Simple Thanksgiving Celebration Ideas

Updated: Nov 16

Hello, my lovelies!

How are you doing as we approach one of the "oddest" year-end holiday times in our lifetime? Suffice it to say it will be challenging for all, in various ways unique to each family, but instead of focusing on that, let's focus on what positive steps we can take during this upcoming holiday time.

Even during hard times, no matter what they are, I think we need to keep some rituals of celebration.

Never fear though; you don't have to get overwhelmed with elaborate anything. Your rituals of celebration can be simple and small. And beautiful.

Let's talk Thanksgiving, since that's what's coming up next ...

This was a Thanksgiving table in our home years ago. Simple. Easy to set up. Easy to take down. Easy meal cleanup. Bliss.

I like easy. I like simple. Especially at holiday time, when expectations often run high, and so then, by default, does overwhelm and stress.

It doesn't have to be that way. We all make choices, and we can choose simpler.

This was another of my at-home Thanksgiving table settings.

See what I mean about simple? :)

Now, even though our dinner above was for two, I do realize some people have LOTS of family members and/or friends who spend holidays together. And this year, that will make things even more challenging. Each family will have to deal with that the best they can. Personally, Steve and I are choosing to stay home and make a nice Thanksgiving dinner together due to Covid and we would never agree to go to someone else's home during this time, nor have guests in our home either, based on what the health experts are saying.

PLEASE NOTE: My ideas here in this post are Pre-Covid days, but I thought you might enjoy some of them for a future Thanksgiving.

Try to keep the meal simple and make it a potluck so the hosts don't have to do everything since they're also providing the home and they need to set up the table and chairs and decor, etc., and also clean their home before and after too.

Another idea is you could order your entire pre-prepared holiday dinner delivered from the grocery store deli, or you pick it up, all cooked. I remember years ago in CA coming out of a grocery store once where I saw a lady doing this at Thanksgiving and I said, "Oh, that's a great idea!" And she said, "I feel guilty."

Why feel guilty; why not enjoy it?! Here's a thought: if you feel that guilty, you could always buy two dinners, one for your family, and then hand-deliver the second dinner to a homeless person who is hungry and huddled on the sidewalk.

Or you could even use Thanksgiving-themed paper plates and order meal kits like this, and cook together with your big family if you have a huge kitchen and you would all find that fun.

That all-cook-together m.o. is not for me personally, as I'd find that stressful since I like to do as much as possible ahead of time when I have guests to my home so I can talk to them and relax a bit and enjoy their company rather than worry about me burning something on the stove, but to each his own! Some very outgoing families love gatherings like this, and that's okay if you're one of them. (Like my Italian friends of my younger days who always made me smile with all their big family celebrations and um, bantering "discussions.")

Pre-Covid, one of the other ways we have personally kept holiday meals simple yet celebratory in the past is by going out to a nice restaurant. I realize this is radical to some very traditional people, but to me and Steve, it's simple and fun!

I wouldn't feel comfortable personally going out to holiday dinner this year, because of Covid, but when we did in the past, that meant zero cooking, dressing up nice, and relaxing. Imagine not bending over a hot stove and lifting heavy pans, but instead watching the waves of the Pacific Ocean roll gently to the shore while you enjoy turkey and pumpkin pie, like we did one year at the beautiful La Jolla Shores Hotel Restaurant. Bliss.

Now, my Dollarwise Duchesses, I realize that the holiday dining out m.o. costs quite a lot these days, as I've seen up to $165 per person now at some fancy 5*-ish places with over-the-top buffets. Gulp! Not doable for many, if not most, regular families especially for just one meal, but there are other nice places you can dine out at on holidays that are more reasonable, thank goodness. In any event, by the time you add up all the supplies, food, holiday decor, etc. for a big "bru-ha-ha" type of home holiday, you might be surprised that the cost isn't much more to go to a reasonably priced restaurant than eating at home. You could also go out the day before or after, and avoid the "day of" cost. You might not get turkey on those days, but as any Mom worth her salt tells her unspoiled kids: have fun anyway and you'll live.

This year, if you do choose to go out to dinner to simplify your life, please be safe, and check the restaurant policies on Covid-protections before you go!

Another thought is you could also look at the cost to go out to a nice place to dine out on holidays like we have in the past: a treat that we budget for over the year under "fun and entertainment" in our overall budget. Perhaps if you "wiggle/cut" another budget category a bit, you could make it work for a future holiday dinner out. My own example: I saved nearly $100 on our online grocery shopping this month by using coupons and special sales stockups; I just got the statement. (And smiled with Dollarwise Duchess glee!) So that money can go elsewhere now in our budget for either something we really want to buy or experience later, and/or to add to our cash savings account.

Alternatively, sometimes I think it's a nice ritual to do something very different, and preferably charitable, for a holiday dinner. One of my most memorable Thanksgiving dinners in our home was when years ago we hosted three Marines at our small California condo through a program at our church.

BTW, you don't need a big home or a dining room or the latest china pattern to host people for a nice dinner; a generously hospitable heart, good organizing skills, and a reasonably clean home of any size are more important. :) I wrote about the how-to of small space entertaining/holidays in my bestselling Small Space Organizing book if you need help with that.

"The Marines" we hosted were dropped off on a bus at our home and we spent the afternoon together and had a great time! After dinner, we took them all on a drive to see the ocean and what fun to hear, "Oh, I LOVE California!" from 18-year-olds who had never been all that far from home. Raised in all different areas of the U.S., and total strangers at the time they met at our home, they left as friends. And were calling me their "California Mom." One of them called his real Mom "back home" from the backseat of our car and was telling her how cool CA was and we smiled when he also assured her that yes, we were good people and he was safe, well-fed, and fine! :)

A past Thanksgiving dinner at our home. Simple. We used china Steve and I found in a an antique store while on a fun day trip. One piece was missing so the proprietor sold it to us for a song, with a smile on his face, happy to get rid of it. We still remember that and laugh about it. :) The antique stemware glasses I found at an antique store as a newlywed and kept for years and years and years. My Grandma had some like them and I always liked the pattern. Similar. A few little pumpkins, a string of fall-color beads, a candle. Easy.

This year, as I mentioned earlier, our Thanksgiving at Cactus View Cottage will be just the two of us, and we're looking forward to a nice quiet celebratory day at home. No turkey since we've gone plant-based eating purposely for health. We're doing creative veggie "side dishes" like we have enjoyed when eating out at nice restaurants. Yum!

I typed up my Thanksgiving Day menu and ideas for table decor and then ordered what I still needed on Amazon. So easy to have it delivered with Amazon Prime. I'll order any needed groceries the week before and have them delivered too, as I like to plan ahead; I'm just not the last-minute type as that feels like unnecessary stress to me. I realize some people are more spontaneous in this kind of thing, but nope, not me. I do as much ahead as I can and that enables me to enjoy the holiday on that day more.

Fall leaves napkins set the festive mood!

Candelabra with gold candleholders and flameless candles. I like double-duty/repurposing things so this will be re-used with red candle holders on our Christmas table and then will live on our coffee table thereafter and be used with varying colors/decor for various holiday tables.

Cactus with fall-color flower since we live in the Arizona desert and I love cactus.

Shawls to tie on the back of our chairs for a pop of fall color. Another holiday, I could use them to cover the coffee table, foyer buffet top, or as a runner or swirled around a candle holder on the dining table. (Flameless candles for safety! I don't know who thought these little beauties up, but they have my vote for sensible no-flame "flames!")

The white tablecloth, tan placemats, and white dishware we already have.

I like to think outside the box and have fun with my simple holiday decor rather than follow decorating "rules."

Picasso had it right, in my opinion:

"Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist."

Ordinarily we like to dress up at least a little bit for holiday dinners as we did in the Thanksgiving pix above years ago, but this year I'm wearing this casual lounge-y "house dress," (so comfy; I highly recommend!), with one of these robes that I ditched the tie and leave it open like a jacket as I have been having pain in my feet over the years off and on, and I'm in a really bad flareup right now with that, so I'll also be wearing my new adorable Snoozies slippers too. That's as dressed up as I'm gonna get this year, but I'm giving it my best shot as I do everything in life. I refuse to go totally slovenly even with super sore feet. Dignity matters. Dressing at least somewhat nice helps keeps one's dignity, I think. If I need to use my cane, so be it, but I may as well look at least a little snazzy while doing so.

Blessedly, Steve has been taking good care of me with feet massages and helping even more than he usually does with all the household and cooking duties that expanded for all of us during Covid. We team it; we always have. We build to each other's skill strengths and what we each like to do too for the best end result for the team. That way, chores get done, and more fun is had by both of us. For my dear husband's longtime devoted love and kind heart, and also that he is working from home now which means it's easier for both of us, I'm very thankful and grateful.

What are you thankful for this year? And how are you going to ritualize and yes, celebrate, your holidays during this tough time, so that when you look at the pictures a few years down the road, the memories that you created this Thanksgiving, make you smile, in spite of Covid and other painful real life realities that swirled around us.

"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." -- Nelson Mandela

"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." -- C.S. Lewis

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." -- John 14:18, The Bible

"Life is what you make it." -- Everybody's Mom!

Happy upcoming Thanksgiving, my dears!

Kathryn :)

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© Kathryn Bechen 2020