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50 Reasons to Be Thankful This Thanksgiving

We've all been through an incredibly tough year. Here are some things we're grateful for no matter what else is going on.

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Uncharted Thanksgiving territory

There’s no shame in feeling a little less than thankful as we approach Thanksgiving in what’s been an unsettling and often downright devastating year. While you’re preparing for, and possibly dreading, a Thanksgiving that’ll be pretty different because of the pandemic, here’s a reminder that there are lots of great things, big and small, to still be appreciative of this and every year.

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Family

Family during the holidays can be a lot of extra work and stress, as anyone who’s ever had to serve a dry turkey to a critical in-law knows. Yet they can also be a huge blessing. After all, what’s Thanksgiving dinner without Uncle Bill’s “magic” tricks or your mom’s signature pie? So even when they’re annoying, try to focus on all the things you love about your beautiful, wacky, funny, a little bit crazy but always loving clan. Check out these 20 most-asked Thanksgiving questions answered in 20 words or less.

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Carbs

Carbs have gotten a bad rap lately but thanks to bread, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, and pie, Thanksgiving is basically the High Carb Holiday. So take one day off of worrying about your waistline to be thankful for yummy and energizing carbs. You won’t believe these Thanksgiving “facts” are actually false

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Thanksgiving stand-up comedy

If you just can’t take another minute of holiday cheer, find solace in the collective misery of everyone else by watching some of the brilliant (and free!) comedy routines poking fun at food, family, and the traditions we love to hate. Start with Jim Gaffigan’s take on Thanksgiving—”Thank goodness we have a holiday set aside for being grateful, we’d sure hate to have to do that every day!”—and work your way through YouTube’s endless holiday comedy library. Or share the funniest Thanksgiving quotes and do your own stand-up!

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Crunchy, colorful, fragrant piles of leaves

Is there anything that says “fall” more than the changing foliage? The vibrant colors, the satisfying crunch underfoot, and the woodsy smell combine to delight all your senses. Plus, let’s be honest, there’s a much less fancy reason to love leaves: giant piles to jump in! Check out these stunning fall scenes across the country.

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Pets

Whether it’s the soulful eyes of your pup (begging for turkey) or the tiny pink nose of your kitty (also begging for turkey, but in a much more sophisticated way than Fido), Thanksgiving is the perfect time to shower a little extra love on the critters who love you the most. Something else to be thankful for? The adorableness of these photos of pets filled with holiday spirit.

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Crisp apples

Apples may be available in stores all year long, but there’s something special about fall apples with their fresh, crisp bite and tangy sweet juice. No wonder so many favorite Thanksgiving recipes rely on apples! Bonus points for going to an orchard and picking your own, allowing you to be grateful for the trees, soil, sun, and farmers who do all the hard work for us. These are the 10 grocery store sales you didn’t know to look for between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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That holiday helping spirit

The “holiday spirit” is a real thing, inspiring people to reach out to others throughout November and December. We promise you: There’s nothing that will make you more grateful for what you have than sharing some of it with someone who has less. Take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to invite a lonely senior, a recent refugee, or a new neighbor over to enjoy your turkey. This is how much turkey to make per person.

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New pumpkin recipes

From sweet treats to savory soups and everything in between, pumpkins are a remarkably versatile veggie! Show your gratitude for the orange squash by whipping up a classic pumpkin pie or try something new, like pumpkin pickles. Here are 21 mouthwatering and easy side dish recipes for Thanksgiving.

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Mums

Flowers are generally thought of as a spring and summer treat, but there are a few hardy blooms that will continue to brighten your home and your spirit as the days get colder. Mums are a perennial (get it?) Thanksgiving favorite. Buy a pot for yourself or bring one as a hostess gift. These easy crafts will brighten any Thanksgiving table.

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Advice columns

Thanksgiving can be a depressing time, especially if your life isn’t going quite like you’d hoped. But instead of despairing about your circumstances, take a few minutes and read an advice column. At the very least, reading about other people’s problems will make you more grateful for your own. You might be single, but at least you’re not working for the ex you cruelly ghosted or in love with your twin, right? These are the topics you should avoid talking about at Thanksgiving dinner.

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Turkey

This classic Thanksgiving totem and food doesn’t get a lot of love the rest of the year, but the humble turkey is a tasty source of filling protein—not to mention high levels of tryptophan, the chemical known for making you feel relaxed and sleepy. Also, you probably didn’t have to kill or pluck the poor bird yourself—one more blessing to count! Make sure you know all of these tips for buying the perfect turkey.

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Tiny hand turkeys

On the other hand (ha!), let’s be thankful for the quintessential Thanksgiving craft: the tiny hand turkey. These sweet paper cutouts will remind you how little and innocent children are, and may even remind you of your own days when the world was magical, Santa was real, and hands could be birds. Here are 20 more fun Thanksgiving crafts for kids.

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Football

Thanksgiving is prime time for football. Whether you’re watching a game on TV or playing a little touch-football at the park with friends, the sport has a way of bringing people together. If nothing else, it’s something to talk about at the dinner table rather than Aunt Bertha’s drinking problem. This is why we watch football on Thanksgiving in the first place.

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Candy corn

Sure, real corn is a staple grain that provides food to millions of people and animals. That’s great and all, but candy corn is way tastier, especially when you mix it with peanuts for that classic salty-sweet Thanksgiving table decoration/kid appetizer.

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Warm drink weather

Fall means cooler temps which, of course, means steamy mugs of deliciousness. See you later, smoothies! It’s time for pumpkin spice lattes, hot toddies, spiced ciders, mulled wines, and hot chocolates. Wrap your hands around the cup, inhale the spicy aromas, and enjoy the feeling of getting warm from the inside out. Another thing to be grateful for? Hot cocoa bombs from Costco.

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Marching bands

Band geeks (aka musical geniuses) have been training for the big Thanksgiving parade all year. Appreciate the pomp and artistry of a full band by watching a parade on TV or lining up to cheer for your local high school kids. Of course, sadly, none of that will be happening this year with the TV-only parade and no crowded live events, but you can reminisce with the best Macy’s floats ever.

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Children’s gratitude lists

Ask an adult what they’re grateful for, and they’ll say something sensible like “a warm house” or “family.” Ask a kid, and you never know what answer you’ll get! For instance, the response one student gave his teacher will warm your heart.

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Early evenings

September 21 may be the official first day of fall, but it’s really not until Thanksgiving that you start to feel the longer nights and shorter days. Summer nights, with their barbecues and night games, may get all the glory (and country songs), but fall nights can be just as fun. Pop some popcorn, pull out a board game or puzzle, turn on a favorite movie, and enjoy the cozy feeling of being snuggled up together. Here are the 10 best Thanksgiving games for kids.

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Your best friend

Friends are like family, but sometimes they’re even better than family, especially when they’re saving the day by bringing a non-burnt turkey or smuggling you a much-needed drink. Make sure to tell your friend how grateful you are for their friendship and how much better your life is because you have them.

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Scarves and mittens

Staying warm is a need, but nothing says you can’t do it in style! Thanksgiving is the perfect time to debut your sleek gloves, warm scarves, cute hats, tall boots and smart coats—and be grateful for warm fingers and toes!

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A cozy kitchen

For some people, even the thought of cooking is tedious, but for many people spending a day puttering around the kitchen, chatting with family, and making favorite recipes is a wonderful way to enjoy a cool day indoors. There’s nothing like the pride of seeing perfectly browned rolls come out of the oven that you made yourself. Find out the kitchen tools that’ll make your Thanksgiving way easier.

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The first snow

For much of the country, the first dusting of snow comes around Thanksgiving, reminding you that winter is right around the corner. That first chill and snowfall hints at sledding, snowmen, hot chocolate, and holiday parties. Bonus: No more lawn mowing! (Feel free to be jealous, Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, and the rest of the South!) Did you know that this Christmas song was actually written for Thanksgiving?

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Peace and safety

The world is a tumultuous place right now, full of nightmare scenarios. But if you’re reading this, you’re likely in a place of relative safety and peace—be grateful for your ability to surf the Internet without fear or censorship. Then make sure you find a way to help others who aren’t so blessed. This year, you should know about these organizations leading the charge in the fight against racism.

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Pie

Pumpkin pie is really only the beginning when it comes to delicious Thanksgiving desserts. Apple rhubarb, dutch apple, French silk, coconut creme, and caramel are all excellent variations on seasonal pies. And did you know that pumpkin actually isn’t even America’s favorite Thanksgiving pie?

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Electricity and plumbing

Remembering what our ancestors had to endure just to stay alive is apt to make anyone grateful for modern conveniences. Just try to imagine what life would be like without tap water, indoor toilets, and the Internet. This year in particular has got people wondering what people did before toilet paper!

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Comforters

Nothing caps off a wonderful Thanksgiving meal like falling into a deep slumber under a fluffy, warm comforter in a soft bed. Cool air, warm body, perfect night’s sleep—as long as the turkey doesn’t give you weird dreams, that is!

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Your health

If ever there were a year to be grateful for your health, 2020 is it. If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid contracting COVID-19, you’ve been lucky enough. In particular, if you’ve had the privilege to be able to stay in your house, no matter how boring it may be—instead of being out on the front lines, at risk of contracting the virus, as an essential worker, that’s a reason to give thanks. Continue to stay smart, follow precautions, and keep your family and essential workers safe. These eye-opening facts will convince you to wear a mask.

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Pumpkin patches

Admit it: Whoever decided that walking through a muddy field to pick an odd-shaped squash would be not only fun but something people will pay a lot of money to do, was kind of a genius. And it is fun! Finding the perfect gourd to decorate your Thanksgiving table or turn into other pumpkin crafts is great entertainment for adults and kids alike. Don’t miss these 51 beautiful ways to decorate pumpkins without carving.

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Smiles from a stranger

A smile from a stranger is a small thing, but it can change the trajectory of your entire day. Someone noticed you. Someone liked you enough to smile at you. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it. Even if those stranger-smiles are just a memory in the age of face masks (or at least they should be—please wear a mask in public!), they’re a good memory, and something to look forward to.

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Baby giggles

Thanksgiving is a time for families, and while having so many different personalities in one place can be challenging, there’s always an upside: the laughter of babies and toddlers. It’s genuine, comes straight from the gut, and happens at the best times (like when Grandpa accidentally belches). Enjoy every tinkling note!

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Waiters

There are people who love cooking, and then there are people who love to appreciate other people cooking—and there’s no shame in that! Many restaurants are packed on Thanksgiving, with people who still want to enjoy a special meal but would rather not deal with all the pressure and dishes of hosting at home. Let’s all take a minute to be grateful for the servers, hosts, managers, cooks, chefs, bussers, and other workers who make it all possible. Check out these meaningful ways people are saying thank you to essential workers.

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Mom

Whether your mother is in the next room, the next town, the next country, or the next life, Thanksgiving traditions can be powerful reminders of the good times you shared together and how very much she loves you, no matter how far away.

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Dad

Don’t forget your papa! From organizing the neighborhood football game to re-raking the leaf pile for you to jump in over and over, dads hold a special place on Thanksgiving too.

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Corn mazes

It’s a food! It’s a game! It’s a corn maze! OK, so the number one rule of doing a corn maze is to not eat the corn, but it’s still a pretty ingenious multi-purpose invention. Get your exercise before the big meal by walking (and getting lost) in one of these clever life-sized mazes. Or take it next-level and do a spooky incarnation. These are the best corn mazes in America.

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Leftovers

Are there any leftovers better than Thanksgiving leftovers? No, no there are not. Here’s what your favorite Thanksgiving dish says about you.

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Potpourri

Bring the spicy, earthy smell of fall indoors with an easy stove top potpourri recipe: Put orange peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla, and nutmeg in a small pot. Cover with water and heat on low, adding water as necessary. You’ll enjoy the simple fragrance all day.

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Books


What better way to spend those sleepy post-feast hours than curled up in your favorite chair with a good book? This year, try something in the spirit of Thanksgiving like a holiday-themed mystery or a romance novel featuring pie. Or make it a family affair with the best children’s Thanksgiving books.

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Naps

Napping is a Thanksgiving tradition, just as much as football and turkey. And indulging in this one is just as good for you as it feels.

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

This year will be the 94th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, making it a holiday tradition that stretches back for generations. And though there’s no live parade this year and it’ll only be a television event, you can still watch it, from the comfort of your own home on TV or the Internet, no crowds required. Check out these 17 surprising facts about the Macy’s Parade.

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Pumpkin spice everything

Pumpkin spice lattes are just the beginning of the fun you can have with this spice blend of allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. From cereal to doughnuts to ravioli, you can get this festive flavor in almost any type of food, sweet or savory. And don’t stop with food—indulge in pumpkin spice body wash, hand soap, candles, and air fresheners. These are the best pumpkin spice products to be extra thankful this year.

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Nature walks in the forest


Nature is quite the artist, and there’s no better way to admire her handiwork than by watching the colors change on the trees. A nature walk or drive to see the beautiful changing fall foliage is the perfect compliment to a Thanksgiving dinner.

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Black Friday

If shopping were a sport, it might overtake football as the premier Thanksgiving event, thanks to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Many a savvy shopper spends the latter part of the holiday planning out their purchases. The craziest shopping day of the year isn’t for everyone though, so feel free to enjoy the sales from the comfort of your computer screen. And, for better or worse, Black Friday will be different this year, as surges of shopping crowds are far from COVID-friendly. Here are the 5 biggest ways Black Friday will be different in 2020.

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FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom

Technology brings us so many gifts, but perhaps none are as meaningful as the ability to see our loved ones even when they can’t physically be with us. Thankfully, we have FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and other apps to bring in far-off (and, this year, COVID-conscious) grandparents, cousins, children, and friends.

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Lip balm

Cold, dry weather means dry, cracked lips and skin. Lip balm and lotion can be lifesavers this time of year. A small thing to be grateful for, perhaps, but an important one. Plus, you can buy lip balm in seasonal flavors like candy cane, caramel apple, and, of course, pumpkin spice.

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The roof over your head

Shelter is one of humankind’s most primary needs, but it’s so basic that unless you don’t have it, you may forget to be grateful for it. This year, take a look upward and be grateful for the roof that offers you warmth and protection—and find a way to make sure everyone who needs one finds a roof too.

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Netflix

Whether you’re in the kitchen, on the couch, or doing chores around the house, Thanksgiving is the perfect day to binge-watch a favorite show or get caught up on shows you might have missed, guilt-free. It also doesn’t get much better than a Netflix binge while eating scrumptious Thanksgiving leftovers.

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Emergency service personnel

You know who never gets a day off, even on Thanksgiving? Firefighters, first responders, EMTs, doctors, nurses, and many other emergency service workers. Show them your gratitude for their service 365 days a year by dropping by a little treat or making a donation to their local cause.

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Tears

Thanksgiving tears are often of the poignant variety—saying good-bye to loved ones and remembering past holidays—and those tears serve an important purpose. We only cry when something is important to us, so those tears are a reminder of how much we love and are loved.

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Slipper socks

Slipper socks will keep your toes toasty through all the holiday festivities. They come in all kinds of styles, fun patterns, and soft fabrics. Plus they’re the perfect cover up for imperfect toenails.

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Gratitude

That’s right, we just told you to be thankful for being thankful. But it’s true, being grateful has myriad physical and psychological benefits. Making your own Thankful-on-Thanksgiving list can ward off depression, lower blood pressure, ameliorate anxiety, and even increase lifespan. You’re welcome. Next, check out these 34 funny Butterball hotline calls to share this Thanksgiving.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.