How to Have A Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Many years ago, I hosted a Thanksgiving meal. The guests didn’t get along, the conversation was limping and tense, and I miscalculated how long it took to cook the turkey so dinner was served late. Some of the guests were upset about that. Overall, it was incredibly stressful and not at all worth the effort. I decided I didn’t want to deal with another stressful Thanksgiving again, ever.

Seriously, ever.

So here are my tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving:

* If you’re a guest, be a nice guest.

* Relax!

And the number one, most important piece of advice if you want to have a stress free Thanksgiving?

DO NOT HOST.

Seriously. If you value your sanity and you cherish the idea of a stress-free Thanksgiving, don’t host! Especially don’t host a big ‘ole traditional meal! I suggest not hosting at all, even for casual dinner parties, because there’s too much expectation wrapped up in the food for this holiday. Try and wrangle an invite elsewhere if you enjoy the socializing aspect of this holiday, but don’t overstay your welcome.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like being a guest (*cough* me *cough*), and you don’t know how to politely book it early from from a social gathering that’s gone from enjoyable to stressful, have no fear! The last two pieces of advice still hold!

See, hosting is stressful not only because you have to deal with trying to manage the various guest tensions, but you have to do so while cooking/ baking/ setting up this massive spread for all these people with different palates and preferences and different memories of fond traditions that you’re doing wrong. It just sucks all the fun out of the prep and even the delicious food.

However, if (like me) you do want the feel of a traditional meal without the stress, I recommend:

  • Go to Costco the day before Thanksgiving.
  • Buy a rotisserie chicken, some Hawaiian (or Pillsbury Crescent) rolls, some mashed potato mix, some gravy, some cheese and olives, some Martinelli’s cider, a pumpkin pie, and some canned whipped cream.
  • Store in fridge.
  • On Thanksgiving day, spend less than 20 minutes baking the rolls and making the mashed potatoes and gravy. Serve the chicken cold.
  • Enjoy a stress-free Thanksgiving luncheon with your spouse and/ or kids and/or roommates.
  • Spend the rest of the day noshing on leftovers, hanging with family, and watching movies or playing video games.

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Feel free, of course, to add or subtract as many dishes as you like. If you enjoy baking holiday pies or basting turkey, by all means, go for it. Seriously — choose any dishes you actually like preparing and prepare them. Just don’t juggle the stress of preparing the entire damn meal from scratch just because you feel like you should because tradition or something.

Today, we all slept in. No one woke up early to get food in the oven or to greet early-arriving guests. After we woke up, John and I lazed around drinking coffee and watching comedy shows. Around 10 a.m., Kidling and I took the dogs for a quick walk. When we started getting hungry, I cooked up the rolls and served the meal within 15 minutes. Then we watched Bend it Like Beckham, played some Spelunky on the PS4, worked on some homemade holiday gifts, and started a Netflix S.H.E.I.L.D. binge. Also, naps were had. And I had time to write two blog entries.

These are my favorite Thanksgivings. Lazy days at home with the people (and animals) I love most in the world. No work, no stress, no anxiety. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I enjoy being a guest, too, with all the fun that entails, but a lazy at-home holiday is its own special kind of happiness.

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