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How to Cope With Being a First-Time Thanksgiving Host

Updated on August 21, 2010

Are you hosting your family's Thanksgiving celebration this year?

Being in charge of this important family holiday can be very stressful, especially if you've never hosted an large family gathering before.

The very idea of having a house full of relatives and in-laws stresses out many people, as does the thought of cooking a turkey.

If you'll be hosting your first Thanksgiving feast this year, keep in mind that every holiday dinner you have attended throughout your life originated with a host who at one time dealt with the same situation with which you are now faced.

The keys to pulling off a successful Thanksgiving dinner include: keeping perspective, planning properly, and accepting help when offered.

3 Tips for First-Time Thanksgiving Success

1. Keeping Perspective

Reflect over the Thanksgiving meals you have enjoyed over the years. You probably thought they were absolutely perfect, but it is very likely that something didn't turn out exactly the way the person in charge would have liked. If there's a little dust on the mantle or the soufflé doesn't rise perfectly, it isn't the end of the world. Chances are that no one but you will even notice.

The most important thing about Thanksgiving is having an opportunity to spend time with the people you love and give thanks for the blessings in your life. Remind yourself that the quality of the food is not the reason for the celebration. Focus instead on the joy of being able to break bread with your loved ones in your own home.

2. Proper Planning

It's amazing how far a little planning can go when it comes to alleviating event planning anxiety. Big tasks often seem much more manageable when they are mapped out on paper. As soon as you find out you are hosting Thanksgiving for your family, make a to-do list and timeline for yourself.

Once you write down the things that you need to accomplish before the big day, you can immediately start making forward progress. One of the first things you need to do is choose a menu. If dealing with preparations at the last minute stresses you out, select recipes that can be prepared ahead of time. You may even want to choose recipes that freeze well so you can prepare them several weeks ahead of time. When the big day arrives, you'll just need to thaw and heat.

If you've never cooked a turkey before, purchase an extra one and practice a week or two before the event. If it turns out well, you'll know you're ready to cook a turkey for a crowd. If not, you can practice again or decide to purchase a smoked or deep fried turkey from a local restaurant or supermarket. Either way, the stress of dealing with being responsible for the turkey will be handled.

In addition to deciding on the menu, it's important to come up with a plan of attack for cleaning your house. Don't put off cleaning until a day or two before the event, or you'll find yourself so exhausted during the celebration that you won't have time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Instead, come up with a schedule for tasks that can be accomplished during the weeks leading up to the event so there will be no need for a last minute cleaning rush.

3. Accepting Help

When word spreads throughout your family that you're in charge of the holiday meal, you'll likely receive phone calls and emails from well-meaning relatives asking what they can do to help. Don't brush aside their offers of assistance. The fact that you are hosting the event does not mean that you have to be responsible for every single aspect of the meal.

When someone asks how he or she can help, give that person a specific task, and then cross it off your list. If you dread cooking sweet potatoes, assign that to your dear cousin. If you don't want to have to run to the store on Thanksgiving morning to pick up ice for the punch, assign that task to your favorite aunt.

By following these three steps, you'll be able to pull off a Thanksgiving to remember for all your guests without wearing yourself out in the process.


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