Hosting a family gathering this year? Stressing about assembling the perfect day…with the perfect food, fun, festivities?
OK, before you do, take a deep breath, go to your computer and try this exercise.
Type “holiday dinner disasters” into your search engine. Results; about 8 million, all of them with believably real titles like, “Sweet Potato Casserole on Fire” and “Slippery Turkey; 10 Second Rule.”
That’s because in the history of holidays, few (actually…we’re going with maybe none) resemble those of the Hallmark Channel.
That’s not to say that all holidays are disasters (they’re not). It’s just that the thing we all make ourselves nuts over -- perfection -- is a mighty tall order. Besides…it’s often the quirks that make holidays fun. Think about it…which holidays can you really recall? The ones where everything went off entirely as planned? Or the family gathering during which hubby’s prized new deep fryer deep-sixed the main course (hint: try the thing out ahead of time).
It’s all been heightened this year, when expectations have us angling to make up for the very virtual holidays we were left to celebrate in 2020. If we learned nothing from those distant celebrations, it’s that the crucial thing about the holidays is the family and friends we get to spend them with (and even they make for some interesting stories). Some people may actually love frenzy. For the rest of us busy with children, job, school, house, beloved parents, plus dog, cat, and ferret (did we mention an ongoing pandemic?), shortcuts are a must.
The following may not be groundbreaking. Think of them as permission to make your life easier:
Buy: Magazines to the contrary, there’s no craft police requiring you to forage for centerpieces out of pinecones, sedum flowers, and fuzzy foxtail grass. A store-bought arrangement (or a simple candle…or radical concept -- no centerpiece! More room for food!) will do just fine.
Open: Making grandma’s roast recipe? Go ahead and buy the mashed potatoes. Sure, some folks say it’s just as easy to make it yourself. But really…it’s not. The only one who’ll care is you. And you’ll have one thing on the plate…that’s off yours.
Defrost: Who says everything has to be made immediately before? Check your recipes to see what can be made and frozen ahead. That way, you can do things you love to do without the pressure of having to do them all at once. Feel free to defrost a prepared hors d’oeuvre or dessert, too.
Order: Got a local grocer that does holiday meals? Check their menu and see what will expedite your life without breaking the bank. Then send someone in your party to do pickup.
Enlist: There are no extra points for doing everything yourself. And here’s the thing: people want to help – especially this year. Plus, it’s the season of giving. Send them for beverages; ask them for a side dish; have them pick up a dessert. You’ll be surprised at what a relief it will be when it’s the morning of and you realize there’s at least one thing you don’t have to think about.
Finally, when you feel yourself listing toward the deep end over dinner; or worse, when you’re dissolving over a gift that’s late because of the phenomenon that must not be named (the global supply chain), ask yourself – will this really matter? And who are you trying to impress? As the saying goes, the people who matter won’t care, and the people who care…are all posting dolled up pics on social media.
Do the things you love, distribute the rest.
Then carve the roast, defrost the pie, enjoy the spirit of the day, and know that you’ll laugh about all of it later.