Relaxing Thanksgiving evening traditions you and your family will love!

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I’m a fan of traditions for my family, but only traditions we enjoy and are simple. I’ve shared some of our traditions before like for Valentine’s Day, Christmas and even birthdays, but let’s talk Thanksgiving traditions.

The biggest Thanksgiving tradition for most families is having a big dinner together. So I’m not going to include that one. But, I do encourage you to think outside of the box if it’s time to do so. Maybe nobody in your family really enjoys that big dinner. Go for something smaller instead. Maybe you have Thanksgiving tacos or pasta. Do what works best for you!

Sports may be another Thanksgiving tradition for many families, but they aren’t for my family. We don’t watch or play sports, so I’m also not including sports. But if your family loves a big game of tag football before dinner, have at it!

Instead, I’ve got three ideas for families in all ages and stages that are simple and great for quality time together. Pick one, two or all three and start a new Thanksgiving tradition this year!

Have a Thanksgiving Day parade watching party

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It’s my all-time favorite. To me, this parade is as essential to Thanksgiving as turkey is! When I was younger, I could easily watch the parade live and then head off to dinner with my family. But once I was an adult and making food to take to Thanksgiving dinner, that got trickier.

A few years ago, I decided that instead of trying to catch glimpses of the parade in the midst of making food and making the kids get dressed, that we’d start a new tradition. Now I record the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on our DVR and we don’t watch it live. I don’t know why it took so long for me to change this tradition, but watching the parade later means I can fast forward through some of the performances and commercials.

I can also relax, because we watch it Thanksgiving evening after everything is finished. The first year we did this, we had Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws and then invited my parents over for snacks in the evening to watch the parade. If you are juggling various family gatherings, this can be a great option to get to see everyone without having multiple Thanksgiving dinners.

These days, it’s just my husband and kiddos who join with me for this parade watching party. Sometimes we put on our PJs. We have some snacks, because we’re not usually hungry enough for a full dinner.

Plan a family game night

Personally, I think there is never a wrong time to have a game night. So why not make it one of your new Thanksgiving traditions?! My family loves playing games together. Pick whatever games your family likes most from card games to board games to any other tabletop game.

Here are some of our favorites:

No reading required
No reading required
No reading required
No reading required
Some reading required

Watch a movie together

When I was a kid, one of our Thanksgiving traditions was to go see a movie on Thanksgiving late afternoon. I remember the year my big cousin took me to see “My Girl” at the theater and it made me cry. I think he might have shed some tears as well!

You can venture out to the movie theater together. Usually a new family friendly movie or two comes out around Thanksgiving. Or stay home and watch a movie together. I’m much more in the stay-at-home camp these days, especially with the pandemic still going on. But you can find lots of good options for movies or even shows to watch together.

If movies aren’t so much your thing but you like the idea of spending time together in a fictional world on Thanksgiving evening, check out these family read aloud chapter books.

Whatever you decide to go with, snuggle together in comfy clothes, enjoy some snacks and make memories just being together.

Snack ideas for all of it

Whether you’re watching the parade, playing games or watching movies together, you are going to want some snacks to nosh on. Last year, I tried a new cheeseball recipe for us and it’s become a favorite. It’s so easy that I make it even when it isn’t Thanksgiving. Flavored with ranch and cheese, you really can’t go wrong with this Parmesan Ranch Cheeseball recipe.

You soften your cream cheese a bit, add in Parmesan cheese and ranch seasoning mix. Stir it together and pop it in the fridge. Easy peasy!

Parmesan Ranch Cheeseball


  • 16 oz. cream cheese slightly softened
  • 1 envelope of ranch seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese You'll want fresh and not canned for this.
  • Chopped pecans or walnuts optional


  • In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, ranch seasoning and Parmesan cheese. Mix until it is creamy, smooth and well combined.
  • Transfer it to a smaller bowl and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  • Use a spatula or clean hands to turn it out onto a platter and shape into a ball.
  • If desired, you can "roll" the cheeseball carefully in chopped pecans or walnuts. (I never do this because my husband isn't a fan of nuts on cheeseballs.)
  • Serve with yummy crackers.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers.
Serve up this yummy parmesan ranch cheeseball with your favorite crackers and/or pretzels. (NOTE: This is half of the recipe, because I was making it for a midweek snack for our family.)

Along with the Parmesan Ranch Cheeseball, I’ve got some other great ideas for snacks that can almost all be made at least one day ahead of time. Because I know my Thanksgiving evening you aren’t going to want to do any more cooking. Just pull these premade snacks out and enjoy your family time!

Savory snacks

Festive popcorn: Kick microwave popcorn up a notch by melting and coating it with candy melts. It’s festive and yummy!

Protein-packed banana bread: :Loaded with extra protein thanks to Greek yogurt, this slightly sweet bread is a great snack.

Pantry salsa: With a few canned ingredients, you can put together a homemade salsa to pair with tortilla chips for a delicious Thanksgiving evening snack.

Oat and honey granola: I’ve been making this granola for years. It’s delicious for snacks (and breakfasts and desserts). You can crumble it into yogurt or ice-cream if you feel so inclined.

Pepperoni pizza pinwheels: A canned pizza crust topped with cheese and pepperoni then rolled and sliced creates a satisfying snack that we serve for dinner around here sometimes.

Pumpkin bread: This yummy and slightly sweet pumpkin bread recipe makes two loaves. Serve one at Thanksgiving dinner and the other for Thanksgiving evening!

BLT pizza: A crescent roll crust topped with BLT toppings makes this easy and savory dish. While I usually make it fresh, I have also eaten it leftover straight from the fridge. So you could definitely make it a day ahead.

Sweet snacks

Mint chocolate chip mousse: It’s light, airy and minty. It’s a great sweet treat to snack on after a day of heavy foods.

Toffee cookies: Chewy yet crunchy, these toffee cookies are my most requested cookie for family gatherings.

Microwave fudge made 5 ways: My daughter started making this fudge a few months ago and it’s become a favorite. Easily make chocolate, cherry cordial, mint chocolate, brownie batter or toffee bar fudge in your microwave in minutes.

Butterscotch haystacks: Butterscotch chips and chow mein noodles are all you need for this delicious sweet and crunchy snack.

Peanut butter cookies: You really can’t go wrong with cookies and these peanut butter cookies are my second most requested cookie!

Air fryer doughnuts: Canned biscuits cooked in the air fryer and then covered in cinnamon sugar are a decadent treat. You can make them ahead of time or serve them warm!

Whipped pudding pie: Pies are such a part of Thanksgiving dinner, but this whipped pudding pie doesn’t need to bake and is much lighter. It only has 4 ingredients and can be made sugar free as well.

Peanut butter honey nut clusters: These cereal treats are easily made in the microwave with honey nut “O” cereal, peanut butter and honey.

Fudgy boxed mix brownies: Turn a boxed brownie mix into fudgy brownie goodness with this easy hack that you’ll use over and over.

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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