Many traditionalists will agree that Thanksgiving is the most enjoyable holiday of the year, whether playing guest or host, due to the core of the holiday tradition: gathering to eat and be thankful. The emphasis is on the meal, the origin of the holiday to give thanks for what we have and with whom we have to share it. While it is the precursor to the more decorated and stressful Christmas season ahead, the purity of this holiday remains intact as gift-giving expectations are eliminated.
As the emphasis of this holiday is on the gathering itself, with the sharing of a bountiful meal symbolic of the tradition’s origins, there are some very simple ways to keep the purity of the intention. With any planned event that should be equally enjoyed by the host(s) and the guest, advanced preparation is the key. Although there are some gluttons out there that thrive on the chaos of last minute preparations, the vast majority is thankful to reduce their holiday stress.
While some of these tips may seem common sense, they are worthy reminders:
- Start planning a week in advance (that’s today!): Spread it out and make use of the time that is the calm before the storm. Follow up with guests to ensure their attendance, reconfirm the time, firm up the menu and make a plan for how the day should look.
- Shop early: Those who tackle the bulk of grocery shopping 1-2 days before Thanksgiving spend twice as much time fighting the crowds and risk missing out on the best choices. Many items can be bought a week in advance, such as stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, spices, etc. Limit last minute shopping to fresh produce and the turkey (hopefully ordered in advance). Double check the cupboards for necessary ingredients (starch, butter, cream, etc.)
- Know your limits: don’t plan an elaborate meal and insist on doing the majority of the work solo; as with the enjoyment of the meal, it should be a collaborative effort. If pies and baked breads are a specialty, make them in advance and freeze; otherwise, assign this task to a guest or use your local baker. Accept help when asked, as any self-respecting guest appreciates being asked to contribute.
- Plan for the Guests: fresh hand towels in the bathroom? Room for coats in the front hall closet? Make sure to consider any food allergies or dietary concerns, in addition to a well-stocked bar to cover all tastes.
- Take care of the children: when families with young children are involved, the holiday is always more enjoyable if children are occupied and happy. As the day tends to be long, the more diversions the better; having a designated kid zone, with toys, games and video options allows for more peaceful adult time. Have healthy snacks on hand as well to keep them out of the kitchen during the meal preparation.
- Set the table: an important and often fun task that can be done days in advance. The beauty of Thanksgiving is that the main focus is on the meal; thus, the table should reflect careful thought and effort out of respect for the mighty feast preparation. Starting early allows for more time to be creative with centerpieces and table decorations, as well as strategically planning the seating arrangement.
- Traditions old and new: as the holiday of being thankful, it is a time-honored tradition to remember, well, traditions. It is a day to honor the generation(s) before us by sharing recipes, prayers, customs or even games that became a yearly family ritual. Introducing your family traditions to guests as well as encouraging them to share some with you is a wonderful tribute to both families and perhaps inspiration for starting new traditions.