Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone comes to together to share the festivity of giving. You get to be with your relatives and celebrate the iconic turkey dinner. But there is one thing that doesn't get shared as the dishes pass around the table. And that is all the stress-filled hours that go into making Thanksgiving perfect.
Of course, if you have hosted the Thanksgiving dinner for your family members, you know the feeling. You can sympathize with all the running around, singed fingers and mauled pastries hiding in the pantry somewhere. Making dinner every day once a day is a lengthy task that can wear you out, so imagine having to feed everyone all together on one day!
But stress is not something you want to feel when it comes to having a happy holiday with all your folks. What you really want is a smooth sailing preparation for you and your family so that everyone can enjoy the day with nobody left out of breath. Here are a few steps that can easily get you there.
Step 1: Organize your Ideas as Early as Possible
On Thanksgiving, there are a lot of ideas that come to mind to make the party super special. All those cool DIY ideas on Pinterest and things you saw going on in someone else's house, can make your party stand out, but, do you really need all of them?
The first thing you want to do is think about all the labor that is going to have to go into the preparations for the party. Then think if you are able to delegate or are you on your own.
Some of your ideas will be a must. Buying a turkey, making sure you have clothes to wear, perhaps, and cutlery for all of the guests. You’ll need to purchase enough beverages to ensure everyone stays hydrated through the pre-meal, meal, and beyond as everyone visits.
After you have gotten that out of the way, making sure you have enough things to make a sufficient party, you can think about other things such as decorations and party gift bags, games and optional activities.
Step 2: Create a Timetable
This will help you understand how much time is on your hands. Creating a timetable will help you mentally prepare for all the tasks that you must do. Then you can see afterward if you have enough time for all the extra things you had in mind.
You can start off as early as three weeks in advance. This gives you enough time to get your guest list ready and find out if anyone has any special dietary needs.
Two weeks in advance, you can finalize your menu, order a fresh turkey, or purchase a frozen one. Get your non-perishable goods together together a few days weeks ahead to ensure the stores have what you need. Some special dishes might require going to a few specialty stores.
The week of Thanksgiving, shop for perishable items you’ll need to stay fresh in the fridge, including veggies and heavy cream. Get everything for your table layout ready. This includes linen, silver, dishes, platters, glasses and anything else that will take up space on the table.
Three to four days before the big dinner, clean the house and get everyone involved. If you have a clean house before the cooking starts, your stress level will automatically plummet.
Two days or so ahead of the family gathering start taking care of your cooking tasks. You can start by preparing make-ahead dishes that refrigerate well or that you can keep frozen up util the night before. If your turkey is frozen, give it a few days to thaw thoroughly. Now it’s the night before or morning, depending on the timing of your feast… the turkey will be ready to go in the oven.
Step 3: Reach Out To Your Family
It is always better to check with the family members if they want to make any contributions. There may be a case where someone is really good at cooking a particular thing, so why not have them bring it along and take that off your plate? Here is where you can at least put out the opportunity for those that really want to, for sharing their favorite cinnamon apple pie recipe. Don’t, however, leave Thanksgiving to a pot ‘luck’. As long as you know what the dishes are in advance, you can plan the well-balanced feast. It can help to take a little bit of weight off of your shoulders and make them feel included. It is, after all, a family get-together for the holiday of Thanksgiving.
Step 4: Divide Your Work
Just because you offered to hold the party for your relatives doesn’t mean that no one else should help out during the festivities. Make someone go out to buy everything you need if it is an item for the day of. Give someone the duty of tidying the house or living room that the guest will be in. Give someone the job of writing the invitations or sending out a text or email.
There are so many jobs that need to get done, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them yourself. When everyone is working together, it makes it easier for you and more valuable to everyone else.
Step 5: Prepare for Anything
Having a whole party of imperfect people in one room, something is bound to happen. So just to make sure that all gets covered, have wipe-up towels around the dining area and bandages in a convenient spot if you have children coming over (even adults may need an emergency plan in place, like a wine-removal spray that is handy.)
The point of this isn’t to have a picture-perfect dinner with your family, but a memorable one. So wherever you know there may be a slip-up, just place a napkin there or an extra plate.
Thanksgiving this year should be something to look forward to, not something that you are dreading. You shouldn’t be panting to the finish line when the guests arrive but smiling in anticipation. You should be thinking about at all the fun you’ll have with the whole family sitting together.
So go ahead, plan a great Thanksgiving. And plan some good sleep too, because you’ve done a great job.