Simple ways to jazz up Thanksgiving

[FILE] Thanksgiving Dinner is served at a home in Houston, Texas.

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(CNN) — Want to make Norman Rockwell roll over in his grave? This Thanksgiving, take your hand out of the turkey’s body cavity and turn off the football game to make some new traditions with friends and family.

A vegetarian yoga retreat or an ethnic food tour of the Lower East Side may seem like an unusual way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday, but making new traditions with those you love can be the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season.

Here are seven ways you can have the best unconventional Thanksgiving ever, whether you’re ready to hop on a jet now or start making alternative plans for next year.

Tradition: Arguing with family

Spin: Comedy show

If your extended family shares the same religious, political and sports beliefs, you can disregard this tip. (You might need to check that you haven’t accidentally walked onto the set of “Leave It to Beaver,” because we don’t actually believe you.)

Getting a bunch of related, multigenerational people together in close quarters for an extended period of time is more likely to end up looking like something from a slasher film than from a “Brady Bunch” episode. The tension quotient rises even more if out-of-towners are staying with you for the holiday weekend.

Relieve the tension and get some much-needed laughter by seeing a comedy show Thanksgiving weekend.

“America’s Got Talent” great Dan Naturman is performing at New York’s Gotham Comedy Club the day after Thanksgiving. Or visit “Mulaney” star Seaton Smith at the Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh, North Carolina, for another chance to liven up the mood after Thanksgiving festivities are over.

Plenty of other comedy clubs are open across the country. Really, what time of year do we need more stress relief than around the holidays? If they’re closed, pelt the door with leftover turkey giblets.

Tradition: Turkey coma

Spin: Costa Rican yoga retreat

For many people, simply hearing the word “Thanksgiving” evokes memories of too-tight waistbands and a four-hour food coma. While a feast can be a wonderful thing at any time of the year, shake things up during the holiday season by tightening your belt instead of loosening it.

Explore stunning Costa Rica and bring harmony to your life with a calming yoga retreat.

Blue Spirit Costa Rica’s Yoga and Recovery Retreat focuses on healing from any and all addictions (turkey can certainly count as an addiction) through morning and afternoon Vinyasa classes and explorations of the surrounding natural landscape.

When not meditating or perfecting yoga poses, you can try surfing, swimming, ziplining and whitewater rafting.

Give your body a chance to detox from holiday goodies with the program’s gourmet vegetarian cuisine and its Pure Food Option, which offers meals consisting of crisp greens, grains and legumes without oils or seasonings.

Tradition: Lying on the couch

Spin: Pushups for charity

Food is supposed to give your body energy. If you’re eating enough turkey (and stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and rolls and pumpkin pie) to send you into a motionless stupor after lunch, that’s probably not healthy.

Even if you can’t imagine Thanksgiving without these delectable dishes, you can counterbalance some of the negative effects with some pre- and post-feast exercise.

Turkey Trot marathons take place all over the country on Thursday, November 27. For an even less-conventional way to get your blood pumping during Thanksgiving week, try participating in Pushups for Charity, in which the North Texas town of Coppell holds an annual Turkey-Busting Workout to not only fend off the effects of rich holiday foods but to benefit those in need.

Bring some canned goods and participate in a free trainer-led workout session to start the season off right.

Tradition: Black Friday shopping

Spin: Thailand service trip

If you usually spend your Thanksgiving evening ripping items away from other people in the Black Friday department stores, stop for a minute. Do you even remember what you bought last year? Consider giving to others during a peaceful trip to Thailand to help preserve its natural elephant habitats.

When you’re not planting and harvesting sugarcane and grass or constructing shade shelters for Surin province’s endangered animals, take Thai cooking classes and peruse the local outdoor markets. Volunteers become familiar with the elephants by feeding, walking and even bathing them.

If the choice is between bathing an elephant and wrenching a 40%-off scarf out of someone’s hand, is it really a choice?

Tradition: Hours of football

Spin: Soccer match in Scotland

Although Americans traditionally sink back into their couches on Thanksgiving Day to cheer for whichever team has the most players on their fantasy teams, try enjoying a different kind of football with a trip to a Celtic FC match in Scotland.

Sure, you’ll miss such classic NFL matchups as the Lions-Bears, 49ers-Seahawks and Cowboys-Eagles. In Scotland, you can actually participate in the uproar of a professional sports game rather than passively watch it in a food coma on your couch.

The Glasgow football — soccer to Americans — club is playing FC Salzburg on Thanksgiving Day.

For 90 minutes of pure action with no pesky stoppages after every down and no padding when the players crash into each other, visit Scotland for a rousing good time in a country that doesn’t take its alcohol lightly.

Tradition: Eating traditional dishes

Spin: Post-Thanksgiving multiethnic tour

It’s almost overwhelming how much time and energy we spend picking out, dressing, cooking and then carefully carving the fattest turkey we can find for Thanksgiving. Not to mention the string of turkey casseroles and sandwiches and soups that follow for weeks afterward.

Turkey can be delicious, but how much do you really want to eat? For an exciting twist, join the post-Thanksgiving multiethnic eating tour on New York’s Lower East Side. Explore the Jewish East Side, Chinatown and Little Italy with other foodies for some spices and flavors that you can’t stuff inside a turkey cavity.

While you stroll the city sampling mouthwatering street foods, be thankful that you aren’t eating yet another can of wobbly cranberry sauce.


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