How to Plan a Great Thanksgiving and Christmas Gathering
We all look forward to that wonderful, magical time of year when the leaves have fallen off the trees and our yards are covered with beautiful hues of gold, rust and copper. The holidays are upon us and it's time again for peace, joy, good will toward men, family, friends and feasting. Each year when November rolls around you know the countdown has begun. To get things started, now is the time to begin the planning of the perfect holiday event.
Get Others Involved
There's so much detail and preparation that go into achieving the perfect holiday reunion or get together. While I think it's great that the best cook and host or hostess in the group is usually in charge of preparing the star of the show (the turkey), he or she must be willing to put in some long hours to achieve a successful holiday event. This is also perfect timing to start making calls to friends and family and to delegate some of the responsibilities. You should ask each one to bring the dish they're most famous for. I love it when everyone brings their specialties. This way everyone has a part and is in on the action. They know they are contributing and are much needed and appreciated. This brings the group closer and makes the whole occasion more enjoyable and satisfying for all. As for me, I look forward to sampling and tasting all the diverse dishes that are brought to the holiday gathering each year. This makes it fun and more enjoyable for everyone, including the host or hostess. It leaves more time for visiting, reminiscing, having fun and creating lasting memories
I think doing it this way makes everyone feel more involved and a vital part of the event. Whether it's Aunt Betty's chocolate cake or cousin Amy's sweet potato pie, let them know how much your looking forward to seeing them and that you can't hardly wait to get another taste of their delicious cake, pie, candy or what ever they're bringing. If they don't have a special dish they're famous for ask the to bring a vegetable, mashed potatoes or yams, even canned vegetables or packages rolls will work if they are limited on culinary skills. :).
The Hostess with the Mostess "Responsibility"
This is the way we planned our Thanksgiving feast when I was growing up; You as host or hostess should prepare the turkey, dressing and giblet gravy. Sometimes, this means preparing several turkeys, depending on how many people will be attending. You must also have other optional meats for those that don't care for the taste of turkey. A ham and a roast will work well. Don't forget the cranberry sauce and iced tea. Delegate the vegetables, breads and deserts to others that will be attending. Have some canned vegetables and instant potatoes for back-up, in case they're needed.
Plan the Meal and Think of Others
First plan the meal, figure out what you'll need to make it a memorable success. Make phone calls to relatives and friends. Let them know how much your looking forward to seeing and spending time with them again. Get current addresses and drop them a reminder note or card, two weeks prior to the event. Phone them one week ahead for an additional reminder. Ask them to bring their special dish, you know the one they're most famous for. Aunt Sue' s famous cheesecake, Liza's home-made Dutch apple pies. You get the idea. Check on your neighbors, make sure they're not alone for the holiday's and if they are, invite them to your gathering if you possibly can. If your not able to invite them into your home or if they are unable to come because of illness etc., be sure to check in on them often during the holidays. Take Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner to them and let them know you care and are thinking of them. It may be one of the most important things you'll ever do for your fellow man as many people suffer from deep depression during the holidays.
Plan a Meaningful Prayer
At least one week in advance, choose someone to give the Thanksgiving prayer, maybe Uncle Lloyd or cousin Martha or Reverend Scott, if a clergyman is attending. This is an important part and I feel people appreciate being given the advanced time to construct the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas prayer to recite at these wonderful holiday gatherings.
Ask the entertainer(s) in the family or group to perform at the gathering. If there isn't a performer in the group, try having a talent contest. Let everyone show off their talent and skills. Have a token prize for the winner. If there are serious competitive people there, you might not want to make it a contest, just let each one perform, ask them to entertain the group.
Take plenty of pictures or set up a camcorder. Maybe do both if possible. You never know, you may not see them again at least in this life. None of us are guaranteed even one more single day, so take advantage at every opportunity to record and document special times.
Plan a great game. One idea for a large group is a treasure or scavenger hunt, hiding items and giving a nice wrapped prize to whoever finds the most items.
If possible, have a large screen television in good working order in a separate room, with plenty of seating room. So the ones that want to can enjoy the football game can do so without disturbing those that want to visit and enjoy each others company. You can put in a mini fridge, stocked with cold refreshments and a microwave. Be sure to stock up on microwavable popcorn, nuts, trail mix, barbecued buffalo wings, chips dip and disposable dishes.
Set the Stage For Christmas
Before anyone leaves and for everyone that wants to participate, have them write their names on a small piece of paper and draw names out of a Santa hat. This will set the stage for the Christmas gathering next month and give everyone something to look forward to and plan for.
As your guests are leaving compliment them on the dishes they brought and ask if they can do it again or bring one of their other delicious dishes to the Christmas celebration.
Mission Accomplished....Well Almost !
Okay, the celebration is over and you've just finished putting your house back together.
Before you take a much needed and deserved rest, get back on the telephone call all those who came from out of town and make sure they made it back home safely. Let them know you care about them, how much you enjoyed visiting and being with them. Let them know that you can't wait until the Christmas celebration to see them again. They will be tired from the trip and this will help them to relax and have a feeling of satisfaction to know that you sincerely care about them and that they are very special, valuable and important to you.
Rest, Relax then Begin Again
Two weeks before the Christmas celebration, begin this process again. Remember all those pictures that were taken at Thanksgiving? Put them on disks. Make or have multiple copies made for you. Get your address book out once again and send out Christmas cards with a copy of the photos on disk to each one, be sure to make a reminder note inside the card about the upcoming Christmas celebration. Get these mailed out at least two weeks prior to the celebration.
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