Is it just me or is the whole internet totally skipping over Thanksgiving and running head first into the holidays? Call me a Scrooge, but I fall fully in the “Christmas comes after Thanksgiving” camp. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be cranking the carols and decking the halls (and internet shopping) on November 27th; but, until then, it’s turkeys and pumpkins, and thanks around here.
So, with that in mind, today I’m sharing a fun tradition my mom and I started several years ago that really made Thanksgiving so much fun and so much easier*…
Several years ago, my mom and her best friend decided to take some of the stress out of hosting Thanksgiving every year and began joining our two families together for more of a pot-luck style feast. Instead of the traditional family dinner, they took a “more the merrier” approach and took turns hosting both families plus other relatives, in-laws, friends, etc. This took a lot of pressure off of cooking, but no one had matching dishes/flatware/etc. for that many people, so the Thanksgiving Table Decorating Contest was born. 😉
*Full disclosure, we haven’t done this in a couple of years mainly because our traditions have changed, and I’m much more inclined to set my table with paper products these days; but, I really did love doing it and hope to get back to it in the future.
Here’s how it worked:
- My mom, her BFF, and I each took a table to set and decorate for 6-10 people. (Obviously the number varied each year depending on the guest list.)
- Each of us was responsible for bringing everything necessary for that table including table cloths, flatware, dishes, glasses, centerpieces, place cards, napkins – even water pitchers, gravy boats, butter dishes, and salt and pepper shakers.
- Typically, the three of us got together at whoever’s turn it was to host the event on the evening before Thanksgiving to set our tables (usually a dining room table – reserved for the hostess – and some variation of folding/card tables) and split a bottle of wine.
- When they were all done, we took photos of each table and posted them without our names on Facebook encouraging our friends to vote for their favorite. (We didn’t award a prize or anything fancy like that, but the element of competition made it even more fun, and you certainly could do a Starbucks gift card or something if you wanted.)
- On Thanksgiving itself, we showed up with one or two dishes and were all free to enjoy the meal and the company, without being exhausted from a morning of cooking or stressing about the aftermath of such a party. Plus, it was fun for our guests to see three totally unique table settings too (and we often included them in our voting).
- Finally, at the end of the day, everyone packed up their dirty (but rinsed, of course) dishes, linens, etc. in a big crate to take home and clean – leaving no one with more than one table’s worth of mess.
Here’s a photo of my mom’s beautiful table from 2011:
And a close-up of some of the details from my 2012 table (shown above):
Obviously, each table “host” could set her own style, price range, etc., and we all enjoyed searching Pinterest and blogs for weeks coming up with ideas. I always liked the challenge of making mine affordable (I usually spent less than $20 total) and simple by using things I already had and making what I could. That year I used this tutorial from O Happy Day to make my own paper table runner and simply wrote names on it instead of doing fancy place cards. As a bonus, I also brought silver and gold sharpies to put at each place setting and encouraged guests to write things they were thankful for right on the table.
So… Is this the year you’re going to make Thanksgiving more simple and fun than ever? If so, this might just be the key for you! *Email me if you have specific questions.