Whether it’s your first year at college and you can’t get home for the holiday, or you’ve offered to give your mom a break and have everyone come down to your house for dinner instead, your first Thanksgiving dinner party can be nerve wracking. Getting the right Thanksgiving decorations and making sure you have enough seating is only the tip of the iceberg. But don’t worry, we have the ultimate guide to make sure hosting your first Thanksgiving party goes smoothly.
The food—the biggest part of the day, the reason everyone has gathered at your pad. There is perhaps nothing more daunting than trying to cook a turkey to perfection, especially if you’ve never done it before. For most of us, our mothers were in charge of the turkey, and if we were lucky, she would let us help stir the stuffing, right before it went into a bowl to be put on the table.
Now that the food is your responsibility, you might feel like you’re drowning. Don’t worry! Putting on a great Thanksgiving dinner is easy if your break the meal down in to separate parts and do as much prep work ahead of time as you can.
For example, pies can be put together days ahead of time and stashed in the fridge or even the freezer until Turkey day. The same goes for mashed potatoes and stuffing. You can make the mashed potatoes and stuffing the day or two before, seal them up in Tupperware, and break them out on the day of the meal. As long as you don’t let anyone see you reheat them (either on the stove or in the microwave), no one will even know that you’ve had the side dishes ready for days.
That leaves just the turkey for Turkey day. Some recipes will have you brining the bird for days beforehand. You don’t have to do anything so elaborate. There are plenty of recipes rolling around the internet that just require you to salt and pepper the old bird and shove her in the oven. Just watch the time. Turkey can get notoriously tough and chewy if it is overcooked.
If you are really scrambling to pull together a Thanksgiving dinner, farm out some of the least desirable tasks to your relatives. If the turkey is really giving you fits, you can always ask Mom and Dad or a friend who’s more familiar with cooking to make it their responsibility. You’ll provide all of the delicious side dishes and host the party, if someone else will be responsible for the bird. We think that’s fair.
If it isn’t the turkey, but all of the other dishes that are worrying you, dole out those tasks to your friends or family, so that they are in charge of showing up with mashed potatoes, rolls, salad, stuffing, pies, etc. There’s nothing wrong with going potluck for the biggest meal of the year.
You don’t want your home and table to be bare, just because you didn’t have time to come up with decorations. Thanksgiving decorations can be as simple as a few hand-traced turkeys adorning the walls, or as elegant as cornucopia and seasonal fruit arranged on the table. If you don’t have time to make your own decoration, check out a party supply store (we know a good one). They will almost certainly have decorations that are somewhere on the scale between kitschy and classic.
If you are really strapped for time, you can always turn decorating into a Turkey Day activity. Your Thanksgiving decorations can be hand tracings, turned into turkeys by your nieces and nephews, paper-link garlands made out of red, yellow, orange, and brown paper, or fall leaves cut from red, yellow, and orange paper and taped to the wall.
Thanksgiving decorations do not have to be complicated and they certainly shouldn’t be expensive. You can even use pretzel sticks and frosting to turn Oreos into little turkeys, which can double as a sweet snack and a decoration.
Again, you can assign a friend or family member to bring decorations, if you aren’t much of a decorator. This is a great assignment for someone who hates to cook, but still wants to be a part of your Thanksgiving Day potluck event. Just make sure they come a little bit early so that the place is already full of Turkey Day spirit when the other guests start arriving.
Having enough seating, especially in an apartment or small home, is one of the major challenges of hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner. If you can borrow a table and chairs from your local church, that might be a good place to look for a free or low-cost seating solution. Alternatively, you could always rent tables and chairs from a party rental store.
For a truly unique Thanksgiving dining experience, you could gather around a coffee table and sit on the floor. You are only limited by the floor space and how much of the food you can crowd on the table. While it might not sound like a fun adventure to some people, it will truly be a unique experience that you and your family will look back on for years to come.
Thanksgiving Day doesn’t necessarily require activities, but most families or friend groups like to do something together while the turkey is cooking. This could range from watching the football game on the tube, to getting outside and playing your own football game. Creating Thanksgiving decorations is another great way to pass the day.
You could also spend the entire day in the kitchen, working together to create all of the delicious dishes you will be eating later in the day.
Don’t let the stress of Thanksgivings past get to you! With a little pre-planning and coordination with your guests, you can have a fun day and a delicious meal, with no stress and no cooking catastrophes.
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