5 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Gathering
No matter what you happen to celebrate, the end-of-year holiday season can be a lot to handle. All of that togetherness is wonderful for the soul, but it can still be draining to actually make everything happen. I'll never forget the year we brought two huge family groups together for our incredible Post-Hurricane Sandy Thanksgiving Feast back in 2012. We brought as many traditions and customs together as we did people, and it was easily one of the most memorable holiday gatherings we've ever been fortunate enough to experience. Even without a natural disaster, the final few months of 2012 were pretty stressful—upcoming elections and impending holidays threatened us with anxiety, which meant that bringing everyone together for a holiday celebration was the best decision we could have possibly made.
Emotional significance aside, bringing a ton of people together for a Thanksgiving feast is no slight logistical undertaking. There was a lot to be done, and a lot that could have potentially gone wrong...but looking back, there were a few key strategies that helped us pull everything off without a hitch.
1. Give Everyone Ownership
A big part of the Bacon & Lox Society philosophy is that everything becomes more meaningful when you help to make it so. Break down that host/guest dynamic, and build your celebration on the concept of communal contribution. Not only does this remove the expectation that any one person is responsible for "entertaining" everybody else, but it creates a shared experience, made magical by the distinct contributions brought to the table everyone attending.
I always like to say, variety is the umami of life! When you give everyone care over at least one aspect of your celebration, you create a vibrant patchwork of influences and sensibilities.
2. Keep Everyone Together
Space can be a bit of a challenge when it comes time to organize an incredible holiday gathering. Don't hesitate to get creative and do a bit of rearranging. We certainly did! It'll all be worth it when you've made sure that everyone is able to be together, be present, and share the same space as you create meaning through celebration.
Repurpose an existing space, or find a new one that you might not have originally thought to use for a dining area. When it came time to accommodate everyone for our 2012 Thanksgiving celebration, we moved giant tables and rearranged a ton of furniture to fit everyone to the same room. In the end, it couldn't possibly have been more worth it. There's just no substitute for the joy that comes from existing in the same moment and space with the people you cherish most!
3. Cut the Kids' Table
In the name of togetherness, do yourselves a favor and ditch the "kids table." After all — why go to the effort of having everyone in the same space if you're just going to divide up the seating arrangements anyway?
It's way more entertaining to add the kids to the mix when everybody sits down to eat. Not only is your conversation a lot more entertaining, but this type of gathering puts the focus back on community. It's fun to socialize with your kids! Plus, a truly communal celebration involves a contribution from everyone. If you've encouraged everyone to get creative with a different part of your celebration, you certainly want to make sure that you're all there to enjoy those contributions together.
4. Have a Master Plan
Even if you haven't decided to combine massive groups of people for your next holiday gathering, putting together any celebration involves moving parts. It's best to have a top-down idea of what the day looks like. Be thorough and make sure every detail is accounted for, so nothing important slips through the cracks. Doing this also makes it much easier for everyone to take a direct sense of pride in their aspect of the celebration.
Give everyone a chance to let their talents take center stage and feel necessary, valued, and appreciated. Not a strong cook? No problem! Someone has to make our dinnertime playlist. Believe it or not, my mom insists on doing the dishes each year. My daughter takes a ton of pride in the handmade whipped cream concoctions she creates every Thanksgiving. From coffee service to candle lighting to menu crafting, everybody should get a chance to pitch in and make your next gathering go off like clockwork.
5. Get Active!
Make sure you remember to get outside and let off a little steam, as the holiday season can be...well, a lot to deal with. Getting some fresh air and letting your blood flow isn't just a great way to give yourself a break from the indoors, but it's also a great way to spend some quality time with the people you're celebrating with. Encourage togetherness with a supportive, inclusive activity. This can be anything from a rousing game of soccer to a fun homemade obstacle course.
Whatever form it takes, a bit of outside time is a great way to introduce a change of pace, taking a break from all the planning and preparation before it's time to sit down and finally feast.
Make your holiday season an adventure this year! Do new things! Make new traditions! Life is better when you share it, and this is doubly true when it comes to celebration. Of course, any good gathering requires a bit of work to pull off, but with the right ideas and a bit of help, you can enjoy a stress-free and rejuvenating holiday season.