If you’re like me, you have a certain image of Thanksgiving dinner stuck in your mind, playing on a loop each and every day of November. It’s basically this: a large, happy group of family and friends crowded around a really long table, groaning under enormous plates of traditional food.
I’ve hosted this kind of Thanksgiving more times than I can count–needing to rent tables, borrow chairs from the neighbors, and fervently pray there’s enough cheese ball appetizer to go around. Besides the massive prep work and cleanup, big gatherings can be fun and exciting–and boisterous and silly. You get caught up in the sheer abundance of energy and celebration, and count yourself lucky to be in such good company.
But how do you feel about a small Thanksgiving gathering? Does it make you feel sad if you have to host or attend one? Do you feel pity for the friend who mentions that her Thanksgiving will be tiny when yours will likely be forty if the second cousins stay home?
Or. . . does the thought give you an instant feeling of calm and relief?
At our home this year, we’ll be a party of six because many family members have travel plans and other commitments. I’ve had to reframe my own cliché images of how the holiday is supposed to look (which are mostly from movies, let’s be real) and focus on having a simpler, more intimate celebration. So, I’ve created a list of my top five reasons to embrace a small Thanksgiving:
- Room at the table. Yep, elbow room, room for bread plates, and space for every guest to feel seen and heard.
- Fewer people, less chaos. And less noise, which leaves space for true connection and conversations. If you have an elderly guest with hearing loss, they’ll feel much more included in an intimate setting.
- Less of everything. Less shopping, cooking, cleaning, and food waste. It can be shocking how much gets thrown away after a big dinner party.
- It’s easier to set aside time to talk about what the holiday means and share gratitude through memories, blessings, stories, or photos.
- No crowd sourcing. In other words, no big communal vote on which (if any) movie to watch, if there should be an organized after dinner walk, when to serve dessert, or how much football is just too much. A small group just seems to move more organically toward the next unfolding moment or activity.
Well fine, you might be thinking, but what about setting the table? Will you even make an effort for such a small group or just toss around some old camp plates and cracked jelly jars? And let people eat the pumpkin pie with their fingers, maybe?
I guess I can kind of (not really) understand the “why bother” argument, or now-you can-be super-casual kind of advice. In fact, I think the opposite is true, and that I’ll make the same effort to create beauty and atmosphere for six as I would for sixty. Truly, what would Martha say?
So here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll find at my table this year: Nothing new, for starters. Remember, our Plank & Pearl world is about everything vintage, recycled, and reused!
- Vintage brass candleholders with white tea lights.
- Pinecones from my backyard
- Vintage glassware in all my favorite colors
- My mother’s vintage silverware
- Six lovely humans whom I adore
Wherever you’ll be this Thanksgiving, may you be safe, warm, welcomed, and well loved.