Thanksgiving is such an amazing holiday for so many reasons. It starts one of the longest weekends of the year. It kicks off the Christmas season in many ways. And for many, it’s a time to reconnect with family and friends that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like.
But the actual Thanksgiving Day can be a mixed bag. It can be filled with miscommunication, overcrowding, and a few being overworked. Put a bunch of people in close proximity for an extended time, each with their own idea of what the day should be like, and you’ve got the makings of a stressful and disappointing day.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are a few ways to set a better tone for the day and avert repeating the disappointments of yesteryear.
- Share the plan. As the host, make sure everyone knows in advance what the big picture schedule and expectations are for the day. Get some input from others who will be coming, then communicate in advance. Don’t overdo the schedule but everyone should know what time to arrive (if guests outside your home are coming), meal time, other group activities (watching the game, movie, or board games), and free times (naps, whatever). Consider a time to video chat with others as a group who couldn’t be with you this year.
Share the load. The work load, that is. Mom tends to get the bulk of the heavy lifting and that’s not fair. Someone has to be the quarterback, sure—but everyone can help with their fair share. This starts with shopping, house cleaning, and other prep before Thanksgiving Day. It includes food prep, welcoming guests, and clean up after the meal. See it all as part of the bigger experience—not just chores but all part of the fun.
Share the love. In addition to the usual family members, consider inviting others who may not be able to join with their families. Friends who have just moved to your city. People at work or church that would otherwise spend the day alone. And it’s a great opportunity as a family to either make a contribution to a Thanksgiving outreach to the homeless or others in need. Perhaps even include your involvement.
Share the gratitude. After all, it is Thanksgiving. And it doesn’t have to be awkward like everyone at the table having to tell something they’re thankful for before you eat. But don’t miss the opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Get creative. Pass a smartphone or video camera around throughout the day so each person has a chance to record something they’re thankful for. Or write them on Post-It notes and have a central place everyone can post them. Or have a journal available where everyone can write something during the day. Share the videos, read the notes at some time during the day.
Share the memories. These are big days and should be captured. In addition to the gratitude videos, notes, or journal entries, create a shared photo stream. Take some of the better photos and create a photo book through a business like iTunes or Shutterfly—either one book for the family archives or take orders from others who’d like their own copy. Snapchats are great but they don’t last!
Finally, purpose to be present in the moment throughout the day. What a lost opportunity to have family and friends together, only for everyone to get absorbed in their own worlds. Screens down, eyes up. Spend time talking, laughing, telling stories. Remember those who are no longer with you. Cry. Hug.
The meal is just the backdrop. Make the most of your time together, talking and having fun. Be thankful for each other and your time will be well spent. And you’ll treasure the memories for a long time.
Question: What is one way you make your Thanksgiving Days memorable in a good way? Share your answer in the comments below.