Planning a Thanksgiving Celebration
Weather you are having a crowd for dinner or hosting a few people over the long weekend, the secrets to thanksgiving entertaining are organization and planning so you can be relax, calm and happy mood to enjoy your guests.
Here is a planning guide to help you bring together all the elements you need to turn a meal into a celebration
A Reason to Give Thanks
Before you begin making list and setting tasks, take a moment to think about the spirit of the holiday. The first Thanksgiving was a harvest feast to give thanks for nature’s bounty. The more complex the world becomes and the more separated we find ourselves from family and friends, the more precious that simple idea becomes.
When you host a Thanksgiving dinner, a day-after lunch, or a leisurely breakfast over the holiday weekend, what you are really doing is giving people a chance to connect with one another by participating in a centuries-old communal tradition: giving thanks together over a joyous meal. It is that sense of tradition that turns a large family fest into a thanksgiving celebration. But traditions don’t have to be hundreds of years old. This year, why not start a few of your own? It might be anything from a special way of setting the table to a quiet moment of contemplation, a song, or a game you play after the feast.
Tired of turkey? Try ham .No room for a formal table? Move the meal to the kitchen, or, if the weather cooperates, bring the indoors outside and create a “dining room” in the backyard. Keep the parts of Thanksgiving you like and set aside the rules you don’t. Then let new traditions spring up from the unique realities of your life-where you live, and most important, the things you and your family value and like the best
A casual Thanksgiving, served buffet or family style, is especially practical when you are hosting a lot of children. It is also ideal for lunches and brunches during the holiday weekend. A casual style makes it easy for kids to come and go, eat and play, without disrupting the flow of the meal. Although “casual” means a comfortable and relaxing meal with simple, satisfying food, you will find that a few elegant touches, such as cloth napkins, seasonal table decorations, and special garnishes, are much- appreciated ways to create a celebratory spirit.
Picking a Style
Begin with the guest list. The number of people you invite, who they are, and the mix of adults and children will help you decide on an entertaining style. Four to six weeks before the holiday, call or write friends and family, specially those coming from out of town, to confirm not only their attendance at Thanksgiving dinner, but also their plans throughout the weekend. Make a separate guest list for each meal you will be hosting over the weekend. Next, think about the best place to serve each meal, keeping in mind what is realistic for your home and the number of guests. If you don’t have a traditional dining room (and even if you do), you can set up a table anywhere-in the kitchen, in front of the fireplace, or, if you live in a warm climate, on the deck. Remember that the meal can also move from space to space, with drinks served, for example, outdoors or in the kitchen, dinner around the table and dessert in the living room.
A formal Thanksgiving dinner can be truly memorable occasion, as long as you don’t confuse formal with stiff. Comfort is still important, even amid elegant trappings. Dress the table with your best linens, flatware, and china, and have a seating plan and decorative place cards. The menu can follow suit, with sophisticated food and drinks. Set something fun- a little gift or a whimsical decoration-at kids’ places to help them feel included. Or, you can set up a separate children’s table, and serve the kids first so they can start eating right away, while the adults move though the meal at slower, more enjoyable peace
Once you have settled on a menu, visit a local wine store for advice on selecting wines. Allow one bottle for every two or three wine drinkers. There are no hard-and fast rules about which wines are best for Thanksgiving. Reds and whites can go equally well with many flavors of the meal, and it’s a good idea to offer both so guests can enjoy a variety of combinations. Always include a few nonalcoholic beverage options, such as bottled still or sparkling water or iced tea, allowing one quart or liter for every two guests. Consider making a special seasonal drink, such a hot spiced cider to serve with appetizers, or cranberry lemonade to accompany a lunch.
The next step is to assess your menu, guest list, and level of formality to determine weather to serve the meal buffet, family , or restaurant style. Whichever you choose, offering drinks and appetizers before the meal is a warm, welcoming way to start the Thanksgiving meal. Buffet service is the tried-and-true approach for Thanksgiving because it works equally well for formal and casual entertaining and makes it easy to organize and serve large quantities of food. Guests make their way through the buffet line, helping themselves to as much of each dish as they want, and once you set out the food, all you have to do is replenish the platters as needed. For large groups, set up a separate buffet station for self-serve beverages, like wine and sparkling water.
Family style service is well suited to less formal Thanksgiving meal and smaller groups. Choose platters that are small enough to be passed comfortably. Consider serving the turkey on two platters, with a selection of light and dark meat on each, instead of a single large platter, which can be cumbersome. It is helpful to have a sideboard or extra serving table for setting the platters when they are not being passed; this also makes it easier to refill platters and bowls as needed. Put bottles of wine and water directly on the table. Restaurant-style service, in which dishes are individually plated in the kitchen or served by the host from the head of the table, is elegant but involves last-minute work. It a good option for intimate groups, for simpler meals such as Thanksgiving weekend breakfast, and for more refined sit-down celebrations.
Whether your celebration will be formal or casual, you need to plan in advance how to set up and decorate your space. Begin by choosing a color palette that looks good with your tableware and the room. That palette will help you create a centerpiece, place settings, and room decorations that will work together to set a festive mood. Stick with two or three colors and a few complementary textures, such as wood, pewter, and foliage. The key is restraint and simplicity.
When planning your Thanksgiving meal consider starting with the centerpiece, which establishes the look and feel for the entire table and provides a strong focal point for setting. The centerpiece can be anything from a floral arrangement with autumnal blooms, to an heirloom bowl filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables, to a slender vase full of olives branches or fall berries on the stem. Pumpkins are lovely and colorful displayed on the thanksgiving table. Use what is left over, such branches and leaves, to make smaller arrangements for the buffet, coffee table, or mantel, or individual bouquets for each place setting
Dimming overhead lights and using candles or table lamps for illumination is an easy way to bring focus and sparkle to the table, even in the afternoon light. For an elegant setting, use tall tapers-dripless and scent free-set in candlesticks or candelabras. At Thanksgiving time, using silver, pewter, or crystal candleholders adds a formal touch to the setting. Classic ivory-colored candles go with virtually any setting and color palette. For a more casual gathering, line up votives in pretty glass containers or squat pillar candles along the center of the table or around the centerpiece for a glowing effect. Whatever kind of candles you choose for the table, add matching ones to the buffet to help tie the room together
Don’t worry if your chairs don’t match. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to be creative with seating, and an eclectic assortment of chairs or even a rustic wooden bench lined with cushions can be inviting and attractive. To create a unified look, consider using colored ribbon to tie a spring of leaves or berries to the back of each chair, or use single-color accent chair cushions. When making your seating plan, consider whether each guest will be comfortable in the chair he or she has been assigned and seat gregarious guests next to those who are more quiet to keep the conversation balanced. If your Thanksgiving celebration involves children, either seat them between adults or consider having a separate table for your younger guests.
As your Thanksgiving plans take shape, it is important to keep track of all the logistical details and special touches that will bring the celebration together. Make lists. Draw up a chronological plan that includes all of the meals you will be serving over the course of the holiday weekend.
Separate list for decorative items, serving ware, and kitchen equipment you may need. (Don’t forget to account for any flowers, greenery, or seasonal items, such as gourds and pumpkins, you might want to use in your centerpiece.) Next write out a schedule for each meal.
Plan ahead. The less you leave to chance, the more confident and relaxed you will feel when your guests arrive. If you are hosting children, you might want to have some special games and books on hand in case they need a diversion. Buy some attractive take-out boxes at restaurant-supply store to send guests home with leftovers