3 Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Thanksgiving
I think Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. It’s such a beautiful time of year here in Canada as our always beautiful landscapes turn into absolute masterpieces of red, orange and yellow. It’s generally a quieter, less-pressure filled holiday and we get to stuff our faces with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. There’s definitely a whole lot less on the to-do lists for busy moms who usually have far too much on their theoretical plate at Christmas to be able to actually enjoy it. But Thanksgiving is also our annual reminder to be grateful, to literally give thanks for everything we have, which is enough.
I make a point of practicing gratitude every day, but being able to have a whole holiday around that practice makes my heart happy. This year, I was fortunate enough to get to host my immediate family at our home for an early Thanksgiving dinner. (We celebrated a weekend early because we have some people travelling overseas over the actual holiday).
Since I benefited from hosting an early celebration, I thought I would share some tips that help me keep my stress to a minimum (and my perfectionist mindset in check) when hosting.
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and abundance after all, so it's important to remember those principles if you’re planning to host a holiday get together. You don't want to get overwhelmed, which is easy to do when you’ve got a lot on your plate! Your celebration doesn’t need to be over the top, perfect, flawless, it should just be full of love and gratitude for the people who share your table. I’ve put together my top three tips for hosting a stress-free holiday party, so you can spend the holiday enjoying all the people (and food!) you love.
This is by far the biggest thing that helps me keep stress to a minimum. I plan ahead. I suggest you pick your date and time with lots of notice to give yourself and your guests the time needed to make the space in their calendars (remember other people are busy too). If you want everyone you’re inviting to be able to come, I recommend giving them a minimum of three weeks notice - especially if they have other family they will be celebrating with as well (at Christmas, I’d give even more notice!). This will also allow you plenty of time to think about what you would like to serve, how you’d like to decorate, and all the things you’ll need to add you your to-do list. Which brings us to our next tip:
Make a List
Once you’ve set your date and know who will be coming, start making a to-do list for decorations, beverages, and food. Create your various shopping lists and a list of recipes you plan on making for the meal. Do as much of your shopping as you can a week in advance, then schedule out your recipes and plan to make some things in the days leading up to the celebration. If you are cooking a frozen turkey, don’t forget that it may take several days to defrost (depending on it size) - make sure you have room in the fridge. Then you’ll only have the fresh things left to buy the day before. Once the bulk of your shopping is done, you can start preparing some things in advance. For our Thanksgiving dinner I made pies and cookies the day before, and then on the day of our celebration I just had to do the Turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes. I could have just as easily done the pies and cookies the whole weekend before and then popped them in the freezer until the night before. The rest of the dishes were contributions from our guests. Which brings me to the next tip. And this one is huge!
Ask for Help
This is probably the one I struggle with the most. I hate to feel like I am inconveniencing others. But repeat this after me - You don’t need to do it all yourself! Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. If you’re hosting a big family or friends celebration with lots of adults coming, then ask each family to contribute a dish. You’ll probably be surprised to find everyone will be thrilled to help. Don’t stop with your guests. Enlist your household family members to help too! If you’re cooking, is there someone else who can help tidy up? My husband is great about tackling tidy up, or keeping the kids corralled if I’m busy in the kitchen. Kids can help clean their rooms and play spaces and help with baking too! If you forget your out of butter (or anything else) until the last minute, ask someone who is coming to pick it up on their way. And during the party, speak up. Tell your guests where shoes, coats and garbage go and where drink refills can be found. You can be a gracious host without doing everything yourself.
Most importantly, remember to relax, have fun, and Give Thanks!