Updated: Nov 5
Who doesn't love the holidays? The laughter of loved ones, family traditions, brightly wrapped presents, sparkly decorations, matching pajamas, hot cocoa, and yummy food overload! Are the sugarplums dancing in your head yet? The unmagical truth is we don't live in a Hallmark movie, and often our expectation of the holidays is overridden by the never-ending to-do lists, the jam-packed schedules, and personality clashes (y'all know what I'm talking about).
When the holidays spin out of control it's easy to lose focus of what matters most... being present and spending time with the people we love. This year I understand that more than ever because my dad passed away. It has brought loving my people to a whole new deeper level. We never know what tomorrow brings, or what seat may be empty the following year, so we should do our best to live today well and stay focused on what really matters...love, gratitude, and our relationships.
Listen, you can't control aunt Betty who is a negative Nellie, or overly critical cousin Carol, but you can control how you prepare for the holiday so that you take care of your future self now. God doesn't want you to be a mess during the holidays, he wants you to reflect his love, and that doesn't happen when we are in a crazed state.
Preparation is key in ensuring that your future self stays mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy! If you equip yourself with the practical tools and do some pre-deciding work, not only will you survive the holidays but by golly, you may also enjoy them too!
In the upcoming weeks, we will walk together down this festive road with useful tips for you to implement and (pretty) resources to help you along your merry way! So, let's get started.
Thanksgiving is around the corner, so our focus is on pulling turkey day together! I will dive into preparation for Christmas in November, but I'll get to that in another post. This week let's talk about what you need to do in the next few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
If you are hosting dinner, you already have a lot on your plate! Let's start with 5 basics that you can get off your to-do list and keep you on track.
Confirm the time you want folks over for dinner.
Giving your guests as much information as possible will help them plan and decide if they can attend, especially if they are visiting more than one home for dinner. One tip is when you are setting the time for dinner, set a time that works well with your natural rhythm. Some people are fine having an early dinner at 1 pm and waking up at some ungodly hour to prepare, for others would squeeze the holiday joy right out of their soul, so think about when you are at your best.
Compile your guest list, and send the invite
You probably have the usual suspects coming to dinner, but make a list of everyone you are inviting, especially if you have some new folks breaking bread at the table, it will help you think about logistics. If your shy friend Sue is coming you don't want to sit her next to Uncle Joe who will talk her ear off.
Whether you invite your guests informally with a text or quick phone call, or you get all Martha Stewart and send a fancy invitation, make sure your invite gives your guest plenty of time to respond.
One quick note on guests. If you are able, please consider inviting someone who may not have anywhere to go this season. It will be a blessing to you and your family.
Get confirmation your guests are attending
When you get confirmation, be sure to get the number of guests that are coming. So, if Cousin Jane rsvp'd yes, make sure you ask Jane who else is coming, so you're not surprised when she shows up with her 4 kids in tow. Also, if you have any out-of-town guests, it's super important to know logistics, such as the day and time they arrive, because you will need to do some extra preparation for folks staying at your house (I have a resource I'll share later specifically for prep for out-of-town guests.)
It's perfectly appropriate to give your guest a day to respond by. It's not rude, it's a practical way for you to ensure you have enough food, and seats around the table so that people are comfortable. You can simply, say, "Hey I would love to have you at Thanksgiving dinner, we are eating at 5:00 pm, do you think you can let me know by Monday if you all can make it?" They won't mind, because this gives them structure and helps them plan their day! If you don't hear back after the RSVP day, afford some grace, but reach back out within 1-2 days.
Create a menu and write your grocery list
Duh! Right? I know it's turkey and all the sides that you have had for the past 30 years. But, creating a menu, is the preparation that is necessary to create your grocery list and take inventory of what you have. When you create a menu make a list of the following:
Favorite traditional dishes
This list is your golden ticket to not making multiple trips to the store during the busiest time of the year! Give yourself a day to sit with the list to think about if anything is missing. If you have guests staying with you, make sure you take that into consideration for your normal grocery list. Also, take note of any allergies your guest may have so that you can provide an alternative.
Go Grocery Shopping
If you go grocery shopping early in the month, you are giving yourself a gift! Think of how happy your future self will be when you are not scurrying around last-minute fighting over the last can of cranberry sauce. Arm yourself with your list, and if you can a few little helpers and get it done! A few tips before you head out into the wild:
Create a budget. Creating a budget helps you not overspend and gives you a projection for your Christmas meal budget.
Lead with a plan. Can you get everything at one grocery store? Or do you need to make a trip to Costco, Trader Joe's, and Aldi? If multiple trips are a must, have a locale strategy. For example, go to the furthest one from your home first, and the closest to your home last.
If you're bringing helpers, make a copy of the grocery list for each of them, or assign food groups with a list to each person, so for example, Jane shops for all the produce, Tom shops for the baking items, etc.
Give yourself a timeline. It's already November 4th, so try to get these 5 to-do's done by November 11th to give you plenty of margin before the holiday, not to mention to give you time to kick back and relax as well! Treat yourself to your favorite fall drink after you accomplish each to-do item, you deserve it!
Download your resources!
In the next post we will talk about some fun stuff, like ideas for decorating the table! In the meantime, below are some resources (Guest List, Calendar, Menu Plan, and Grocery List) for you to download!