I didn’t host Thanksgiving until I was married and in my thirties. I went straight from watching others do all the work…to I think I can do this…to alright let’s host 40 people.
A BIG Thanksgiving
Hosting 40 people felt like I was a caterer and I loved every minute of it. My husband and I are fiercely competitive with each other and it was a big deal that his family was letting us host Thanksgiving. While I loved every minute of it, I was full of anxiety and didn’t feel like anything less than perfect was okay.
Tom deep fried a turkey; I roasted a turkey, and we couldn’t wait to find out whose turkey had the least leftovers. I had always heard the key to making the perfect turkey was to “get the turkey drunk”, in other words let it marinate all day in a bath of chardonnay and butter. You know the turkey is done when it looks drunk. One year my daughter had to write a recipe for making a turkey as a second grade assignment. The first thing she wrote is “you get the turkey drunk”. Fortunately her teacher had a wonderful sense of humor and made her turkeys the same way. She called me only to find out what type of chardonnay I used.
Thanksgiving went off with only one hitch. Tom’s uncle said “this is the best thanksgiving I’ve ever had”! Needless to say, he was in trouble with his wife and daughter-in-law on the way home. That Thanksgiving was the start of our journey hosting large holiday celebrations.
A Move and A Change
We moved from Durham, North Carolina to Thousand Oaks CA, and all of this changed. That first year I did not host Thanksgiving and I felt so lost.
The next Thanksgiving, we had a few people over and I seriously had no idea what I was doing. How do I go from cooking for 40 people to 5? Every platter, serving dish and recipe were all meant for large quantities. That first time I walked around the store lost. I was so used to having $1,000+ worth of groceries that when the teller said $100. I asked her to double check.
A New Tradition
So, we decided to make new Thanksgiving traditions. One year we spent the week at Disneyland. There is a great campground less than a mile from the park and we just took the bus to and from as needed. We ate a turkey drumstick at Disney on Thanksgiving and the next day I attempted a small thanksgiving dinner in the camper. By the way, Thanksgiving day is the best day to be at Disneyland, there are literally no crowds.
The next year I was pregnant and on bedrest. I wrote a manual for Tom “making Thanksgiving dinner for dummies” and we used a piece of cardboard as a table so I could “sit” with the family while still being in bed.
Last year hit me hard. We were in the midst of the pandemic. I lost the baby in the second trimester and it was just the three of us for thanksgiving. I made all of our favorites but we only ate stuffing, potatoes and what we lovingly call “chocolate mess”, which was a chocolate chess pie that overcooked. I cried so hard and I felt broken.
It will be just the three of us again this year. We planned to go on an adventure but the adventure will have to wait, as my daughter will be in her dance studio performance of the Nutcracker.
This year, I am determined that we will have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are not the only people having a small thanksgiving.
Which takes me to the point of this blog….
Tips For A Wonderful, Small Thanksgiving
It is absolutely possible to have a wonderful, small thanksgiving with no muss or fuss. Here are some of my thoughts:
- You can still make a turkey (vs. just a turkey breast). It’s okay to have leftovers.
- Rather than a traditional menu – we are all writing down “my favorite foods” and putting them in a jar. We’ll draw and go from there. Who knows maybe we’ll have Turkey and “Grandpa Howie’s famous NY” spaghetti with a side of buffalo chicken dip?
- There are no rules. Throw the rule book out the window and spend the day focusing on being together and having fun.
- Don’t stress about the size of the recipe. Make the recipe and live on leftovers.
- Wear your best pajamas instead of getting all dressed up
- Play games! Binge watch Netflix! Do whatever makes you happy!
The bottom line is that those of us that may only have 2-4 people at the table this year, actually have the advantage. Thanksgiving can literally be anything you want it to be. Have fun with it. Thanksgiving is a day for gratitude, a day for family, and a day to appreciate what we have.
So go for it. Start some new traditions. Post your plans and new traditions in the comments section below. I would love to hear about them!