The day before a big holiday, I usually turn to my husband and ask if it’s too late to cancel. Of course I’m only half serious. But still, that half of me is usually so overwhelmed it wouldn’t mind a rain check for later in the week. Or maybe next month.
The turkeys have been ordered. Produce has taken over your refrigerator. Your pie crusts are waiting gingerly in your freezer, and your tablescape — your beautiful tablescape — has been designed to perfection in your mind’s eye. With just one day to go, there are a billion things to do. But there are really only six things you absolutely need to do today to make sure the rest of your list goes off without a hitch. Knock them out, and even if your turkey takes too long to cook or the souffle doesn’t rise, your holiday will still be a party hit.
1. Think through your seating chart. Aunt Edna doesn’t like to sit by Cousin Charlie, and last year, Lucy and John got into it over the stuffing. This year, sit down to dinner confident your table mates will enjoy themselves and each other. You are confident, of course, because you’ve told them exactly where to sit. And you’ve even broken out some place cards to get the point across.
I used to think place cards were too formal, I’ll admit. But then I got married. And now I realize the errors of my youthful ignorance, and our blended families enjoy Thanksgiving with jovial conversation all around thanks to some very careful seating choices. If you’re stuck on how to make place cards fit into your tablescape, lemons make beautiful place card holders and require nothing more than the fruit and an index card to make your table — and sanity — harmonious.
2. Iron your linens. Gather all of your napkins, and any other linens you’re using, and carve out twenty minutes to give them all a quick press. If you don’t have the time to do that today, throw them in the dryer with a damp washcloth for a few minutes to let out the wrinkles, and then smooth and fold them while they’re still hot.
3. DJ your meal. Everything tastes better with Bing in the background. To get from appetizers through dessert, plan for at least three hours of music. Good Housekeeping has a terrific playlist for Thanksgiving, but whatever you do, make sure you play Ray Charles and James Taylor’s Sweet Potato Pie. It’s the perfect Thanksgiving anthem.
4. Gather all of your serving dishes and serving spoons. Use a sticky note to keep track of what’s going in each one. It’s a good idea to have a few extras; you never know when someone is going to show up with something for the table, and you’ll feel terrible if it’s the only thing out there on a paper plate.
5. Say yes to at least one offer for help. This might be from your sister or just from the rolls in the freezer section, but do yourself a favor today and relent. Take someone up on their offer. It’s called Thanksgiving, after all, so let someone else give, and you just say thanks. Your whole holiday will be better off for it.
6. Make room in the fridge. This might sound laughable right now, but truly: start making room. Find the tupperware you’ll use for each dish and start thinking through where everything will go. It might be time to restock on Press-and-Seal. This time tomorrow, your fridge will be overcrowded with delicious leftovers waiting to be turned into turkey curry or tacos, and you’ll want to make sure there’s room.
Did I say six? I meant seven.
7. Take a bath. This may be the single most important thing you do today: take a moment for you. Carve out thirty minutes today to close the door on everyone else and relax. You will return refreshed, rejuvenated, and, if nothing else, clean. Which may be more than you’ll be tomorrow.
What are your last-minute Thanksgiving survival tips? Do you still have far to go on your lists, or are you ready to sit back and enjoy the holiday?
(Did I say seven? I meant eight. 8. Set your table with these plates. Repeat every day thereafter.)