I grew up in a small family. After my father passed when I was 11, it was just my mom and I. The holidays didn’t always look traditional. Sometimes we spent time with extended family or friends and sometimes it was just the two of us eating Chinese food because turkey and dressing didn’t sound good. If you are planning a gathering that will be a little more intimate here are some ideas to make your small Thanksgiving special and meaningful.
Tips for Planning a Small Thanksgiving
If you want to host a reasonably traditional, though small Thanksgiving meal, but don’t need (or want) tons of leftovers, consider scaling back on what you serve. You can opt-out of the turkey and purchase a rotisserie chicken instead or roast a whole chicken if you want to cook a bird! Or make another protein that’s popular in your family. We’ve actually started a new tradition in our family and when we aren’t getting together with all my husband’s siblings, we typically grill steaks on Christmas eve or Christmas day. That could be an easy option for Thanksgiving, too. Want a variety of desserts, but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen? Consider ordering a few different slices from your favorite dessert shop – I’m thinking Emporium Pies or Cake Bar – put them on a cake stand and everyone can try a few bites. This might be the year to ditch the cranberry sauce unless it’s extra special to your crew.
Small numbers mean options for making your own traditions or doing away with traditions that don’t serve you. I was in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade back in the 90s – so long ago that Joey Lawrence (remember, him?) was one of the featured celebrities and my mom and I always watched it since then. Well, the parade isn’t much of a tradition for our expanded family unit, so when it’s just our immediate family I get to put it on while I’m cooking and teach my kids who all the float characters are and talk about all the entertainers in the parade…and of course, do some reminiscing.
If your crowd is small, consider volunteering in your community and serving others. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is serving the homeless with just my mom and a classmate back in Tennessee. Many charitable organizations need more hands to serve during the holidays.
Experiment. Are you starting to flex your muscles more in the kitchen? Take the opportunity to test out some recipes. Whether it’s one of grandma’s classics that you haven’t tried to make yet or something new from a favorite cookbook or recipe blogger, now is your chance to play around. With less pressure to create the perfect dish for a large crowd, you’ve got options to find your perfect dressing or mashed potato recipe when you’re making it in smaller quantities.
Go out to eat! One of our favorite meals was when we returned to the resort in Miami where we got married and took our then two-year-old daughter during Thanksgiving week. Nice hotels have amazing spreads during the holidays. And for the price, you’re likely not going to be breaking the bank because you get a great variety without overdoing it on buying groceries and time in the kitchen. The holidays are a great time to think about a nice hotel and doing a one day staycation or booking a reservation for a holiday meal. A lot of times they include other activities with the purchase of a holiday meal like meeting Santa or the Easter bunny.
The holidays are special for all of us, no matter how traditional or big or small our celebration is. Enjoy thinking through what matters most to you and how you can create traditions of your own.