It’s that time again, my favorite holiday of the year. No gifts, no jingles–just good food, friends, and family all together at a table. Of course, the holiday can be a lot of work (especially for the host), which can rob the day of some of its joy. Here are six ideas to put the fun and “thanks” back into the celebration:

44666577_sBring a Friend. Do you know someone who is single and has no place to go (maybe they are recently divorced and the other spouse gets the kids, or maybe they have a work commitment that prevents them from traveling home for the holiday)? Invite them to join you and yours. Not only will it brighten their day, but it’ll make you feel great, too. And sometimes adding a new face to an old crowd can take the conversation in new directions from which everyone walks away wiser.

Donate Food. The abundance of food on my mother’s table might be deemed obscene by some. Although my family does an amazing job at making sure none of it go to waste, it does make one stop to think about the many families in our country who are hungry. Thanksgiving week is a great time to donate food, whether to a food bank, local homeless shelter, or neighborhood family who is down on their luck. One bonus of taking a minute to be thankful and think of others is that it helps alleviate the guilt of that second helping of turkey and gravy.

Share Recipes.  Encourage your guests to bring multiple copies of their favorite holiday recipe. Collect the cards at the beginning of the afternoon and make little “gift bundles” for each guest. When they get home, they’ll have a reminder of their nice afternoon, and a bunch of new recipes to try.

Show Gratitude. Between dinner and dessert, have everyone at the table name one thing s/he was especially grateful for during the past year. Not only is this a nice way to reflect on one’s good fortune, but it is also a way to learn more about everyone you love.

18805762_sParty Punch.  Have fun drinks available for all ages. Little kids like to feel part of the party, too, so make a colorful, alcohol free punch for them and serve it with fancy umbrellas or little fruit kebobs. The awe and laughter of kids always makes any family event more festive, and this little touch is sure to please.

Move it!  Get everyone outside for a bit. Whether you take a post-dinner walk to help with digestion, or simply light up a fire pit and gather outside for a hot drink, the cool November air will awaken the senses, as will a change of venue.

Whether you take any of these suggestions to heart, or simply enjoy the traditions you’ve established over the years, I wish you and yours a very lovely Thanksgiving holiday. Drive safely!

XO-Jamie