Summer is finally gone, and football season is going strong. We are in the busiest time of the year. From October through December, holidays abound. Halloween has recently passed, and, Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away! With Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa in December, these add more activities to already filled schedules. While this can be a wonderful time of the year, the stress that can result from an already filled calendar can rob the joy and add a level of stress that can be overwhelming. Before Thanksgiving arrives, commit now to manage the stress so that the joy of the holidays can create wonderful memories. Ok, you say; but how?
Thanksgiving is our family’s busiest holiday. The last two years we had an all-time record of 65 people seated for Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey plates, linens, and silver. Yes, 65! We will have fewer people this year; at last count, I think 45. 65 or 45, those numbers account for a lot of togetherness and joy, and yes, stress. While it is a wonderful event, it takes a lot of planning, preparation, and execution, and not just on my part. We are a family of cooks and enjoy preparing meals together. And there is more than the Thanksgiving meal to prepare, for family starts arriving early Thanksgiving week, and the last ones leave the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
In the more than 30 years that we have hosted this holiday, I have learned what to let go of and what to hold fast to. I gave up on trying to match the silver and glassware at each table, although I do prefer that the plates at each table match. And regardless of how much easier it would be to use paper and plastic, having china, silver, and linen and cloth napkins are one of my traditions that can’t be broken. On the other hand, place cards are totally unnecessary, as I learned the year that I used them and almost had a family revolt! While it might be best to seat younger children at a certain table, let older children and adults sit where they choose.
I learned years ago that I couldn’t do it all, so for many years, other family members have been hosting different meals. There is also a chore list for setting up and cleaning up, with even the youngest cousins helping. The main meal is usually mainly the same, with different ones cooking their favorites. Regardless of how soon I start the preparations, I never get finished before people start arriving, so I have become much more comfortable with asking for help, and not worrying about what isn’t done. Whether your crowd is 65 or 5, the principles are the same; plan, prepare, and execute, and with lots of help from others!
In considering what traditions are important in your family, aim for less stress and more joy. While the magnitude of our family’s Thanksgiving results in some stress at times, the joy that is created by all of the family being together for days more than compensates for the stress. You can calculate the stress/joy dynamic for your holidays and decide what is important for you to hold onto, and what can change. Change things up and see if you can live with the changes and if they result in positive outcomes, such as less stress and more joy.
And remember, it is the people who come together to share in the traditions that create the memories. Make sure the memories are good ones.