Last year, the hubster and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the very first time. If I do say so myself, it went wonderfully! For years, both of us have experienced delightful Thanksgiving gatherings in the homes of family and friends. We’ve seen a variety of traditions and approaches, learned from different host/hostessing techniques, and appreciated all of the thought, effort, and planning that has gone into making those holiday celebrations so joyous. We learned a lot last year during our hosting experience, and we are delighted to share the following tips as you prepare for your fabulous Thanksgiving feast next week:

  • Create a comprehensive grocery list for your feast. Check that it includes everything for your recipes so you don’t have to brave the check-out lines twice in one day. And if you’re hosting house guests around holiday time, don’t forget to include things on your list for their meals other than Thanksgiving dinner!
  • Place your turkey, ham, or tofurkey order ahead of time. Then be sure to pick it up on the appointed day.
  • Accept guests’ offers of beverages or food. Not only does it give them a sense of joy to bring something, but it also helps spread the work around. Last year guests brought pie, sweet potatoes, and candy, and these were wonderful contributions to our feast.
  • Grocery shop early or late. Shop for your feast when the store opens or about an hour before the store closes. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, there’s no need to join a mosh pit of shoppers searching for yams and cranberries in the middle of the day.

Tip: Call your grocery store(s) of choice to confirm if they have extended hours leading up to Thanksgiving Day.

  • Once you purchase your vittles, identify what items you can prepare ahead of time. Cook accordingly!
  • Lists are key. Make a detailed list of all that needs to be done before Thanksgiving dinner, and assign the tasks to a day (and a person in your household). Some things to include on your list: clean the house, iron the tablecloth and napkins, decorate, polish the silver, fold the napkins, make place cards, set the table, pick up turkey, buy flowers, prepare stuffing, make cranberry sauce, bake corn bread, put turkey in oven…
  • It’s the little things that make a difference. If you want to have candles on your Thanksgiving table, be sure to put a lighter or matches nearby so you don’t have to hunt for those items while your guests’ food gets cold. Want to take pictures at your gathering? Put your camera on your chair so you don’t forget to capture those magical moments. Want people to enjoy left-overs the next day? Encourage each guest to bring an empty food storage container with them so they can take goodies home.
  • Have hors d’oeuvres and beverages at the ready for your guests. Simple snacks like cheese and crackers or crudites will be appreciated by guests before the meal is ready.
  • Clean kitchen items as you go. I’m not sure what Miss Manners would say about this, but I’m all for cleaning kitchen items as you can when you’re putting the finishing touches on a meal. As long as you’re not being rude to your guests, it’s fine to do a little clean-up here and there.
  • Sit back, relax, and enjoy. Guests will take their cue from you. If your event is formal, expect to serve guests their second helpings. If it’s low-key, guests will feel free to come and go from the buffet at their leisure. Decide what atmosphere you wish to set, and act accordingly.

As you go about your feast preparations, consider the qualities that you’re expressing by hosting this gathering. You’re expressing love, consideration, kindness, selflessness, generosity of spirit, and gratitude for all who will gather around your table. These qualities are a wonderful foundation on which to stand as you grocery shop, decorate, cook, and clean. Wishing you great joy as you prepare to host Thanksgiving dinner!

* Image by Karen Barefoot

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