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Take Charge Of Holiday Entertaining

As we approach Thanksgiving and then the end of the year holidays, do you experience STRESS? Do you get tired of being pulled in all directions? Are you dreading eating pumpkin pie and cookies in too many different homes? Too many times I hear the same story: "I have to traipse my whole family first to my family's home and then to his family's home. It's exhausting!" If you're a blended family, you may have even more homes to visit. Or perhaps you are the one having people traipse in and out of your house all day. How do we stop all the MADNESS?

Put your foot down! Take control of your time. Say NO if you need to. Keep each day simple, fun and meaningful, and perhaps even begin your own holiday traditions, so you can spend quality time with your loved ones. If you are going somewhere, take charge of what food you're comfortable bringing and at what time you're comfortable getting there. If guests are coming to your home, ask how each person would like to be involved -- such as bringing a particular dish or doing a certain job to prepare for the day. If you tell yourself and other people what you CAN do, you have just taken charge of that situation.

Think about what the purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday is -- to spend time with your family and friends giving thanks for everything you've received. Thanksgiving is not just about getting together for good food, football or after-Thanksgiving sales. Identify some new goals for the holidays -- such as less stress and more time with family, as a result of FEWER visits away from home or fewer visitors, SIMPLER meals, less cooking or cleanup, and so on. Then have a meeting in person with your family and describe your ideas and new holiday plans. Ask what everyone thinks and then make a list of your holiday goals. Or, just explain your new plans and let whomever wishes be involved. Some suggestions for simplifying different holiday situations:

For those of you who have to do the traipsing, call each home and ask if you can bring a particular item or food dish. Try to bring the SAME DISH to every home you visit -- this will help make the cooking and preparation easier. Then, set some TIME LIMITS -- say that you can arrive at approximately ___ a.m./p.m. and stay until ___a.m./p.m. since you also have other places you need to get to that day.

If you have visitors coming to your home, mail a LIST of foods to bring -- or some other form of involvement for everyone invited -- and then call each person to identify their item on the list. Here is what one of my letters might look like:

“Dear Family and Friends,

  For all of us to have a great day to give thanks, please sign up for at least one of the items listed below. All food items need to feed 14 people. I will call you by November ___(date) to identify your item on the list:

____ Cranberry Sauce
____ Pumpkin Pie
____ Stuffing
____ Salad
____ Vegetable
____ Ice Cream
____ Coffee
____ Make and serve coffee
____ Clean up After Meal

  If you have old photos of family or friends that you think would be interesting to everyone else, please bring them. We will eat around 4:00PM.”

Or, instead of sending out a letter and list, call all invited parties and tell them food items and chores you need help with. Ask each person whether they would like to bring a food, or help set up, or clean up. Right then and there, IDENTIFY what dish each person will bring or what job they want to do. Next, send out POSTCARDS stating something like this:

"Dear ________,

Thank you so much for committing to bring cranberry sauce to Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 25th. I can't wait to see you around 4:00PM!"

There's not much room for error here.

When you have company in your home, make a list of CHORES for each immediate family member to sign up. My list might look like this:

____ Vacuum
____ Dust
____ Clean Bathrooms
____ Mop Floor
____ Empty Trash Cans
____ Put Kleenex Out
____ Refill Toilet Paper Rolls
____ Put Out Fresh Hand Towels
____ Sweep Walkways
____ Set Table
____ Go shopping 
____ Put Out Decorations

Often a list of assigned or chosen chores will allow family members to take pride in what they are doing.

The extreme opposite is what we are doing this year. Our family has decided to go to a Thanksgiving Family Camp. I'll actually get to have Thanksgiving Dinner and not cook or clean it up. At the same time, I will get a chance to be thankful with my immediate family in beautiful, PEACEFUL surroundings. You can do the same thing by choosing to EAT OUT just about anywhere -- a restaurant, church gathering, or community function.

Now apply this article to Hanukkah, Christmas, etc -- and "take charge of your holidays!" May your holiday season be filled with LOVE, JOY, and PEACE!


Susie Glennan has been happily married since 1982, is mom to 3 teenagers, and is a Home Maker, Nurturer, Teacher, Author and owner of The Busy Woman's Daily Planner -- whose products are available directly through You can reach Susie at or 800-848-7715.

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