When my husband and I became a family, and particularly when the children came along, we made a decision that rather than try to figure out which of our respective families of origin we would spend holidays with, we would just spend them at our home together and visit later accordingly. This works especially well for us because my husband is in media, and therefore days off (including holidays) are few and far between. These days are "our" days to spend at home together.
However, even without trucking off to relatives' homes or entertaining guests in ours, our schedules and later the children's tastes have presented some interesting menu challenges. The years that my husband was on the air during what would have been the dinner hour, we changed Thanksgiving Dinner to Thanksgiving Breakfast. We had eggs, toast, cereal, juice, coffee, fruit you name it. The important thing was that we spent that time together in our own unique way. This mindset has served us well over the years.
I think few things ruin a holiday for families more than artificially imposed outside expectations of what a holiday is SUPPOSED to look like for a family. There are many wonderfully talented professional homemakers out there who have tips on cooking the perfect turkey, amazingly intricate pies and cakes that will bowl your in-laws over, and place-settings that look like they came off a magazine cover. God bless them. But you know, if you really stop and think about it, what your family truly wants on this day: They want YOU. I don't mean they want the You that's waving a spatula menacingly around the kitchen if anybody even THINKS about touching those rolls before dinner, messing with your spectacular table display, and having a nervous breakdown because the stuffing is going to be ready and getting COLD before the mashed potatoes are done!
Holidays aren't about tranquilizers and traumatizing your loved ones over which dishes to set out. Thanksgiving is about bringing out your family's favorite foods and about appreciating each other and the time you have together. A few years back, I tried to do the "traditional thing" and make what I thought was a proper turkey dinner for my family. About the time we sat down to dinner, my daughter announced that she was now a vegetarian, my husband admitted that he too felt some guilt about consuming a turkey, and my son let me know that he didn't care for it for no better aesthetic reason than "ick." The dog and cats felt very appreciated that year, scoring most of the offending turkey. I quickly learned to quit trying to put together what experts thought was the perfect Thanksgiving dinner and started listening to what my own family thought was the perfect dinner. My daughter loves to decorate, so setting the table was her territory. She used a bed sheet for a table cover. It was lovely! My son opted for a menu of bacon, peas, blueberries and pumpkin pie. He ate it all with nary an "ick." My daughter went for raspberries, stuffing and a roll. We still had a turkey, since my husband's employer tends to give us one every year anyway. He and I had a little, and the pets a major part of the family here also partook gratefully. Clean-up was a snap, leaving us the rest of the day to hang out together and watch a marathon of "Deadliest Catch" on Discovery.
Save yourself a ton of money, time and hassle this Thanksgiving. Don't tie yourself up in knots over what Martha or the Food Network suggest you do for the "perfect" holiday dinner. Just turn around and ask the only experts that matter your own family. If they want grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, then hey throw a bed sheet on the table, grill some sandwiches, and enjoy your precious time together. Your laughter and time spent with your family will be remembered for many more years than what casserole you served and what plate pattern you ate it from, I guarantee.