Here are a few ideas for Thanksgiving to help keep the spirit of gratitude, family, and love involved while also helping you make it go smoothly.
*Remember, there is always room for one more.
I remember one particular year that I was alone and not really in a great place, I called a family member that was hosting Thanksgiving to see if I could come and was told there wasn’t any room for me. I mean, I would have sat on the floor if necessary. I just needed the company. So, if there are last minute people that want to come. Borrow a folding chair!
* Make sure you ask people to bring things.
If you already have your traditional menu planned, request something from it. Most of the my family and friends are coming down and staying Wednesday night so they can’t really make something. But rolls, drinks, cranberry sauce, pies, that type of thing can be bought and brought over. Sure, I could make all those things-in fact, the Martha Stewart in me insists that I do- but I know those little things can make a big difference between my cooking most of the big meal and enjoying the day or becoming overwhelmed with too many details.
*Make everyone feel welcome.
Whether it be your daughter’s new boyfriend that just got out of jail or your mother-in-law who didn’t get much sleep last night. Smile, hug, ask questions about them, really care. We never know what any given person is going through and this is a meal to express our gratitude and be near those we love by sharing a meal. Keep that in mind above all else.
*Take a deep breath and laugh. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
I will have my puppy and two crazy grand-dogs running through the house. The turkey may not cook right. You might drop a pie. The dog might eat the sweet potato casserole. Aunt Sue might break into tears over a lost love. You may run out of whiskey. This Thanksgiving, I want you to see everything with new eyes. Every person there is alive this year. Memorize the moments. Watch people laugh. Smell the turkey cooking. Hear the ice clink in your glass. Pet the dogs. Have an extra helping. These moments are precious.
A huge, ornate centerpiece is going to end up in the way and you will be sad that you have to move your beautiful decorations! Try a nice napkin with mix-matched dishes. A votive in front of each space. Print off papers for people to write what they are thankful for. Most of them the guest can color. Childish? We should be a little more childish. Sprinkle some leaves on the table. Or have the kids go collect some. Place a mini pumpkin on each plate. (I for one do not like getting up during conversation to refill my plate at a buffet. In fact, I usually won’t. Much easier for folks if all the food is on the table and we can just pass it around!)
Put on some nice classical or jazz music. Something that won’t clash with the volume of laughter and conversation.
You might not be able to use your hundred year old dining room table. I will be moving all the couches and chairs into one section of the living room so that I can line up two long folding tables. I will be able to seat fourteen comfortably in this little house by simply rearranging a little. Folding tables are more compact but still offer lots of room. Your house doesn’t have to look perfect.
Light tea candles all over the house. They will burn for two hours and create an enchanting ambience.
If you are in a good mood, your guests will be too. If you are flustered, they will be too. It’s just a meal with loved ones. Enjoy!