I’ve never “hosted” Thanksgiving – it seems like quite the undertaking, from the outside. There’s food to prepare, spaces to clean, and all the many little things to account for about the guests you have – these are family members, and you know their quirks, and you want them to feel comfortable and at ease. I would probably be preparing for ages before hosting Thanksgiving, and who knows? Someday I might. The closest I’ve come was hosting a pretty family-filled New Years Eve party, and even that comes with very few expectations, food-wise. For Thanksgiving, there are so many iconic foods that folks expect to see!
My husband’s family… so, you know, my family too… is in an interesting spot. All the children are grown, with the youngest in their 20s and married, with parents in their 50s and the grandparents “generation” in their 70s; it’s an entirely adult family. Sure, most of us 20-somethings have friends with babies, but the family itself doesn’t have any yet, and it makes the role of being the “youngest” generation a bit surreal: I’m old enough to be hosting but instead, I’m being hosted by the older generations again.
I want to contribute, though, in a way that I haven’t before: last year, I was in such a tizzy about the wedding (which was the Saturday after Thanksgiving) that I was extremely grateful to leave everything about Thanksgiving to them. However, this year, I’m thankful that I have the space, time, and ability to be (at least a little) helpful. To that end, here are my ways of trying to be a useful daughter/granddaughter-in-law in the yearly Thanksgiving celebrations.
- Bring some desserts/breakfast stuff: People don’t love having other people hone in when they are making a dinner masterpiece, but it never hurts for there to be more dessert/breakfast food for the many additional people in the house. It’s also nice for hosts not to have to get up early and figure out some kind of breakfast plan; instead, guests can fend for themselves and everything is more restful for us all.
- Bring a game or a fun new activity: This is Husband’s realm; when he and I find out about a cool game or a fun activity to share with family, we try to save it for the next time a ton of us are in the same house. We’ve spent hours in tournaments of backgammon (not a new game, but one that had a heyday with us), downloaded the same trivia app on our phones just to play against people in the same room, and written up our own versions of charades. It keeps everyone who isn’t thrilled about football busy and happy and making memories together.
- Bring what you’ll need and make time for yourselves: I try to pack well in general, but I tend to forget things and need to borrow or buy them – I try harder to make sure I’m well-packed when I’m staying as a guest in someone’s home, because it’s one way to make my stay with them less of a burden. I also like to plan, if I’m going to stay for a while, for Husband and I to take a little time for ourselves somewhere in there, just to get out of the hosts’ hair. In this case, our anniversary will always fall around Thanksgiving from here out, and so we’ve got reservations for a nice dinner Saturday night; by then, we’ll have had lots of family time but still have time to reconvene on Sunday morning.
Most of all, noticing when there are opportunities to spend time with someone while helping them out – doing dishes, carrying chairs, setting out silverware. These aren’t fancy and it doesn’t make the work of hosting much easier, but it does give you a time to connect while spending time together.