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How Do You Create the Perfect Thanksgiving?

How Do You Create the Perfect Thanksgiving?

Today’s post is by Lisa Oppenhemier, writer, blogger, Bright Horizons Family Matters webinar moderator and mother to two grown daughters.

How do you create the Perfect Thanksgiving?…

Hint: You Don’t.

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Stressing about assembling the perfect gathering…with the perfect food, fun, and festivities?

OK, before you do, take a deep breath, go to your computer, and try this exercise.

Type “Thanksgiving disasters” into your search engine. Results; about a half a million, all of them with believably real titles like, “Sweet Potato Casserole on Fire” and “Slippery Turkey; 10 Second Rule.”

Now search for, “Perfect Thanksgiving.” Results: less than half the number of the disasters, all of them with perfectly manufactured URLs like Martha Stewart…and The Onion.

That’s because in the history of holidays, few (actually…we’re going with maybe none) resemble those of the Hallmark Channel…or Walton’s Mountain.

That’s not to say that all holidays are disasters (they’re not). It’s just that the thing we all make ourselves nuts over — perfection — is a mighty tall order. Besides…it’s often the quirks that make holidays fun. Think about it…which holidays can you really recall? The ones where everything went off entirely as planned? Or the Thanksgiving during which hubby’s prized new deep fryer deep-sixed the turkey (hint: try the thing out ahead of time).

More important: don’t stress yourself into a frenzy. The crucial thing about the holidays is the family and friends (and even they make for some interesting stories). Some people may actually love the “cooking a little every day” mantra preached by home shows. But it’s not required if it’s not fun. And when you’re busy with children, job, school, house, beloved parents, plus dog, cat, and ferret, shortcuts are a must.

11-23-15 Perfect Thanksgiving_Inset

The following ideas may not be groundbreaking. Think of them as permission to make your life easier:

Buy: Magazines to the contrary, there’s no craft police requiring you to forage for centerpieces out of pinecones, sedum flowers, and fuzzy foxtail grass. A store-bought arrangement (or a simple candle…or radical concept — no centerpiece! More room for food!) will do just fine.

Open: Making the turkey and the stuffing from scratch? Go ahead and pop open the cranberry sauce. Sure, there are some folks who will tell you it’s just as easy to make it yourself. But really…it’s not. The only one who’ll care is you. And you’ll have one thing on the plate…that’s off yours.

Defrost: Who says everything has to be made immediately before? Check your recipes to see what can be made and frozen ahead of time. That way you can do the things you love to do without the pressure of having to do them all at once. Feel free to defrost a prepared hors d’oeuvre or dessert, too.

Order: Got a local grocer that does Thanksgiving? Check their menu and see what will expedite your life without breaking the bank. Then send someone in your party to do pickup.

Enlist: There are no extra points for doing everything yourself. Here’s the thing: people want to help. And it’s the season of giving. Send them for wine; ask them for a side dish; have them pick up a dessert. You’ll be surprised at what a relief it will be when it’s the morning of and you realize there’s at least one thing you don’t have to think about.

Finally, when you feel yourself listing toward the deep end, ask yourself…who are you trying to impress? As the saying goes, the people who matter won’t care, and the people who care…are all posting dolled-up pics on social media.

Do the things you love, distribute the rest.

Then carve the turkey, defrost the pie, and enjoy the spirit of the day.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Lisa Oppenheimer Bright Horizons logger

Writer and blogger Lisa Oppenheimer has spent a career chronicling the travels, challenges, and delightful messiness of fitting together work, life, and parenting. The mother of two grown daughters, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two cats, and endless homeowner responsibilities.

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