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How to Host Your First Thanksgiving Dinner

Stop stressing! These tips and tricks will help you pull together a fabulous celebration with minimal angst.


  • Step 1: Check logistics Figure out if you have enough chairs, seating space, and tableware. Borrow from friends and neighbors to fill any holes. Or check out a thrift store; if you don't need or want it afterward, donate it back.
  • TIP: Throw some cushions on the floor around your coffee table and let little guests eat there.
  • Step 2: Call your guests Call your guests so you'll have a handle on how many people are coming – and an excuse to fish for contributions. People often want to contribute, especially if it ensures that their holiday favorite will be on the table.
  • Step 3: Ask for help Don't be shy about asking for assistance before, during, and after. You'll need all the help you can preparing the food, getting your home ready, serving, and cleaning up afterward.
  • TIP: If your budget allows, hire a cleaning service a day or two before.
  • Step 4: Plan to have all the favorites Honor traditions; even if you personally think that green bean casserole is disgusting and cranberry jelly out of a can a disgrace. If it's important to someone, serve it – and let them take the leftovers home.
  • Step 5: Cook two birds Consider cooking two small turkeys instead of one big one. They're easier to handle, cook faster and more uniformly, and are more tender and juicy than a large, older bird. Plus, they provide twice as many drumsticks!
  • Step 6: Finalize your menu Finalize your menu and go shopping. Figure out what you can make a day or two ahead so that the big day is not such a rush. And remember: Now is not the time to attempt a dish you've never tried.
  • TIP: Plan on these per-person servings: 1¼ lbs. turkey, 1/3 c. gravy, ½ c. mashed potatoes, ½ c. of each vegetable side dish, ¼ c. cranberry dressing, ½ c. stuffing; two dinner rolls; and 1/8 pie.
  • Step 7: Make a simple centerpiece Make a simple table centerpiece out of a bowl of small gourds and mini-pumpkins and line the table with votive candles. You're all set!
  • FACT: The Pilgrims carried a supply of beer on the Mayflower, in part because it was safer to drink than water.

You Will Need

  • Adequate seating and tableware
  • Traditional favorite foods
  • Mini-pumpkins and gourds
  • Votive candles
  • A cleaning service (optional)
  • Two small turkeys (optional)

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