Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
No gifts, no decorations, no whopping credit bill a month later from spending too much. How can you not love a holiday that includes pies, parades, football and naps?
Still, it’s not easy for some people. What you love others might loathe. And the day is will be messy, guaranteed. Someone will comment on your weight, your politics or your marital status.
One year when we toasted, two glasses shattered. Thankfully not over the mashed potatoes we were about to eat.
One year a friend brought a turkey and after the meal I tossed out the carcass she had planned to use to make soup. Oops.
One year as I pulled the steamy sweet potatoes out of the oven, the dish broke and the hot mess ended up all over my shoes. I excused myself, took a deep breath and changed into something even nicer. When I came downstairs, my little grandson told me how beautiful I looked.
So how do you survive the day, no matter what? Here are my 10 tips for making the most out of Thanksgiving.
1. Give yourself time
Shop early and often. Instead of one giant food run that fills two carts, take a few smaller trips so you don’t throw your back out. Bring help or delegate and send someone else. Set the table the night before. If you’re traveling, do it when fewer people are on the road or in the air. Don’t run out to shop for the next holiday at midnight. Take time to enjoy every last minute of this one day of gratitude.
2. Watch the parade
It’s an American tradition and there are so few things we all enjoy as a country without politics dividing us. You’ll see marching bands. Dancers. Broadway musical moments. Snoopy and Kermit usually show up, along with a weird what-the-hell-is-that balloon your grandkids will love.
3. Remind yourself, it’s all good
Just decide for one day, everyone is right and everything tastes fine. Yams versus sweet potatoes. Canned cranberries versus real ones. Pumpkin pie versus apple pie. Who cares? Just eat ’em or shove them to the side and be grateful to the cook.
4. Help out
Arrive early. Help set the table or calm the kids or the cook. If you didn’t bring food, you get to clean up. It’s a “get to” not a “have to.” Don’t duck out early. Some of the best conversations take place in the kitchen after the meal.
5. Sit at the kids table
It’s so much more fun. No one expects you to behave. You can rest your elbows on the table and lick your fingers and your plate. And if you knock over your drink there, you’re a star, not a klutz.
You are about to spend half a day at carb central sation ingesting 5,000 calories of rolls, potatoes, corn, stuffing and pies. Go for a walk. Play football. Host a scavenger hunt for the kids. Hug a tree and give thanks that, out of all the planets, you won the lottery and got Earth.
Cell phones and other electronic avoiders of genuine human contact go into a basket away from the table. Yes, you will be tempted to escape your aunt’s comments about your weight or marital status or career choice by scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat. Be present and just love her anyway. She might not be here next year.
8. Savor it all
The gravy might be too lumpy. The mashed potatoes might be too creamy. The turkey might be too dry. It’s not a performance, it’s a meal a hungry person would be happy to have.
9. Leave a little room
Not just for another slice of pie. Leave room to listen. Leave a little room for someone else’s opinion or story or woes without trumping them with your own. Leave room in your mind to learn something. Leave a little room in your heart to love the loneliest one around the table.
10. Show some gratitude
Go around the table and share what you’re grateful for. It’s my favorite part of the day. It’s not about sharing stories of perfect lives. We share simple lessons learned in the past year, moments of grace or failures that didn’t keep us down as long as we feared and made us stronger.
And no matter how the day turns out, pause and give thanks that you are still here to celebrate it.