anything on your list that might have the potential to be vomit-inducing. Perhaps old Alfred Hitchcock movies are best. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents series is currently available.
- Is this something you really want to share with your parents? What is on our Netflix que can be rather personal and says a lot about us. Perhaps you don’t necessarily want everyone to know that you’ve recently watched Easy or Shameless or 10 Things I Hate About You. Certain titles, we won’t name anything specific, might cause family members to question your lifestyle which could be an issue if you’re not ready to come out as a closet Alicia Silverstone fan just yet. Remember, you’re trying to avoid awkward conversations. Maybe football isn’t such a bad idea.
Taking Family Pictures
No, I”m not suggesting you call me. I’m not going anywhere all weekend if I can help it. Instead, get out the Instamatic, dust it off, drop in some film, and let different family members take turns being the photographer. You’ll likely be surprised by just how much ham there is in your family, and you might even discover some hidden talent along the way.
Why use film? Because you want memories that can be preserved. Snapshot prints are less that ten cents a piece now, so there’s no excuse for not getting copies for everyone in the family. While having digital copies is convenient for sharing online, there’s something warm and wonderful about having a print you can put on your refrigerator or tape to a mirror, or tuck away somewhere to cherish. Digital photos can be corrupted. Cloud services come and go. Prints, if cared for properly, can last forever.
Also keep in mind the fact that life sometimes sucks. None of us know who might not be present at next years’ gathering. Get plenty of pictures of everyone, not just your grandparents. Even if the exact same crowd shows up for the next ten years running, it will still be fun to compare how much everyone has changed. There’s no substitute for memories like this. Find that camera and start snapping.
Stream A Little Stream
Netflix isn’t the only streaming game in town, you know, and if you have a large enough computer monitor or one of those newfangled gadgets that let you stream online content on your television, there are a number of things online that might provide a sufficient distraction.
One of the things that excited me most was discovering that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is streaming on ABC.go.com. You know you love Charlie Brown. This is one of those shows with which we all grew up. There’s an inherent warm, smooshy feeling that goes with watching Lucy pull away the football at the last moment and Snoopy serving popcorn for dinner. In fact, popcorn for dinner doesn’t actually sound like all that bad an idea, does it?
Oh, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is streaming on YouTube as well if you need an early morning distraction for little ones. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t love a parade? Well, okay, I do know a few people who don’t, but this is a fantastic way to keep those under ten from getting underfoot. They’ll stay occupied for a couple of hours and you can cook in peace. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Your experience may differ.
Family Storytelling Time
I’ll admit, this won’t work for every family. A certain amount of familial cohesiveness has to be present for anyone to be interested. However, especially if you have grandparents and/or grandparents still around, sharing family stories is a great way to pass the time. Perhaps more importantly, however, this is also a great way to preserve your family’s oral history. We too often take for granted that history lives in the experiences of our elders. These are stories we need to hear and to capture before they are lost.
StoryCorp has provided a means for helping people capture these stories at holiday moments like this. Even if you don’t have a video camera or recording capabilities on your computer, chances are you have a cell phone and most every cell phone has a voice recording app that came pre-installed. Capture the stories of what school was like for your great-grandmother. Listen carefully to your parents tell about getting their first car, or the first time they fell in love with someone. These are all stories that are much, much too precious to lose.
Most importantly, stopping to listen to these stories helps build family cohesion. Who knew that Uncle Bud turned down an appointment to the Pentagon so he could marry your Aunt Bea? Or that your cousin Kendra, who you only see every other year, helped author one of the Internet’s biggest mobile apps? Chances are high that almost everyone in the family has a story that no one has heard before. Take a moment and tell those stories, listen to those stories, and cherish the people telling them.
Thanksgiving can be dangerous territory if everyone’s not kept busy in some form or another. As challenging as this year has been, you really don’t want to risk Grandpa Fred finding out that Cousin Norman wrote in Harambe on his presidential ballot. There are plenty of ways other than football to keep everyone busy. Give them a try.