“I don’t like stuffing.”
“I’m not a huge fan of the cranberry stuff.”
“Is this green bean casserole gluten free?”
“Why did you fix this? Again!”
The holidays can be stressful. Especially Thanksgiving, when there are days of cooking to be done and family upon family to be served.
Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday for that very reason — family. But it’s also when the most tension and the most frustration surfaces. Travel, hunger and too much to do in the kitchen can create a perfect storm for family get-togethers. Not to mention the forbidden dinner-table conversations: Uncle Jerry is not seeing eye-to-eye with Dad on politics. Or religion. Your little sister is sowing her wild oats, as they say, so don’t bring up the church-y stuff when she gets here. And then there’s Doug, the one-in-every-family Doug. Nobody knows quite what to do with Doug.
Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Every family has versions of these moments, and that’s okay.
So before the lid blows completely off, here are some tips to help you survive Thanksgiving with your family:
1. If you’re the one cooking, start early and delegate.
It doesn’t make sense to have one person cook for 25 people all on one day. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea. Assign dishes to able-bodied family members. Everything else (with the exception of the turkey), make ahead and freeze until, oh, about 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.
2. If you’re not the one cooking, ask what you can bring.
Helpfulness in food and table preparation (and cleanup) always helps keep the meltdowns to a minimum. Not to mention it’s a great, practical way to show your appreciation for the host and hostess.
3. Save converting Uncle Jerry to the other side of the aisle until after January 1.
Maybe January 2. It’s important to be aware and discuss the results of the recent election, even if you don’t agree with everyone at the table. But things like this can quickly move from spirited discussion to snarky comments and end with Uncle Jerry leaving before the pie. Sure, make memories — just not those kind.
4. Know the difference between love and approval.
“Let love be genuine…if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:12, 18) Love doesn’t always mean agreement. You can genuinely love someone without supporting what they do. Chances are, they know where you stand already, and reminding them of it won’t help the situation. Tell your little sister and whoever she brings to dinner this year that you love them no matter what. That’s what Jesus would do, and you can take that to the bank. (See Luke 19:10 and John 8.)
5. Learn to be okay with the tension.
Not everyone is going to agree on every thing every day of the year. It’s okay. Each of us has been made uniquely, in different generations with different viewpoints and different passions. It’s what makes us beautifully alive. Not believing all the same things doesn’t make you less of a family. In fact, it makes you more of one.
6. Say thanks.
This seems like a no-brainer. After all, it is Thanksgiving! But sometimes we get caught up in all the food, the football and even the shopping (Yep, I went there.) and forget to actually give thanks. Say it out loud: Say it to God, and say it to each other.
So, no matter what happens this Thanksgiving, know your family isn’t perfect (Nobody’s is!), but they are worth it. Say thanks for them this Thursday, and whatever you do, enjoy the stuffing, the cranberry stuff, the gluten free green beans and the pie.
Don’t forget the pie.