How to spend Thanksgiving when you can’t go back home

Sharon Pan/Staff

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With Thanksgiving break right around the corner, UC Berkeley students are gearing up to head back home and spend the holiday with their families. But many of us are unable to return back home, whether it be because we live in another state, another country, the plane ticket was too expensive or our relationship with our family is not the best. Whatever the reason may be, if you find yourself in the Berkeley area this Thanksgiving break, here are a few suggestions for how to make the most of your time!

Have a Friendsgiving

Fear not — if you can’t celebrate with your loved ones back home, you can always celebrate with those around you! Your friends are like your second family; the pseudo-biological ties keep you sane and grounded through the whirlwind of your college career. If most of your friends won’t be in town for the actual day of Thanksgiving, simply begin the festivities a little earlier! Organize a potluck-style dinner where everyone is in charge of bringing their own unique, favorite dish to your cozy, humble abode. Ensure you have all the essentials — like mac and cheese, turkey, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie — covered. String up some fairy lights, decorate your shabby kitchen table with a festive tablecloth and a few candles and uncork the drinks to get the party started! Savor the moment with your friends and make some time for everyone to go around in a circle and express their gratitude and appreciation for each other. 


Few things make your heart feel as warm and fuzzy as when you’re giving back to the community. One of the best ways to get in the Thanksgiving spirit is by volunteering your time toward cooking dinner at the local soup kitchen. Many families in the Bay Area are struggling with food security, making the holidays a stressful and difficult time. Show some love and bring some cheer by getting into the kitchen to whip up a delicious and hearty meal for those who need it the most! The East Bay Food Not Bombs volunteer organization will be open for cooking and sharing meals on Thanksgiving, so get your apron and chef’s hat on and head over to St. John’s Presbyterian Church (2727 College Ave) to get started at 10:30 a.m.

Take yourself out on a date 

Sometimes the person you need to show the most appreciation toward is yourself. After all, this semester you’ve been hard at work studying for exams, writing papers and leading people through your extracurricular activities all while trying to maintain a social life. It’s no surprise you may feel burnt out! During the break, why not use your downtime to finally slow down and spend some quality time with your own presence? If you still need convincing of how therapeutic and healing spending quality time alone can be, check out this piece previously published by the Clog on why you should take yourself on a solo date. Plan an activity that your heart gravitates toward. This may be packing a charcuterie board and picnicking at Mission Dolores, visiting an art museum in the city, having a movie marathon with freshly baked cookies and hot chocolate in tow or treating yourself to dinner at a Michelin star restaurant. Whatever you decide to do, make it an act of self-love — you deserve it!

Have Thanksgiving dinner over Zoom

If you’re one of the lucky ones who has a great relationship with your family, but can’t go back home due to logistical reasons, don’t hesitate to rely on the crutch of technology! I know, I know, the pandemic has probably soured the word “Zoom” in your mouth, but at this point we’re all used to relying on virtual platforms to connect with others in classes, clubs or work-related matters. Embrace modernity and enjoy a synchronous virtual Thanksgiving feast with your loved ones back home. Plus, there are definitely perks to having a Zoom Thanksgiving. For starters, you can save money on decorating by simply choosing one of Zoom’s festive virtual backgrounds to set the scene free of charge. You can also cook together without jostling around and bumping into each other in the same kitchen. And if you’re the host of the meeting, you also have the power to mute family members when they start getting too nosy about your love life or bickering about politics.

Thanksgiving break should be a time for connection and gratefulness, whether it be toward yourself or others. Luckily, you can get in the Thanksgiving spirit without having to hop in a car or on a plane! We at the Clog hope these ideas will help make the holiday a little brighter.

Contact Madeleine Lorie at [email protected].