In light of this year’s unavoidable break from tradition around the winter holidays, I’ve tried suggesting a few new, pared back activities to my family—and I’ve been met with Grinchy accusations. Whyyy are you changing traditions? writes my little sister over text.
But maybe I rushed headlong into scrapping traditions. Maybe there’s a nice middle ground of some new and some old. For Thanksgiving, at least, I’ll try to find it in the decoration, not in the food. (I’m already fully committed to forgoing my usual curry and turkey feast for tacos, sorry.)
So often, the tabletop look is determined by the sheer quantity of food and family present: A 15-pound turkey demands the only massive platter you have. By the end of the meal, every plate has been used, including the not-so-great ones. This year, a smaller gathering (and perhaps a dinner focused on just the turkey legs) means aesthetics can actually be coherent for once. Slip in a hint of lavender, or the dramatic ivy-green of a dark marble cheese board, and all of a sudden, it’s not your mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving table.
Haven’t thought about the TG tablescape yet? This year probably isn’t the year for lots of brand new decor, and that’s just fine. One new bowl, or plate, or even a set of place card holders to add a celebratory feel, is plenty to set this meal apart from all the others. Buying yourself one little dish that you love is a great way to perk up what might be a sad holiday—and there’s no need to match here. After all, it’s a new kind of Thanksgiving. No one’s judging. And if they are: just tell them you’re starting a new tradition.
Set the Scene
Your crew might be smaller—but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the party details. Personalized name cards, fresh flowers or greenery (or, for a no-fuss option, dried grasses), and a few candles placed amongst the platters of food will add a lot to the ambiance—even if the setting is just your kitchen table.
Keep It Hot
If your biggest hurdle when entertaining (or just cooking Wednesday night dinner) is getting the timing just right on the meal’s various components, consider making it easier for yourself come Thanksgiving. Cook and serve a few elements in cocottes, which look good enough to be serveware and retain heat well. Forget the mad dash to reheat everything right as everyone sits down.
Serve Family Style
With a smaller crowd, you might be tempted to plate every dish and skip the serving platters. But serving things family style—and that means asking politely for the last spoonful of potatoes—is essential to keep the Thanksgiving spirit.
Dish It Out
Plates, bowls, cutlery, glasses: Buying these staples is usually more of an investment—and not a seasonal purchase. But if you’ve been side-eyeing your chipped plates since March, maybe the holidays are the time to gift yourself a new set?