If you love Thanksgiving but your traditions are getting a little tired, we’ve got you covered. With a little creative planning, you can make this year’s Thanksgiving the most festive and fun-filled yet.
1. Plan ahead for the day you want
It sounds simple, but your ideal holiday won’t materialize unless you make it happen. Maybe you envision a formal Thanksgiving dinner complete with centerpieces, nameplates and an elegant menu. If that’s your plan, spell it out ahead of time. If you want potluck, paper plates, jeans and football, plan that and let people know. Share your desires openly with family, i.e. “I hope you will stay all day so we can have lots of time together”—to create the day you want.
2. Think about timing
It may sound like a no-brainer, but the timing of your dinner can impact the entire day. If you call your mealtime too early, you might get stressed with the-time crunch of meal prep (unless you’ve done most of it in the days before). Some like to eat later in order to enjoy appetizers and the anticipation of the holiday meal all day. Or maybe you have guests who are going to be glued to a particular football game during the day. Consider all of these variables and plan accordingly.
3. Relax your expectations
Without dwelling on it, acknowledge something will likely go wrong with your day, but that’s OK. A quirky uncle might say something, well, quirky. Someone might not show up who said they would. If you want to have the best possible holiday, roll with the punches. (Rest assured: No one’s Thanksgiving is perfect.)
4. Set up a kids’ table
Let the kiddos help make construction-paper place mats for their special table. It’s fun for kids to eat away from the adults, and you are likely to hear lots of giggles, too.
5. Take a moment to observe
Take a moment during the festivities to stop doing and just notice what is happening all around you. Watch your family as an observer; what do you see? When we stop scurrying around in host (or guest) mode, we can absorb our blessings: family, friends, a nice home, good food, our health, a break from work, laughter and more. When you stop to pay attention, we enjoy the day more fully and create vivid memories.
6. Embrace the nap
While it’s a myth that the tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy, the energy your body needs to burn through a big meal can wipe you out. If everyone in your family wants to take a nap or rest after eating, embrace it! When everyone wakes, the celebration can continue.
7. Take a walk
So much food, so many people, so much indoor time—you could really use a little fresh air to slow your day down and take a moment to breathe in the crisp air. Walking after a big meal wakes you up and helps you digest. Even if it’s cold, bundle up and enjoy your holiday with a brisk walk.
8. Don’t clean up right away
Thanksgiving dinner can take hours to prepare, and if you start cleaning up as soon as your meal is finished, when do you actually get to enjoy it? Cleaning up also can send the unintended message that it’s time for guests to stop conversing and start helping or even leave. Enjoy the conversation fully before you pick up all the plates. Consider having dessert an hour or more after dinner to encourage family members and friends to relax, connect and stick around for a while.
9. Remember what the day is about
It’s isn’t just turkey, football and pies. Thanksgiving is truly about coming together as a family to give thanks. Focus on your blessings, and your own happiness and appreciation will infuse your holiday and guests with joy.
Sandra Bienkowski is a regular contributor to Live Happy and the founder and CEO of TheMediaConcierge.net.