We can all enjoy a simple and slow Thanksgiving holiday at home. Here’s how to relax, celebrate, and actually enjoy our national day of thanks.
1. Cook from scratch
Nothing says home and Thanksgiving and festivities like lots and lots of homemade food. If there’s any day of the year that was made for scratch cooking, it’s Thanksgiving! Cooking helps give your house a busy, happy feeling. (Yes, it’s actually true that people who cook are happier!). Cooking from scratch forces you to slow down, stay home, and do something relaxing. Oh, everyone wants to go wait at the electronics store to fight over giant TVs? Sorry, we have a pie to make.
Some Thanksgiving favorite recipes that you may not already have on your radar:
- Honey wheat dinner rolls
- Blackberry raspberry pie (not one of the Thanksgiving pie trinity, but always welcome)
- Caramel apple cobbler
- Sourdough apple cake
- Or if you want to see an old fashioned Thanksgiving menu from over 100 years ago, look at this one from Fannie Farmer!
Now don’t allow the prospect of scratch cooking to overwhelm you. There’s no need make absolutely everything yourself! Just make sure that something delicious is coming out of your kitchen to help give your home a cozy, old fashioned feel.
And with that in mind…
2. Have everyone pitch in
There’s seems to be a strange modern idea that Thanksgiving is the job of the hostess of the family and that everyone should be sitting down to a perfectly set table with a prepared meal that she alone has worked on.
But this idea is crazy, and leads to a very stressed out hostess. If guests offer to bring something, let them! They probably want to, and it is not too much to ask. If people offer to help you clean up, let them do that too. Let the kids set the table, sweep the floor, and do things that are actually helpful to you, not just pretend-helping. Speak to them in the weeks before Thanksgiving so they understand they will be helping too. (They will probably be excited to pitch in!)
Don’t put unrealistic pressure on yourself to magically create a perfect dinner. That expectation can run off like a wild turkey.
2. Plan ahead
A from-scratch, community-effort Thanksgiving dinner does not appear without a little planning, and your slow Thanksgiving will go smoother if you plan ahead.
Take the time weeks and days before the holiday to make sure you have what you need and time to do it all. If there is anything you need in the way of kitchen essentials, table linens, things for overnight guests, get them before you feel like you’re in a hurry.
Take a few minutes to write down what needs to be done the day of, what time you need to do certain tasks (like get the turkey in the oven!), and what can be done beforehand. Nothing is more panic-inducing than feeling like you’re behind schedule. When you know what needs to be done, and you do it, you’ll stay calm and in control.
If you need a little help visualizing what you need to plan for ahead of time, grab your free Thanksgiving planning worksheet here:
3. Make your own Thanksgiving decorations…or skip them
Really, there is no need to buy any Thanksgiving decorations whatsoever. It is a lovely time of year to make your home feel layered and cozy by adding richer colors and more texture. If you don’t have a giant fall wreath, a turkey figurine for your mantel, or a set of Thanksgiving dishes, no one will think any less of you. Promise.
Some Thanksgiving decorating ideas that are free, inexpensive, or versatile enough for the whole season:
- Velvet pillow covers in rust, olive green, or deep brown
- Fall botanical prints
- Pumpkins! You can often get them at a very good price at farm stands right after Halloween.
- Clear votives with tea lights
- A simple, timeless fall wreath
- When all else fails, branches in jars can still add to the mood.
4. Don’t shop or even plan your shopping
Here’s a tough one.
On Thanksgiving, as soon as the dinner dishes have been cleared, you will be bombarded with ads and emails prompting you to buy things. And it’s not just Christmas gift shopping! A lot of these things we want to get, if we are completely honest, are things are just for ourselves.
Yes, there are some good deals to be had, but that can wait until tomorrow. Of course it is tempting to start your Christmas shopping, or at least plan what you want to get. But take a minute and think about this… the one day of the year set aside specifically for giving thanks, we are expected to start the shopping season. Let’s allow gratitude to have its day in the sun.
6. Limit the electronics
We all know we should, but it can be hard to do. Often, if you politely let everyone know ahead of time that it is really important to you to have a day free from phones and table, you might be surprised by how agreeable everyone is to it.
Keeping your family away from screens makes sure they interact with any family that’s visiting, and that they are more willing to pitch in when you need help. It also keeps you from feeling like a servant who is tied to the kitchen while everyone else lounges about. None of these feelings are helpful when you are trying to have a slow and relaxing holiday. Just do your best to limit them, at least for today.
8. Embrace the season
The gaudiness of Halloween is over, the leaves are mostly off the trees, and the world has settled into a dark, quiet period of rest.
Let’s allow Thanksgiving be a celebration of fall and the harvest season. Don’t wish it away by rushing into Christmas or having all your Christmas stuff up already. It will come soon enough.
(And when the time comes to prepare for Christmas, try to keep that slower and simpler too!)
7. Give thanks
Not with a daily update for one hundred of your closest friends on Instagram. Just a real, true attitude of thankfulness between you and your heart, and whatever else you answer to.