You want to know how to have a perfect Thanksgiving?
Find flow, create whimsy and have more fun! You know what’s not fun? Stress and unreal expectations. I love Thanksgiving; I think it may be my favorite holiday (well, Christmas v. Thanksgiving….that’s a close call). In my family, it’s a time for the gathering of all my favorite people, good food, and fun! But it wasn’t always so fun and whimsical. I have been co-hosting Thanksgiving for nearly 13 years with my mom. She would have it at her house and do the decorating and I would do the food…and it would stress me out, because I thought a “grown-up” Thanksgiving had to be “perfect” and pretty. I would plan it out weeks in advance, and the morning of I would wake up at 4 a.m. and start. I had to make everything, have it ready and hot at the perfect hour, all while making lively conversation, lookin’ pretty and being cheerful.
I failed every year.
Every year something went wrong — something would be cold, or forgotten, or overcooked, or sticky (normally mashed potatoes)… and I would always be stressed, flustered and irritable. Not fun! Then I realized that this WAS how Thanksgiving was, well except for the perfect, stressed part. I realized that I had unrealistic expectations, was trying to be perfect, doing too much. So we decided to make some changes so everything would be more fun and less stressful.
That’s when I created my 4-step formula for a perfect Thanksgiving:
- Do What You Do Best… And Let Others Do the Same
I make really amazing dressing and Brussels sprouts. And my friend Sara makes a really delicious sweet potato casserole. And my dad makes a mean smoked turkey. I used to be in charge of it all (well, except the sweet potatoes, those have always been Sara’s) and it was no fun — for me, because I was exhausted, and for everyone else, because just like a toddler and I don’t do exhausted very gracefully. So a few years ago, I decided to do what I did best and to ask everyone else to do what they did best. And it was magic! Not only did I get to enjoy the day, but everyone else was able to feel like a part of the process and also to share their fave Thanksgiving dishes and traditions. Win-Win!
Bonus fun idea — try something new. If you wanna try something new, do it! Yes, on Thanksgiving day! Who cares if it doesn’t work out. Best case scenario, you have a delicious new dish; worst case, it makes a great story. True story — one year, my dad got the idea to make the turkey in a regular alumni trash can. #trashcanturkey It was terrible, like really terrible, it was raw and brunt all at the same time…but was fun for him and it makes a really good story.
- Have a Plan, But Enjoy the Process
I love a good, solid plan. A good plan actually takes the stress out of the day, because you know when to start the mashed potatoes, how long the turkey will be on and when to put the rolls out to rise. So have a plan of when you want to begin eating, then start planning backward from there so you know what will be in the oven when (HERE and HERE is a good example). But give yourself some wiggle room, and don’t melt-down when something falls apart. In fact, know that something will likely get messed up — you will forget the rolls, there will be double dressings, you will create mash potato gum… that’s part of the fun and is only a problem if you make it a problem. Enjoy the ride, you will have a much better time!
- Open Up
One of the things that make our Thanksgiving celebration so special and lively is that it’s made up of family, but also friends. Over the years we invited and gathered people from around us who didn’t have anywhere to be for Thanksgiving, and the result has been magic. Pure love magic. So start asking around, and if your neighbor or school friend doesn’t have anywhere to go, invite them over…the more the merrier
- Be Thankful
Every year just before we begin eating the delicious food everyone has brought, we (all 40-plus of us) gather around the long, beautifully decorated table (thanks, Mom!) and we all say what we are thankful for. With so many of us it takes a solid 45 minutes… but it is worth every second. Every single second. It is such a warm time of gratitude, realness, laughter, and connection as each of us shares the blessing and meaning in our lives. This is really my favorite part. Then we head in and fill our plates with slightly cooled food, but no one cares because we are all warm and fuzzy inside.
Bonus #5. Don’t stress. Don’t stress about everything getting done because most likely it will all get done and if it doesn’t no one will notice. They won’t notice your new curtains or if you ironed the napkins, but they will notice you, frazzled and not enjoying yourself. So if you are starting to stress, sit down take 5 deep slow, full breaths and make of a list and prioritize it, from really important like must be done (cleaning the bathrooms) to less important (handmade personalized crocheted napkin rings) and create a plan of when you will do those. Give yourself some wiggle room and a stopping point —> so say by Wednesday at 3pm everything that isn’t completed or at the top 1/3 of the list (probably the most important stuff) will be sacrificed to the God of happiness and presence (your soul) and allow your holiday to start and you begin to chill and enjoy yourself. Like Maya Angelou says ” People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And people feel and pick up on what you feel…so set the stage for happiness, gratitude, and joy and allow everything else to float away.
It can be so simple if we allow it to be. Allow it.
I wish you the best and most joyous perfect imperfect Thanksgiving ever this year! And I hope imperfect perfect becomes your new tradition.
P.S. I am currently offering my 90 min soul and strategy sessions from now until the beginning of the New Year. These single 1:1 Coaching sessions are perfect to get your life and your actions aligned so you can start (or keep) moving towards your goals during the holiday season and into the new year. Head over here to find out more.