Last Updated on April 2, 2024

I’m going to say something radical:

Thanksgiving is not about the food.

Yes, Thanksgiving is a feast. It’s a time to be thankful for the year’s bounty, and we celebrate that with food. But that is not what the focus should be.

Sadly, our world is full of images and messages feeding us the notion that a happy life = picture perfect.

It’s not true. The holidays should be about people and about thanking our gracious God for His gifts to us, both large and small.

Beyond that, though, everyone has things to do. So, here are 8 practical steps to de-stress the holiday season:

  1. Forget perfection. Don’t be a diva. Sometimes good enough is okay. Your house doesn’t have to be perfect, nor do the hors d’oeuvres, and kudos to you if you can spell that without looking it up. Oh, and your kitchen will get dirty. Take a breath. It’s OK. Just remind yourself that it will probably be clean again around New Year’s…
  2. Prepare everything possible ahead of time. I prepare and freeze things like pies, casseroles, breads, and whatever else possible ahead of time. Some things can be mixed together the day before. Even if the food doesn’t taste exactly the same after it’s been frozen and reheated, does it really matter if the sweet potatoes are absolutely perfect? Your children and family would rather eat slightly freezer-burned potatoes than to have their heads bitten off.
  3. Have a sense of humor when things go wrong. You are not a bad person if the food isn’t picture perfect. Have you ever tried a recipe on Pinterest and your “cute-and-easy cupcakes” turned into a horror show? Well, just know that you are not alone. And if you set your neighbor’s oven on fire, you’ll have a great story to tell next year. Not that I have any experience at that personally…
  4. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone. You can’t please everyone all the time. In fact, some people are impossible to please. Be pleasant, be kind, be prayerful, but don’t worry if so-and-so gets miffed because your mashed potatoes weren’t perfect. The point isn’t the food anyway.
  5. Outsource. Believe it or not, many guests like to have something to do. It makes them feel more welcome. Yes, there are couch parkers who prefer to be waited on, but, thankfully, they are often the minority. Let people bring their own dishes to a meal even if it’s not exactly what you want. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it. Set aside jobs ahead of time for guests who want to help. They might do things differently than you, but refer to rule #1.
  6. Use psychology. What I mean is if you have a person who likes to feel important or in control, give them something to do that makes them feel important. Let them lend their expertise to you even if you have to bite your tongue sometimes.
  7. Assign dish duties or use disposable products. Even though we’re big into recycling over here, having 30 people to a dinner is a bit overwhelming in the dish department, so we often use paper plates. If that’s not your thing, perhaps assign duties ahead of time to keep congestion down and to prevent hurt feelings.
  8. Remember the reason. Spend time praying and talking about your blessings throughout the year, start a gratitude journal.


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  1. So good, Jenn! Pinterest Fail had me laughing to tears. I think I will just not even try!

  2. :-). Pinterest fail is a favorite of mine. I feel as though I’m among my people. 🙂 Ha.

  3. Shana Chaplin says:

    Great post. Planning ahead makes all the difference. Our family includes the kids in menu planning and helping with the cooking. We try to have the turkey as the only thing being cooked day of. Everything else is just being thrown in the oven or sits in fridge ready to serve. Taking deep breaths, remembering to share thanks, talking about favorite memories keep our mood light, help us to focus on one another. The food is simply the catalyst for bringing people to the table for fellowship.

    1. Shana, thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. I remember how much it meant to me when I got to spend the day with my grandmother baking pies. To this day, those are some of my most precious memories.