1- Plan and Cook Ahead
Don't stress! Keep Thanksgiving fun by making a detailed schedule and critical path starting the first week of November. Make your list more detailed as the day approaches and perhaps down to the hour the day before and morning of Thanksgiving. Whatever you do don't wait until the last minute to shop and cook all the dishes. My great-aunt warned me to start a month out the first time I cooked Thanksgiving. Did I listen? No. Panic is all I can say!
2-Keep it Simple
Hopefully the people your are inviting love you and don't expect perfection. Your dinner is probably not being photographed for a magazine so take a breath. Give yourself permission to limit the guest list, limit the formality and do what gives you joy and peace.
3-Ask for Help
Once I had thanksgiving dinner in my home and thought I would ask everyone to bring a dish. That was a huge mistake to this type A foodie as I lost all control of the menu. All I can say is my spirit was violated by a salad atrocity. I'm still in a twelve step program for recovery. However, ask for help from a few people. If Aunt Jane is a gifted florist, ask her to come the day before and decorate and set the tables. If uncle Bob makes a great carrot cake, ask him to make it. If cousin Ernest is a gifted mixologist, ask him to tend the bar. Also, don't be afraid to get the kids involved setting tables, moving chairs, straightening the house and chopping vegetables.
4- Keep the Spirit of Thanksgiving
Keep Thanksgiving sacred and not part of Christmas. As Easter is to spring, Thanksgiving is to fall. Wait till Black Friday to put up the tree. Keep Thanksgiving fully planted as the final celebration of autumn and the harvest. Use this as a time to teach children about their national and family heritage. Gathering around the Thanksgiving table is a great time to build bonds and deepen lasting love between family and friends.
5- Loose the Extravagant Cocktails and Appetizers
Remember Thanksgiving is a huge meal and you want people to retain their appetites. If you want to serve cocktails I'd keep it simple with Champagne, etc.
6- Keep it Cool
Remember you will probably be having more people in your home than you usually do and people radiate heat. Keep your house just a bit cooler than usual so your guests don't swelter. We have all been to the older family member's home where you can't get your breath because it is so warm in the house. Don't be that person.
7-Remember to Rest and Enjoy
Its is so easy to burn the candle at both ends when you are the caregiver, planner, chef and housekeeper for the family celebration. How many holidays have I ended up so tired I could barely walk at the end of a Thanksgiving or Christmas Day only to think, "All I did was work!"? Remember this is your holiday, too. Take time to enjoy your family and your hard work and make space for rest and quiet in the day.
8-Cook a Limited Menu
Johnny wants sweet potato, Mary wants green bean casserole, Sue says it's not Thanksgiving without three difficult side dishes. Give yourself permission to say no or ask that person to make the dish they demand. Also, you don't want so many side dishes that you can only have a spoon full ending up with a plate of goulash. Limit your menu to 5 items you cook well and two or three you can make ahead. Plan your thanksgiving menu similar to the way you plan any dinner, a meat, a vegetable, a fruit, a starch and a wild card.
9- Keep faith and gratitude a part of your celebration
Remember this holiday is not about a great meal and football. Thanksgiving is about celebrating God's gifts. When I host I ask each guest to say something they are thankful for in their life. You can also ask each guest to write a gratitude sentence on a pumpkin as they arrive or simply offer a prayer of thanks or go help your community at a local mission.
10- Just say no to Turducken
I stole this one from Ina Garten: if you think you want to make Turducken, lay down until it passes.