Too often though the day can also be a day for family dissention. If you are hosting the dinner at your house you are invariably going to do something different than the way it has always been done.
Several years ago my husband came up with a great idea and it has now become our family tradition. On Thanksgiving we invite family members well in advance so that there is a formal invitation. On occassion we do go to other relatives homes for the day but the basic plan remains intact.
- Plan out the menu.
Once the location has been determined then the menu is announced.
This may sound silly but some people have very firm ideas about what the most important dishes are for the Thanksgiving dinner. In our family there was strong feelings for the 5 bean salad and the ambrosia. My mom loves peas. No one else really had a strong feeling about the peas and after the peas campaign of 2001 we have now added peas to the menu. With everyone knowing what the menu is going to be in advance there is no snide comments on the day that a certain dish was missing or that there was a certain dish that was supposed to be made a certain way.
Make a schedule for shopping, cooking, and any other activities so that the actual day runs smoothly with no big glitches ( There is nothing like getting the pies ready in the morning and then remembering that you have forgotten to pull the 20 pound turkey out of the freezer and now you won't be eating until 10pm at night ).
- Be Thoughtful.
Be considerate of your family as though they were guests in your house. They aren't - they're family but still remember to treat them the same or better than you would a perfect stranger. If Uncle Charly likes watching football all day but you want to play board games then perhaps make a couple of concessions so that everyone can have a lovely, pleasant, and relaxing day. Set up different zones in your house to allow for a variety of activities and allowing for family members to separate if that is needed.
- Plan topics of conversation ahead of time.
If you know your mother-in-law likes to talk about how she was a better parent - or some other topic that you know will almost guaranteed drive you crazy - make a plan ahead of time how you will change the subject and what you can both talk about. Football is always good, current styles, and this year the economy - how are we all going to save money and still make the holidays special. Think of neutral conversations that can carry you out of an uncomfortable moment.
Get everyone involved in some little way. Be specific. Most people will say "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help" and leave it at that.
Have a great day and don't get too excited if the mashed potatoes are rubbery, and the broccolli is cold. The most important thing is the time together with your family and the happy memories that you are passing along to your kids.