Simplifying Thanksgiving Traditions

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner (Photo by Ian Freimuth)

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner (Photo by Ian Freimuth)

In this article for the Chester County Independent, I give some tips on how to change up your Thanksgiving plans:

As we grow older, we want to continue holiday traditions we have honored in the past. But with down-sizing to a smaller home or apartment, there is not space to feed or seat several generations of family or friends. However, that does not mean seniors should cancel celebrations or delete holiday events.

Here are some suggestions for keeping Thanksgiving customs while simplifying the usual rituals.

• Rent space. Instead of bringing in extra chairs and tables to an over-crowded apartment or smaller home, rent a room from a community center or use the dining room of your church. Know the approximately number who will attend when making a registration. Will your clan be comfortable in the size of the room? Is a kitchen available? Reserve early as the calendar fills quickly.

• Plan a pot-luck meal. This is often called “bring-a-dish” or a “covered-dish” meal. Delegate main dish, vegetable, fruit, bread, dessert and drinks. What if everyone brought green bean casserole? And you really need more food than chips and soda! Provide for those who have allergies to certain foods or who are diabetic. Don’t forget to request paper plates, plastic eating flat wear, napkins, and tablecloths (disposable). Provide heavy-duty plastic bags for cleanup. Bottles of cold water or chilled cans of soft drinks eliminate the need for ice and glasses.

• Think GREENERY for a centerpiece. Nothing compares with simple bunches or cedar, pine, holly and other natural greenery and fresh fruit for Thanksgiving decorations. Add a few candles (never leave a flame unattended). Miniature gourds complement Thanksgiving dinners.

• Committee involvement. If you have made all the arrangements in the past, allow others to share in the event. Ask for volunteers to email or phone all family members or friends. Do not overlook those who live a distance away as they should be contacted, whether they attend, or not. Could the teenagers in your family be responsible for this job? Provide names, emails and addresses.

• Count your blessings. For the Thanksgiving meal, ask for each person to tell about a special blessing they have received during the past year. Realize that some people may not participate. Move on to the next person. One of the purposes of a family meal is making everyone feel comfortable and going home with pleasant memories of the time together.

Is a piano available? If not, bring a CD player and plan a sing-along of favorite music. If possible, make copies of the music so everyone participates.

• Before leaving, update names and emails. Make a group photo. Copy to a CD and mail to families. Place a donation basket nearby for this expense.
This holiday season make an effort to plan a special meal with family and friends. It is not the place that is important – it is the people who love and support one another.

Carolyn Tomlin is a Jackson, Tennessee-based author that has been writing and publishing since 1988. She has authored 19 books and more than 4,000 articles in magazines such as Entrepreneur, Kansas City Star, American Profile, Tennessee Home & Farm, Home Life, Mature Living, ParentLife and many others.  You can purchase her full-length works here.

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