The internet-inspired social pressure to provide or participate in the perfect Thanksgiving meal can be crippling. Our family Thanksgivings have consisted of a large meal since I was a child, including the pressure to cook for days prior to the event. The bustle of our family tradition always ended with my mother exhausted but appearing happy in front of a magical table. Those were high expectations which I tried to fulfill in my adult life, even when the service defined family as a group of coworkers with unfamiliar recipes.
Our life has changed infinitely over the past twenty years, and our holidays have ranged from ragtag dinners of singles to full family soirees. These changing dynamics over the year has necessitated sensitivity to the sounds and emotional impacts of a stressful holiday. In order to enjoy the spirit of the holiday, our family continues to look to finding a better balance. This does not mean no food, or no spirited enjoyment of the holidays, just more meaningful choices. Here are just a few ways to celebrate with more joy and less stress.
Family Dinner Extravaganza
This choice should be for those who truly love to cook, in a way that feeds your soul. The holiday is a time to shine your skills and present dishes you have perfected over the years to the people you cherish. Just keep in mind that not every dish that requires delivery plated like a Norman Rockwell scene. Plan ahead to allow room for others to shine by bringing a signature dish that does not impact the ownership of your domain. If you love someone who has chosen this moment to shine, make sure you slip in and wash dishes periodically and find a moment to catch up with them while they cook, or make sure that you have volunteers to handle the cleanup.
Potluck Family Style
Potluck is an appealing choice for its ability to defray costs and cater to different styles or dietary restrictions without the sole impact to the host. This method is best coordinated by category to ensure everyone does not bring a green bean casserole. The keys to the stressless potluck are letting go to embrace new dishes and leaving room for others to shine. You may even find a new bakery in town or a surprising approach to an old favorite.
A restaurant supported meal is choice employed when a need to have the home-cooked meal exceeds our ability to cook for ourselves. Several restaurants in most areas can provide a main course that’s ready to go or heat and serve. Of course, you should consider the costs depending on the size of your gathering and the suitability of your needs. Consider a smokehouse turkey or ham to be supplemented well with homemade sides. Often bakery pies shine for those with pie crust struggles or as an easy potluck submission.
When travel or circumstances dictate, allow the professionals to provide you or your family with your Thanksgiving meal. Many restaurants and diners serve a holiday meal during this time of year. Throw on festive smiles and enjoy a meal made by someone else. And if you can’t make it out, you can always order in and wear your pajamas.
This choice feeds your community while feeding your soul—many charities, churches and shelters offer holiday meals for those in need. These are a great opportunity for you to volunteer to help cook, serve or provide companionship. The tradition may even call you to participate in events year-round, teach young adults stewardship and develop a network of individuals in your area. This may be a new family tradition or the cure for a holiday alone. If you are a family in need this year, enjoy a meal provided by those who have chosen to celebrate the holiday in service and honor of your family.
Whichever way you choose to be thankful this year, we wish you a happy meal surrounded by friends and family that you love.
Penny Runions is a married mother of an adult daughter, twin six-year-old daughters and a new puppy. As a military veteran and prior law enforcement professional, she has a new mission as a stay-at-home mom and special needs advocate of a daughter with Autism.