24 Tips For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving

by Julie Cohn

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Thanksgiving can be a joyous time, but can also be a time of stress.   There is the Thanksgiving dinner, the cooking, the decorations, the football games, the around the table discussions!?!  Oh my gosh, just thinking about it stresses me out.  Time to find our Thanksgiving zen.  It is possible to have a stress-free Thanksgiving, it really is!  Don’t believe me?  Check out these 24 Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, with all kinds of fun ideas so you and your guests can enjoy Thanksgiving day!

24 Tips for a Stress Free Thanksgiving

  • Just because you are doing the cooking/entertaining, does not mean you cannot have fun.  Make time to enjoy yourself and your company by making some dishes in advance and freezing them beforehand.
  • Wash tablecloths and other linens several days in advance.  After drying, take the linens directly from the dryer to the table so they do not get wrinkled.
  • Polish silverware a week before the big day.  There is nothing more embarrassing than black spots on the silver as you set the table.
  • Forget about dressing up!  Everyone will be so much more comfortable dressed casual.  Not sweatpants casual, but nice jeans casual.  This eliminates the whole skirt stuck in the panty hose problem as well.
  • If you are missing or do not have enough utensils/serving plates etc, make sure to stock up ahead of time.

If you have a large crowd coming, make certain you have extra chairs and/or tables available in advance.

Make time to wash a movie or play games with your family/guests during the day. Sometimes dinner can just wait.

Even if you are only cooking for just your immediate family, make it special and eat in the dining room.

Start a few family traditions.  My son and I watch the Macy’s parade every Thanksgiving morning, just like I did with my mom.

If you are alone for the holidays, invite someone new over.  There is nothing like a big ol’ turkey and pumpkin pie to form friendships and bond people together.

Decorating/Entertaining Tips

Decorating/Entertaining does not have to be extravagant, and in fact, most guests appreciate the small gestures.

  • Have both red and white wines available for guests, as well as a few varieties of beer.
  •  Don’t assume everyone drinks alcohol.  Have soft drinks, ice tea, and juices available.
  • A glass or two is fine, but do not drink an entire bottle of wine before cooking, as dinner will never get done.   And,  you will wind up napping under that gorgeous table you just set.  Not cool!
  • Have a few quick appetizers available to keep the vultures guests at bay, while you prepare dinner.  It can be as simple as cheese and crackers, or pepper jelly over cream cheese, with crackers. Carrots and celery sticks are a healthy option.
  • Find out any dietary restrictions in advance, so there are no surprises.   There is nothing worse than a food allergy reaction to ruin a good time.
  • For a quick centerpiece, grab some fall mums or sunflowers, place in a vase, and wrap a pretty ribbon around it.
  • Candles are pretty on the table, but impractical when you have little ones.  Use flameless candles.
  • Have peanuts and small candies scattered around the room in dishes.
  • Unless you have a large group, place cards on the table are a nice touch, but unnecessary.  Let people seat themselves.
  • Don’t relegate the kids to a small table in the kitchen-they want to be part of the group.  Have a small card table at the end of the large table, and place both adults and kids at it.  If you do not have space in your dining room, sit outside or in your living/family room.
  • Have a group after-dinner game, while you are still at the table, but before dishes. This way, people can still pick at their plate without feeling rushed to get the dishes done.
  • Go for a group walk after dinner.  You can work off that third second helping of sweet potatoes, and enjoy a crisp fall day together.
  • If there is a disaster, do not panic.  It will be okay.  Your guests are there for you, not your food.  Okay, fine…maybe they are there for the food, but they are there for you too.  Mishaps make for great conversation when you get together next year!  If you cannot laugh at yourself, you will cry, and no one wants a blubbering idiot on Thanksgiving day.  I do not recall if we had any disasters that first Thanksgiving at college–all I remember is the wonderful memories we had together.
  • Above all, remember why you are all together.  Be thankful for what you have and count your blessings.  Amen.

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