How to Survive Thanksgiving
Play host or hostess with grace and ease this Thanksgiving using these ideas to help you pull off the day.
Lots of little things to do can add up to a tremendous amount of time spent rushing around in a frenzied panic. Doing all the simple tasks, like setting your table, before Thanksgiving can make Turkey Day a cinch. “I find that if I plan in advance and do things in the evenings after the girls have gone to bed, I don’t feel so overwhelmed,” says Cari Daddio-Highbloom, a mother of two in Croton on Hudson, New York. Daddio-Highbloom prepares most of her dishes ahead of time. “That way, I only have the turkey and stuffing to worry about on Thanksgiving morning,” she says. “All of the advance work pays off on the big day!”
You don’t have to be the holiday martyr and try to do everything yourself because you want to impress Great Aunt Eleanor. Chances are, your guests are just happy to be spending time with you and won’t care (or even notice) if everything is not perfect. So when relatives or guests ask what they can bring, tell them! (Just don’t forget to write everything down so you don’t duplicate items.) If you have no idea how to gut a turkey, pack it with a delicious stuffing, and then actually cook it, this is a great time to ask for assistance from an experienced family member. More than likely, those who have tackled this enormous task enjoy doing so and will gladly step in and take the reins—or in this case, the turkey legs. Dianne Zide, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, says the best way to have a good time is to relinquish some control. “My key lesson learned is let everyone help and don’t have too rigid of a plan on what you need to do as a hostess,” said Zide. “And by keeping your expectations in line, you’ll also reduce stress.” In our family, it’s a Thanksgiving tradition that the men do the kitchen cleanup after the meal. And while the men had no say when this tradition began, they don’t complain too much about helping out. They know that after the kitchen is clean, they have the go-ahead to get comfy and watch football before dessert is served.
Put the Kids to Work
Children can help, too, no matter what their ages. Younger kids can set the table or get out ingredients. Older kids can clear the table or serve the desserts. Angie Garner, mother of two in Escondido, California, employs her children and the older cousins on Thanksgiving Day. “While I tidy up or do the finishing touches, my little one puts rolls on a cookie sheet,” she says. “The older cousins keep the [younger] kids busy, too. We all pitch in to make it a lovely success.” “I get the kids involved in helping, whether it is putting the vegetables in the pot before cooking or setting the table,” says Canadian mother of four Sandra Harvey. “I give them all a job and tell them how important that job is.”
Debra Dix, of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, suggests a unique idea for a fun table setting. “Last year, my two nieces went to the park and picked fall leaves. My sister covered her dining room table with a green tablecloth and scattered the leaves on top. Next, she placed a clear tablecloth over the leaves,” said Dix. “It looked really festive.” Kids can trace their palms and fingers onto construction paper to make turkeys. Cut out the turkeys and let the kids color them. Write a guest’s name on each one for cute and quick name place settings. Or have the kids trace the hand of each guest for a more personalized approach to a seating arrangement. Play a new Thanksgiving game. Have everyone write down three things they are thankful for, whether it’s something silly, serious, or representative of one’s personality. Take turns picking from a hat and guessing who’s thankful for what. Some answers may come as a surprise and will definitely evoke laughter and conversation.
Think Outside the Turkey
Our family does not get overly excited about turkey, so occasionally we’ll have steak or lasagna for our Thanksgiving meal. If your family members aren’t big fans of turkey and pumpkin pie, suggest a dinner theme that relates to your nationality or come up with a unique menu that you’re sure everyone will enjoy. If you’re not one for cooking, most grocery stores offer prepared Thanksgiving dinners you can purchase for not much more than it would cost to make the meal yourself. Or make reservations. Many families enjoy a nice buffet where everyone can eat the foods they like and no one has to spend time in the kitchen cleaning up. You can also opt for a fancy-free dinner. Maver suggests asking each of your guests to bring a dish for an informal potluck meal. Christine Louise Hohlbaum agrees. This American mom of two, currently living in Germany, says, “We are hosting Thanksgiving for our German friends this year [and are using] paper plates and napkins. The idea of Thanksgiving is to gather in gratitude. Are you having fun? That’s the point. We’re leaving perfection behind and opening our hearts and minds to having a good time.” To keep your stress levels from skyrocketing, remember what Thanksgiving is all about: being thankful for what you have in your life and for being able to share this day with the people who are most precious to you.
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