Where'd You Spend Thanksgiving Last Night?

November 25, 2016

When I was nine years old, my family took a trip across the country to Anaheim, California for Thanksgiving. (We were visiting Disneyland.) I was in fourth grade, and we ate Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

Don’t mean to brag, but I generally wasn’t an unruly little shit growing up. That night was one of the grand exceptions to that rule. I remember being grumpy throughout the whole affair, because I didn’t know of a single one of my classmates who had to endure a Thanksgiving away from home in a restaurant. Thanksgiving was a holiday that conjured images of ostentatious gatherings with "loved ones" (for many of us, it still is). The meal itself was objectively wonderful—plated green beans, turkey portioned correctly, a real wealth of biscuits that didn't burn in our creaky fossil of an oven—but none of this mattered to my fuming, four-foot self. We were the only ones in the hotel restaurant that evening. This confirmed my own belief that my family was weird, and that we didn't know how to celebrate Thanksgiving properly.

I hadn’t yet reached an age that’d allow me to appreciate an untraditional Thanksgiving away from home. Every Thanksgiving, local news outlets across the country pop up with lists of restaurants open for the holiday, ranging from Applebee’s to Dunkin to Denny’s to more local spots. Nowadays, I’ve got numerous friends who will be spending their Thanksgivings at restaurants, in hotels, dorms, or in supermarkets; treks home require enormous capital they just don’t have, they’ve grown distant from families, or they don’t have any family to go home to at all.

Shop the Story

I realize I’m speaking to a community of home cooks here. Where'd you spend Thanksgiving last night? What are the least conventional places you’ve had your Thanksgiving over the years? I’d like to know.

52 Days of Thanksgiving
Check It Out
52 Days of Thanksgiving

Top-notch recipes, expert tips, and all the tools to pull off the year’s most memorable feast.

Check It Out

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Windischgirl
  • Jes
  • Lindsey Wright
    Lindsey Wright
  • Whiteantlers
  • Lucy
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Windischgirl November 27, 2016
On Thanksgiving 2015, my niece got married! She had a lovely small wedding in their home, and it was a potluck. I made a three-tier wedding carrot cake with Cristina Sciarra's fabulous Swiss meringue frosting.
This year, her parents hosted Thanksgiving as the newlyweds are going overseas for work and will miss Christmas. I made a two-tier carrot anniversary cake (there were 5 pies to compete with!), and I think they ate their frozen topper yesterday.
Jes November 25, 2016
For the last decade, I've hosted Friendsgivings in various apartments because distance and jobs made going home impossible. This year, I spent Thanksgiving in Michigan with my family for the first time in 10 years, thanks to finally quitting my terrible soul sucking retail job and leaving Los Angeles. My niece turned 12 on Thanksgiving and I got to make her birthday cake (my first Boston Cream Pie, per her request) and spend her birthday with her for the first time ever! Spent the last of my money getting here, and I have no idea what will happen next or how I'm going to keep paying the bills, but my life has never felt richer.
Lindsey W. November 25, 2016
I spend almost every evening in my home kitchen and love to be there on the weekends, planning meals for the week ahead. So Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl, the Oscars, the "fill in the blank" for those who love food and live to cook. But I took a break, from cooking and family, and ran away to Seattle with my husband. It was cold and rainy, but the food was amazing, the arts incredible, and the people golden. It was nice to watch the craziness of the holiday go by without every lifting a spatula
Whiteantlers November 25, 2016
I spent a happy day home alone. After almost 4 unhappy, never quite fitting in decades on the West coast, in 2015 I moved back to my home town on the East coast. Even though I have no family and know all of 3 people here, every day in my birth place is a wonderful day that fills me with gratitude.

The person who was hosting Thanksgiving dinner flaked out at the last minute. I drank eggnog, listened to holiday music, ate home made chili, groomed my cats, did laundry, wrote gratitude e-mails to many folk-from the customer service folks at Amazon all the way up to my boss and President Obama. I did my daily meditation, went for a long walk and in the evening, enjoyed 2 rented X-Men movies.

For some people, the day was about food or family or sports. For some, all three. For me it was about finally being home.
Lucy November 25, 2016
I spent Thanksgiving without a single other family member for the first time since my first Thanksgiving away from home in 1976. Thankfully, I was at home this year. I sponsored a potluck Thanksgiving at a local VFW hall for 12 friends and acquaintances and any veterans who were at the club because they had no where else to go or be. I think 15 people ultimately ate with us. I did no cooking. I have two fractures in my fibula- in a cast for over a month. Had minor surgery for skin cancer on my head that has caused more pain than expected - leaving me sitting up straight with ice in top of my head. On an Rx for an infection on my leg. I'm a mess. Just commuting by train to work far away has been hard the last month. My care-giver organized everything. I think it was the most amazing day I can remember. Will definitely sponsor another dinner next year for veterans who have no place to go.