Alternative Thanksgiving
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Profile photo of Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel

Family and friends, travel, and delicious home cooking are all familiar traditions typically enjoyed across the country during occasions such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. However, as enticing as these activities are to so many, for people with migraine disease holiday gatherings are fraught with triggers. Lack of control over scents such as perfumes and aromatic candles; the temptation of foods with unknown ingredients; small talk or awkward conversation with relatives; and car or air travel can all present the possibility of migraine, which would then be suffered away from home. Hosting a gathering would have pitfalls as well.

Many wonderful features and posts have been published here over the years containing tips for having migraine-free holidays, and I have found them very helpful. From preparing for Thanksgiving dinner at your grandparents’ to planning carefully for a migraine-free Christmas, there are numerous steps we can take to make sure we are able to enjoy the precious time with our families and friends that make the holidays memorable. However, instead of a re-hash of these recommendations which have already been communicated so well by migraine.com’s experts, I’ll share what John and I chose to do this Thanksgiving, which was a complete departure from the usual.

Up until very recently, my brother and I would bring our families to my parents’ home for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. There would be ten of us around the table, and my mother was always careful to accommodate dietary restrictions such as my – and then my daughter’s – vegetarianism and later my attempts at being gluten-free. We also, in the past, tried to attend two Thanksgivings, as lots of other families do, to leave no one out. We’d go to John’s aunt’s first, then go to my parents’. Once, we traveled to see my aunt, uncle and grandmother in Philadelphia. On most of these occasions though, no matter how much I prepared, I would be down with a migraine by nightfall. It would take me days to recover, even if I got through the day or even the entire weekend free of symptoms. In more recent years we began making things very simple by having homemade desserts at my parents’ rather than an entire meal.

This year, however, we decided to completely remove ourselves from the fray, and essentially took a vacation from Thanksgiving. John had discovered that we’d accumulated hundreds of “points” at our bank which we hadn’t really been aware of which could be traded for amenities such as air travel or hotel stays, and we decided to use these to make a tiny getaway; an escape from the usual. We chose a Mariott Garden Suites hotel only 20 miles north of home, with a pool and hot tub, and after visiting briefly with my parents on Thursday we packed up the girls and drove the fifteen minutes to the hotel, where we stayed for two nights. We watched movies on cable TV, swam, ordered a take-out turkey dinner, and ate luxurious breakfasts. Although there were some stresses involved, it was refreshing to enjoy a completely different type of holiday and my head, for the most part, was kind throughout.

Have you ever planned a drastically different kind of holiday because of your migraines? Feel free to share in the comments.

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