Steps for Having the Perfect, Stress-Free Thanksgiving You've Dreamed Of

Updated on November 15, 2017
Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah is a writer, healer, and teacher. Her goal is to help people live their best lives everyday by sharing her joy and love of life.

Family and Friends are the Meaning of Thanksgiving


Creating the Perfect Thanksgiving

Every family enjoys fond memories of childhood Thanksgiving at grandma's house, of feasting and fun and family. Most families also suffer trauma from family fights and frustrated expectations. Thanksgiving is a simple family holiday, replete with the burden of complex family dynamics.

This article offers a few tips on how to create the perfect, stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.

Macy's Thanksgiving Tradition

Steps for a Perfect Thanksgiving

Manage Expectations

Keep it Simple

Declare a Truce

Give Thanks

Manage Your Expectations

The first step to enjoying any holiday, or any experience, for that matter, is to manage your own expectations. You can't manage anyone other than yourself. You can completely control your own behavior, your own perception and your own responses.

Remember that you are dealing with your family. You can't expect your alcoholic step father to be anything other than what he is. If you expect otherwise, you might find yourself frustrated and angry. You can't expect your sisters five children to behave like perfect angels while eating off of great-grandma's expensive heirloom china. If you expect what they can't provide, you will find yourself frustrated and angry. You can't expect your emotionally distant mother to suddenly open up and cuddle with you on the couch while looking through family albums. If you expect her to behave differently than she always has, you might find yourself frustrated and hurt.

You know your family. Don't expect things they can't provide. And don't expect things from yourself that you can't manage. You know your own tolerance for noise, for crowds and for your family. Don't expect more from yourself than you can handle.

Be realistic about what you can and can't do. Not only with your relationships, but also with your feast preparations, be honest with yourself. Speak your truth to yourself and to the people around you. If you can't do something, then speak up and tell someone. If you feel overwhelmed, pull back.

You can only control yourself. As soon as you try to control others, you will feel frustrated and annoyed. Control your expectations, and not only will your Thanksgiving feel more perfect, but so will the rest of your life.

Plan Ahead and Keep it Simple for Success

Keep Everything Simple

The best way to ruin any holiday is to make it as complicated as possible. For a perfect Thanksgiving celebration, keep things simple.

First, decide where to have your feast, and who will host it. Maybe grandma doesn't feel up to having a herd of family at her house. Who else could do it? Look for a simple way to get the family together, and offer simple options.

Perhaps everyone would prefer to get together in the evening for pie. Maybe no one likes the deep fried turkey Uncle Fred makes. Maybe your newly wed cousin wants to make her own feast.
Don't complicate the family dynamic more than necessary. Families are complicated enough. Try to create a simple plan for the day, whether it involves a buffet, or a pot-luck meal, or an afternoon get together. The entire family doesn't necessarily need to gather every single year for the annual Thanksgiving brawl. Keep it simple.

However large or small your gathering, keep the food simple as well. Don't stress yourself out over a ten-course meal complete with three kinds of meat, seven cheeses and five dessert options. Does anyone even like mincemeat pie? Yes? Good, then make one. If your family really only eats pumpkin, then only make pumpkin.

Be realistic about what people in your family want, and work from there. Perfect doesn't mean complicated. Perfect means enjoyable for everyone involved. If you don't want to wash dishes all afternoon, consider disposable plates and utensils. Eating from a paper plate won't ruin the celebration, and it will leave more time for what really matters.

Call a Truce


Let it Go

You do not have to be right. Even when you are right, you can let go of past grievances, let go of your need to be right, and declare a truce. The perfect Thanksgiving requires you to release all your hurts and anger and forgive your family.

Families are not perfect. They are a great opportunity to learn some of life's most difficult lessons. The nature of family dynamics means that someone will feel hurt, or forgotten or unloved or unappreciated. During this Thanksgiving, you can let it all go.

You can declare a truce, internally. While that might seem ineffective, it will help your perception immensely. When you decide to let things go, then you can enjoy yourself without getting hurt and out of sorts. Your sister said something mean? It's not about you, it's about her and her own insecurities. Don't take the bait. Let it go.

Your dad was rude and unkind? That's how he's always been. Offer him love in spite of his stoicism. By declaring a truce with your family, you control your perception. Don't take everything personally, even if your uncle's snotty remark was meant directly for you. Offer love rather than anger.

Declaring a truce begins with you. First, decide that you can offer love in spite of what your family says or does. Decide that you forgive the past and don't need to use this Thanksgiving to hash out the decades old feud between you and your brother. Choose to see peace rather than anger, love in place of hate. Offer a gift of gentle forgiveness to your family.

Your truce affects not only your perception, but it can heal generations of hurt.

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Give Thanks and Let Go of the Little Things

Give Thanks in all Things

The point of Thanksgiving is gratitude. Give thanks in all things, not only on Thanksgiving day, but every day, throughout your life.

When you begin your day with gratitude, you tap into joy and appreciation for life, for people and for the beauty and abundance that surrounds you. Start the day with thanks and continue offering up your gratitude in each moment.

On Thanksgiving, rather than focusing on what goes wrong, focus on what goes well. Focus on what you have, not what you want. Focus on your family and friends, and the gifts they bring into your life on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks. To celebrate a perfect holiday, express the fullness of your gratitude.

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

Celebrating the Perfect Thanksgiving

Celebrating a perfect holiday is really quite easy.

First, manage your expectations. Understand what you can and can't do, and allow people to be who they are. Accept what they can and can't do.

Second, practice the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. From menu planning to gathering size and location, to activities; simpler is better. Don't overthink it.

Third, call a truce. Even if you only do it internally, let go of your past grievance, forgive others and get on with your life.

Finally, practice gratitude. Give thanks, every day. You are blessed.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Deborah Demander


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      • Deborah Demander profile image

        Deborah Demander 3 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

        Kari, thanks so much for your input. I appreciate your comments. Managing expectations is probably my biggest challenge around the holidays. I always want everyone to be happy, and everything to be perfect. I need to take my own advice.


      • Deborah Demander profile image

        Deborah Demander 3 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

        Thank you for reading and commenting Eric,


      • k@ri profile image

        Kari Poulsen 4 months ago from Ohio

        I really enjoyed this article. The part on managing your expectations is so true. I say to myself, "I am what I am". It is important to allow this same freedom to others. Actually, I loved the whole thing. :)

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 4 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        A good piece, thank you.