One of the topics I love to speak on is Holiday Organization. I found out through personal experience that being prepared makes all the difference in my stress level throughout the entire holiday season.
I thought I’d switch things up a bit this week and pass on some of my tips to you…and whether you’re an “old pro” or this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving in your home, I hope you find these tips helpful in reducing your stress for the big day.
- Prepare as many foods ahead of time as possible. Ie: vegetable tray, pies, and things that can be easily reheated.
- Make a list of dishes you will need for the dinner: dinner and salad plates, glasses, silverware, napkins, serving pieces, platter, gravy boat, and condiments. Set the table 1 day ahead, including serving bowls and platter. (If there’s not enough room at the table for the food, you could use a nearby hutch or piece of furniture or a card table to serve buffet style.) I am really visual, so I like to set things up and move them around. When everything is laid out in front of me, I can more easily determine where to place dishes, which tablecloth to use, and also make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.
- Write out the name of every menu item on a 3X5 card and place it in a serving bowl/piece. When guests start arriving and ask you how they can help, let them know that when you are ready, they can bring you the bowl labeled ‘mashed potatoes’ (or whatever) and return it to the table. Make sure you have utensils for side dishes laid out ahead of time.
- I keep center pieces very simple. My favorites are: placing votive candles inside of carved out mini-pumpkins (left over from October) or spray-painting fruit such as apples and a pineapple gold, then placing it on a tray with walnuts and a bit of greenery.
- Make Wednesday night as much a part of the tradition as Thanksgiving by having a pizza night using paper plates. Put on a movie and made it a special family night. Your kids will love it!
- The best way to avoid stress is to keep it simple and use whatever you have on hand. Let’s face it ~ it’s Wednesday. If you wait to the last minute to try to create a festive feel, scrolling endlessly through Pinterest is just going to frustrate you. Chances are, the people you’ve invited into your home love you whether or not you’ve spent hours covered in glitter constructing some elaborate holiday decoration. All you need is a few tree branches (bare branches work too) or dried flowers, placed in a vase and voilà!
- If possible, set out a drink table seperate from your dining table where thirsty guests can help themselves when they arrive. I use plastic cups with name tags and a marker to label each cup. This makes it easy for guests to find their own drinks throughout the visit no matter where they’ve set them down, especially if you’re serving any kind of h’ordeuvres/appetizers prior to the main meal. Assign a family member or guest to be in charge of refilling the ice at your drink station. This saves you time and enables you to keep your focus where it belongs.
- Decide which foods you will be preparing, then ASK guests to bring something to contribute to the meal. Some folks are more than happy to continue the tradition of making and sharing their Great- Great Aunt Betty’s Southern Pecan Pie, while in our home, Costco’s (huge and delicious) pumpkin pie passes muster without complaint every single year.
- Create your own traditions and let go of the ones that don’t work well for your family. If you’ve invited 24 guests and your great-grandmother’s china can’t be put in the dishwasher, you might want to consider using paper plates. There are a plethora of (pretty) paper goods to choose from with the added benefit of making clean-up a breeze. I often use festive paper plates and napkins for dessert or late-night left-over snacking.
- Take lots of pictures or videos! One year, unbeknownst to me, our then 11 yr. old daughter captured our Thanksgiving celebration on video. I had taken photos of our guests at the table, but following dinner, she was able to capture my mother-in-love playing hymns on the piano while I accompanied on my violin and the rest of the guests sang and laughed long into the evening. I treasure that video, especially since my mother-in-law now resides in a nursing home and one of the guests that night has graduated to heaven. Which brings me to my last “tip”…
- Take time to appreciate your blessings. You don’t have to be a Mary OR a Martha ~ you can be both. At the end of the day, or years down the road, no one is going to remember what the centerpiece looked like (unless it was a Pinterest fail, in which case, just laugh about it!), or what was served on the table. They’ll remember the shared moments of common joy.
No matter where you find yourself this Thanksgiving, I pray that you know you are loved and precious to the Lord!
I count YOU among my many friends for whom I am grateful. Thank you for joining me in this space each week and for letting me know you are blessed by these posts.