Add More Fun Before Your Feast: Start Your Own Turkey Bowl

What is Thanksgiving if not a free ticket to gorge ourselves in the name of tradition? In fact, the average Thanksgiving meal alone racks up an incredible 3,000 calories—and that’s just the sit-down part. Add another 1,500 calories in appetizers and drinks before and after the meal, and you’re looking at 4,500 calories. It’s no wonder the most intense post-dinner activity we can muster is changing the channel to watch football.

But we’re not judging. Thanksgiving is great! It’s the one day we’re immune to calories—or at least it seems like it. But add a little fun before the feasting—we’re talking a little healthy competition—and you’ll work up an appetite and start an ongoing tradition. Incidentally, you’ll also burn calories. (But who’s counting, right?) Here’s how to organize your own turkey bowl with your family, community and friends.

Pick a game.

Traditionally, turkey bowls are football games, but you can choose any game you like—flag football, soccer, kickball, capture the flag, ultimate frisbee, etc. The idea is to have fun, although a little playful harassment of the opposite team never hurt anyone.

Choose a charity.

Donating to a charity is optional, but a nice way to give during the holiday season. You can either “charge” players a few dollars to participate or ask them to donate certain items like winter coats or canned items. Be sure to contact the charity to see what donations they need.

Make a guest list.

Will this be a family-only game or will you invite neighbors? Maybe you want to invite coworkers? Some companies will even sponsor employee turkey bowls. Whatever you decide, make a guest list with the appropriate number of participants based on the chosen sport. For example, if you choose football, you’ll want about 11 people on each team.

Decide when and where.

Usually turkey bowls are played on Thanksgiving morning, but you can schedule the game whenever it’s convenient—as long as it’s close to Thanksgiving. You’ll also need a location, which should be convenient to most attendees. Most turkey bowls are held at a local park or someone’s backyard.

Send out invitations.

Whether you opt for snail mail, email or a simple text message, invitations are recommended during the hectic holiday season. You can find free invites online or choose printed invitations for a per-card fee.

Gear up for the game.

You can make your game as elaborate or as simple as you like. At the very least, you’ll need a ball or equipment, depending on the game. If you’d really like to make it an occasion, you can order Turkey Bowl t-shirts or personalized game day tickets and passes. You’ll also want some water or refreshments on hand to hydrate and fortify your players.

Be clear about rules, prizes and scorekeeping.

A turkey bowl should be family-friendly and safe; nothing ruins Thanksgiving like a trip to the emergency room or a nasty brawl. So be clear about the rules up front and state what is prohibited (i.e. no swearing, no pushing, no shoving). Also, determine who will keep score and how, and what, if anything the winner will receive. Many turkey bowls don’t offer prizes or may offer a token prize—like a Turkey Bowl trophy. Whatever you decide is fine, but just remember to keep it fun and light.

Have fun!

The idea of a turkey bowl is to enjoy the company of your family, coworkers or neighbors. It should be a tradition that everyone can look forward to—from the most buffed sports player to your beer-bellied uncle. No one should be left out. And if all goes well, you’ll have plenty of stories to tell—not to mention some good-hearted teasing—when you gather around the table for that all-important Thanksgiving feast.