By Katie Broyles
We know. Thanksgiving should be a festive celebration of gratitude and delicious dishes shared with the loved ones dear to your heart. Yet it cannot be denied that in some families, holiday gatherings always seem to end in recriminations, regrets, and tear stains on the fancy cloth napkins. If you are a member of one of these histrionic broods, here are some ideas to avoid your annual Thanksgiving meltdown.
Invite a few non-family members:
Maybe we’re just too comfortable around our family. We lower our guard, and we don’t always bother to be polite. Some of us make a point not to be polite. Whatever the reason, we don’t seem to be on our best behavior around our families. Your family may have special relatives who revert back to old grievances and replay them each holiday season A great way to reintroduce manners and civility to your Thanksgiving dinner is to invite a couple of strangers. Not only will outsiders make Aunt Petunia think twice about what comes out of her mouth, but your mysterious guests will also make things more interesting. Plus, the new people are not going to bring up any bad memories of holidays past.
It’s harder for resentment to smolder in the fresh air. Make a point of pre-planning a time to bring everyone outside. Then just when things are starting to get awkward, diffuse the family fun in the great outdoors. A game of badminton, touch football, croquet, or whatever your crew will tolerate will help everyone blow off some steam and work off that dressing. Wide open spaces are a great antidote to tension, so breathe in, breathe out, and repeat.
Make your Meal a Potluck:
It happens every year. Whoever is in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner feels like they are running a pop-up restaurant for the day and, if the rest of the family is lucky, narrowly avoids a nervous breakdown. A holiday should not be this way! Instead of putting one or two people in the pressure cooker and making them responsible for the whole meal, assign each person or couple one dish to bring, such as a vegetable, a meat, or a dessert. It may not turn out as perfect as Grandma’s ornately orchestrated spread, but it will be a lot more casual, and hence more fun. The important thing is to be flexible. Don’t let the potluck become an opportunity for one person to turn into the Thanksgiving drill sergeant and boss everyone around with rigid instructions for dishes they may not know how to make. Think of it more as a feast of surprises.
Give up and Go to a Restaurant!
If your family truly can’t get along while coordinating a big meal, throw in the towel and just go out to eat. Without the stress of cooking and playing host or hostess, your family just might learn to enjoy Thanksgiving again. Most restaurants that are open will be serving Thanksgiving fare, even when you wouldn’t expect that kind of cuisine from them on a normal day. I’ve had delicious Thanksgiving meals at an Italian restaurant, for example. Remember to tip your servers with appropriate gratitude.
Consider Having Thanksgiving Dinner on a Different Day.
This may sound like sacrilege to holiday hardliners, but there is nothing sacred about eating your turkey on Turkey Day. There are several reasons why the official Thanksgiving Day might be the worst day possible to assemble your group. Thanksgiving travel is notoriously crowded and hectic, and flights may be outrageously expensive on certain days and times. If you have a lot of couples on the guest list, they may have to juggle obligations between two families, further complicating matters. If your family is scattered far and wide and difficult to assemble, picking a different day could solve your scheduling rubix cube.