Thanksgiving is just a few days away and for many twenty-something’s it isn’t really our turn to cook. You’re still going to your family’s house for the holidays and your parents, aunts and uncles or even grandparents have the whole cooking thing down pat. They know what they’re doing frankly, don’t want anyone else doing it. While you certainly couldn’t prepare a better Turkey than your Dad, (you mostly live off of eggs, take out and pasta) there are many ways for you to contribute to the Thanksgiving festivities. If you want to help your parents (or whoever is hosting Thanksgiving dinner) out, here are ten ways you can be useful during this hectic but special holiday.
1. Clean the House
The Thanksgiving cooks are going to be spending all their time and energy in the kitchen most likely for the few days leading up to the big meal and especially the day of. Help them focus on the food by alleviating them of the stress of tidying up the house. Sweep, dust, declutter, mop and spruce up the house before your guests arrive. Make sure the bathroom is well stocked and spotless, that there is a place to stash coats and that every room is presentable in case anyone wants a tour.
2. Decorate the House
Not only should the house be clean but it should be festive. Place a basket of gourds on the front porch, hang an autumnal wreath on the door, place fresh cut flowers in every room and make sure there are a couple candles (unscented) around the house to create a warm ambiance. If your mom spent $100 on a Turkey alone, the least you can do is hot glue some pine cones together.
3. Set the Table
DO NOT ATTEMPT.
Air out the linens, iron the napkins, polish the silver and carefully arrange each place setting. Consult with the cooks about what dish and glass ware they want on the table and then set accordingly. Make place cards and review seating arrangements with one or two people in your immediate family to confirm that you are up to date on who is getting along with whom these days.
4. Give Back
A big part of Thanksgiving should be contributing to your community or to those less fortunate. While it would be nice if your entire family embarked on a community service adventure together, your mom will be roasting, you dad will be chopping, your brother will be watching football and your sister will be hungover from a reunion with her high school friends. Be the family representative at a food bank, clear out the house and deliver items to a shelter or make a donation in your family’s name to a non-profit organization.
5. Create a Playlist
Instead of listening to the dinner party station on pandora and then awkwardly rushing to turn down the volume whenever an advertisement comes on, make a playlist customized to the evening that lasts around four hours so you won’t have to worry about your NYU attending cousin from making the “Norah Jones again?” comment.
6. Handle the Hors d’oeuvres
Since Thanksgiving is such a large meal, appetizers should be kept light and simple. However, in case the turkey is taking longer than expected or there was some disaster with Gradma Maime’s butter roll recipe, keep your guests from getting hangry by placing a bowl of nuts and nice olives on the coffee table. Help the hosts out by purchasing some festive cocktail napkins and artfully arranging the snacks on a tray, maybe use that bowl your Aunt gifted your family two Christmases ago.
7. Make Cocktails
Along with beer and wine, a festive addition to the meal and especially the sometimes awkward pre-meal chit-cha, can be a signature cocktail. My family’s favorite is this Cranberry Margarita that keeps my Nana relaxed and helps break the ice with first-time guests such as new girlfriends or new-to-towners. Take advantage of seasonal ingredients and be sure to make a test-batch before you use up all of the Cuervo on a drink that tastes like moss. If you have any non-drinkers in the group, a virgin mocktail would be a welcome option.
8. Play Host
Once the guests have arrived, make it your business to make sure everyone is attended to. The cooks will probably still be in the kitchen checking on the soup and your dad is never good at making small talk anyway. Greet everyone that walks through the door with a warm welcome, take their coats, take any packages or dishes they might have brought and take their order for a drink once they’ve settled in the living room. Introduce everyone to make sure everyone’s acquainted if the party isn’t just family and throughout the night, make sure everyone has someone to talk to.
9. Entertain the Kids
If you have kids at your thanksgiving diner, make sure there is something for them to do. Have Netflix up on the TV in the den, set up some crafts and board games for them with or even engage with them in some activities such as a scavenger hunt or game of charades. Most importantly, make sure that there is a big bed available for them to fall asleep if the evening runs late – if they need a place to stay, we recommend Zora’s Bed and Breakfast! Just because the kid get sleepy at 8pm doesn’t mean their parents should have to miss out on quality family time.
10. Do the Dishes
By the end of the night, whoever prepared the meal is going to be exhausted. Hours of cooking, serving, eating, clearing and scraping have left them ready for bed around two hours ago. Send your parents off to sleep and corral your siblings into clean-up crew. Load up the dishwasher, scrub the pots and be careful not to chip any of the nice serving plates. No matter how long it takes, get the job done so your parents can wake up to a spotless kitchen and a piece of pie for breakfast.