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alternatives to hosting Thanksgiving?

I have a few rude guests (previous post) and wondered about having an alternative to T-giving at our house. We only have a few elderly folks who aren't expected to host, and BIL/SIL, who have never offered to host (but imagine Thanksgiving at a cold, filthy house that reeks of cat urine). Have people found alternatives, such as going to a restaurant or having it catered, that work well? If you cater a meal like that for family, does everyone contribute to the cost? I'd have to weigh pros and cons (leaving my house, whether catering would really be that much less work, and I dont' want to risk people not coming, nor do I necessarily want to give it up forever). Anyway, I'm interested in people's experiences.

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  1. A caterer at this late a date might be extra,not less work
    Yet,,,how many people? how much tradition? etc
    I read along with your original post and in the end you seemed on a level road,even more so now.
    I think shared cost is very reasonable,labor or $.
    Most here can help a lot with some geographical input from you.The supermarket,caterer or restaurant I might recommend would only work in the greater DC metro area.Many areas have options where you can pre order all or part of a meal,pick up or delivery.

    5 Replies
    1. re: lcool

      oh, I was thinking next year. Announcement about it at my dinner table this year!!! The place isnt' the problem, we have wonderful food here in Western NY (Weggies!) I'm really just wondering about the concept.

      1. re: binky1

        Personally, if they aren't going to help pay for it then they have no right to know (or care) from whence it will come. Do they normally chip in for the turkey and dressing and sweet potatoes and such? If the answer is no, then see my first sentence.

        1. re: PotatoHouse

          Is that a usual thing? I've never hosted Thanksgiving, so have no idea... Do the guests normally chip in for dinner? I'm sure it can get quite pricey with appetizers and a quality bird.

          1. re: Hobbert

            It all depends. In my family, various people share in the preparation by preparing a specific dish, according to the List which we agree to beforehand.

    2. We go out. A neighbor always asks us over, but we spend X'mas and sometimes New Year's with them, so we say "Thanks" on TDay and, like I said, we go to a restaurant.
      As I am the cook, it's obviously A THOUSAND TIMES easier on me -no running around, no choreographing, no cleaning up, etc.- and those of us who either don't particularly like turkey (like me; I'll take prime rib or salmon any day) can get something else. Also, if anyone has food allergies/regimes to consider, restaurants are usually happy to recommend and provide lower salt/lower fat/ vegetarian dishes, as opposed to me having to make a special dish -on top of all the TDay dishes- to accomodate a vegetarian/vegan/diabetic, etc.
      When other people join us, if it's dutch, we'll give them the cost of the meal, a list of what it includes, and if the regular menu is available. If we choose to pay for anyone, we just provide the time, place, and if the regular menu is available, insisting that the meal is on us.
      Hope this helps. I, for one, enjoy having one holiday where I don't have to clean a kitchen that looks like it exploded.
      Happy TDay!

      9 Replies
      1. re: Michelly

        yes, I was thinking T-giving is great to go out. I have to say I do feel like having BIL and SIL foot the bill entirely since we've provided everything for 10 years! Petty, but shows how something can irk you if you let it.

        1. re: binky1

          Somehow, I think the BIL/SIL will not want to share the cost of either dining out or catered in, so you may be solving the rude guest issue, by announcing at this T-day, that the Next T-day will be one or the other and that you WILL NOT be paying for everyone. Of course, you can telling those you do wish to include as your guests in either case that you will be "treating" them, in private. I would opt for the dining out, as if you cater in, the Rude in laws can still show up, eat and duck the cost, which they cannot do if you dine out.

          1. re: binky1

            <Petty, but shows how something can irk you if you let it.>

            It sounds to me like you're unable to let this go and you're thinking about having BIL and SIL 'foot the bill entirely'? You may just create more headaches than it's worth with that request. Instead of announcing what you plan to do at this Thanksgiving table, why don't you and your husband and children just silently plan on going out of town next year, make reservations at a wonderful place you find and begin a new tradition? It takes a bit of bravery but usually good things do.

            1. re: latindancer

              I agree with latindancer. I would give it a rest for at least next year; give yourself permission to take next Thanksgiving off and spend it with your spouse and kids.

              1. re: pinehurst

                I'm with pinehurst but I would say nothing this year. You can just send a note at some point next summer letting folks you won't be doing it. Give yourself a T'Day next year that is not filled with resentment. Stay home, go out, but let it be what you want. Everyone else can take care of themselves for one year.

              2. re: latindancer

                oh latindancer, I was kidding about having them foot the bill - wasn't clear about that, just cackling at the idea. No, I'd say that next year I"d like to take a break from cooking, and elicit ideas, in which case we're be clear that everyone splits the meal.

              3. re: binky1

                I'll lean on what latindancer and quine have said adding some weight and muscle.

                I think it's a world of good sense to announce this year that you won't be the hosting family next year.Do to the blah,blah,blah amount of work involved,time,management,logistics etc.This can be done very graciously without relinquishing one bit of "self".Something it seems they just don't get anyway.
                I WOULD NOT offer in any way shape or manner PLAN B information at this time.Any plan B really does belong to you,your household !!!! It's not anyone's business but yours for at least 10 or 11 months.Even then you needn't "volunteer" anything,you own the answers when asked.You just might see some resort or restaurant package that rings all of your for family bells,you can afford it.go for it....!
                Cost sharing should not be a "surprise",but part of an agreement known in advance.With an agreement you still risk those that agree never intending to play fair.

                1. re: lcool

                  Very good advise.

                  Let people know you won't be hosting. Do not let them know what you will be doing.
                  Otherwise they will not spend any time thinking about the options. This is key - once they really think about it perhaps a new found appreciation of the effort, planning and energy of your past hosting will develop. Often when something is pulled off well it appears effortless to an unaware observer.

                  I would skip the extended family next year and let them figure out alternative plans. Plus you really need a break. In 2014 perhaps suggest a new model if no one else has taken initiative.

                  To the current question:
                  Catering allows for a leisurely meal which can maintain family traditions (ball games, decorations, grandma's relish tray). But there is still house cleaning pre & post meal. In addition guests may out stay their welcome.

                  Restaurant limits the time together. Some people are better behaved "out". No prep work and when it is over you can come home and just relax. Easier to deal with picky eaters, etc. If you want leftovers you can always cook a turkey breast at home for sandwiches!

                  Binky, I bet you feel so much lighter just having made a decision about next year! This will make this season easier knowing the "sentence" has been lifted! When something which should be a joy turns into a burden it is time to restructure!

                  1. re: meatn3


                    I also would *not* explain *why* the end of the tradition; it invites negotiation and recrimination. Instead, heed the evergreen advice of Emily Post with the universal etiquette widget of "it simply won't be possible" or a variation thereon.

            2. We're going to have it at church.

              1. The alternative to hosting? Not hosting. Tell people that you and your spouse are having a private holiday meal.

                Another option would be to have your dinner at a nice hotel that serves a Thanksgiving Day buffet. My family did this for a couple of years at the Grant Hotel in San Diego.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Dagney

                  The alternative to hosting? Not hosting. Tell people that you and your spouse are having a private holiday meal.
                  My alternative was to just stop inviting them and choose to do something else. I left the explanation out. That was that. It's worked great!
                  I'd love to cook for and host the big gathering, and if another group of guests needing a venue happens to form, then I'm 100% back in for hosting. I'm just not going to host THOSE people again.
                  In the mean time, there are plenty of other opportunities for food-centric parties and guests who enjoy them. Thanksgiving doesn't have to be the it. OTOH, last year we enjoyed "Fakesgiving" with friends where we all got together to have the turkey day party we wish we would have had or attended. It's was fabulous, and we all got to share (vent) those crazy family gathering stories and gripes from the actual day.

                  They're grown ups, they can figure out how to spend their holiday.

                  1. re: splatgirl

                    I agree with this, completely.

                    When I look around my table every year and realize the blessings I have, including good health and the people who enrich my life, I know the decision I made years ago to eliminate the people who insist on ruining that day, was a good one.
                    This includes family that somehow manages to overshadow the day with their miserable behavior. Life's just too short for the drama.

                    1. re: latindancer

                      Hear, hear! Life is not only too short for the drama but also too short to spend time with people you don't love.

                      I decided a long time ago to stop wasting so much of my precious time on people or things that make me feel bad about myself. There never seems to be enough time to spend with those that I love who love me back. Why waste it on people who don't?

                      There will always be cases where I have to see some of these people-weddings, funerals, the occasional social gathering. On those day I pull on big girl pants and kill ‘em with kindness.

                      So my alternative to Thanksgiving is to just say no, like a PP mentioned and then plan a great day myself.

                      OP-I would not recommend saying anything at this thanksgiving, why invite more drama? Instead between now and the next gathering keep practicing saying "No, thank we. We decided to do XYZ this year" "That sounds great, but no, we have already decided", " I am sorry you feel that way but we made up our minds", etc

                2. Someone always hosts in my family. For years we went to my parents, but then we started staying home as we got tired of traveling out of state and they started coming to our house. Probably helped that my sister also moved to the same city as I lived. Now we all live different places and I haven't gone back home for the holidays in over 5 years. I can't imagine anyone wanting to have TG catered or eaten out in my family.

                  1. Having an intimate one with family... since it's just me and my SO... it's very intimate & special.

                    We make just the food we want. Spend the day being with *just* each other. No work, no expectations. It's the best thing ever.

                    1. We always host b/c BlL or my parents are in no position to host. They don't offer to help (my mom could help and bring a dish, but she has spent the past 60 years maintaining that she is incapable of cooking so she can't change now). One year, we were invited to a wedding the day after T'Day on the other side of the country, so we told everyone they were on their own, and that was the best T'Day ever. Just spouse and I, in a California restaurant; it was warm and sunny (unlike at home) and I was TRULY thankful!

                      1. I cannot tell you how much more we enjoy Thanksgiving now that we don't celebrate with family. After my mom died we started a tradition with friends, everyone bringing food to contribute. It is lovely. Yes, we sometimes have to politely tell the rest of the family that no, we won't be changing our plans for them. But once you've spent 30 years humoring everyone else, you deserve to do your own thing. Heck, a month from now we'll be dealing with family drama at xmas anyway!

                        1. We always go out! I don't like anything about the turkey meal and when, 30 years ago, DH's family took us to the Ritz in Boston I was ecstatic. I had oysters and duck (yes I still remember lol!). I always make sure it is a restaurant that serves turkey for the ones who like it. I would tell them that next year "we are going out to dinner for T-giving and if anyone wants to join us they'll be welcome - dutch of course" said very casually. I mean don't make a big deal of it and be ready for dismayed comments about "how can ANYONE go out for dinner for T-giving", etc.

                          1. Given your previous post, I would go with the restaurant option. There will be no issues of cleaning the home before or after the meal, and when the dinner is over people just go home. I also think the restaurant option makes it far more distinct that you're not hosting. You're not inviting people to join you for a pre-purchased meal but rather deciding as a "family" that you're going to go to x type of restaurant with y price level. Particularly if you phrase it as a family choice "where would we all be comfortable going to celebrate" - then it's not a case of anyone hosting the meal (or rather the bill).

                            Also, if there are some elderly members that you'd like to spend more time with, you can invite them specifically to your place after the meal or to come over on Friday or the weekend for additional time together.

                            1. My husband's relatives are just as skilled at acting like untrained monkeys at restaurants and event halls as they are at home. Perhaps even better, since the audience is larger. So moving your feast has the risk of feeling just like at home (I speak from experience lol).

                              Also, relatives who are cheap bringing to home events (eg, one can soda/person) will almost certainly balk at restaurant meal prices, so discussions of who-pays-what could cause more headaches for you.

                              Announcing essentially that "next year y'all are on your own!" is sure to cause a firestorm at the table. Protests, Why?!?!, complaints, tears... you could end your meal on an unhappy note.

                              You want to make a large paradigm shift by Thursday; and yet you're deep in the emotions/frustration of this year's event -- personally, it would be a bad time for me to make a decision. Maybe consider -- just ride through this year, say nothing, and sit down with husband after the new year and discuss what you both want. If you decide to change it up or bow out next year, then at end of summer, you can then let family know that there's a change-up. They'll have time to organize themselves if they wish.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: DuchessNukem

                                <untrained monkeys>

                                The keyword is, obviously, 'untrained'. I always flinch when people compare the behavior of humans to animals. I have an aquaintance who works with baboons and we always laugh at how she'd rather spend her life with them than most humans. Their good manners, although taught and learned, far surpass some of the behaviors I've been subjected to from family members who should know better. They think they can get away with some of the worst acts simply because they're 'family'. My dog knows how to sit, on the floor next to our table, and not make a sound until she's spoken to and even then she's ready and eager for the next command in order that she may be fed a morsel or 2. I'm thinking this year I may give her a chair in place of others who haven't been invited because of their own lacking of the ability to behave as well as she does.
                                Great post, Duchess, I'm liking it.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  One more thought on this....

                                  My little, old girl dog is a *rescue* and I swear I think she's more understanding of the word 'thanksgiving' than most people I know. She takes nothing for granted.

                                2. I was at Costco today and I think I found a solution. Complete Turkey dinner feeds 8-10 people for $80, in a box. Next year, get one, hand it over to the BIL/SIL, then take the rest of your dear family out to a nice place to enjoy a true thanksgiving meal.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Quine

                                    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! What a hoot

                                  2. Three choices: Put up with the same crap next year. Two: Don't say a word about next year until early next November. Send everyone an email: "This year we are going to be away for TD. Hope you all have a great day". Three: Send everyone an email: This year we've decided to donate what we would have spent on TD to Doctors Without Borders and we'll be showing our support by fasting on TD. I'm very serious about these solutions. We have actually sent the amount that would have cost to have fifteen people for Thanksgiving dinner to DWB's. Sort of 'sobered up' a few friends/relatives.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                      <Sort of 'sobered up' a few friends/relatives.>

                                      I can sense how serious you are and I truly respect your decision.
                                      Doctors Without Borders is very, very low on donations as are many charitable organizations.
                                      It's a good time of the year to remember them as you're doing.

                                    2. It can be very difficult to change things from a system where you pay and do all the work, to one where the expense and effort is shared, if your guests are not cooperative. In order of easiness, I'd say your options are

                                      1) Get the meal catered, and pay for it yourself.

                                      2) Do something totally different, like going away for the weekend, or just hanging out at home with out the dinner, and tell people in advance that you're not hosting this year.

                                      3) Tell people about a month or so before you've decided you don't want the fuss of cooking this your. You and your family are going to X restaurant for the meal. People are welcome to join - the cost is $Y per person, let you know by a given date if they'd like to come so you can make the reservations. This makes it clear in advance that this is a pay your own way option, so they aren't surprised, and you aren't stuck with the bill.

                                      4) Get catering, and explain to people that you're going to charge admission for the meal. This one, I suspect, will cause the most fuss.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                        But that won't keep the two unwanted IL's from showing up, then doing something like forgetting their wallets (their idea of helping out is to bring 2 cans of soda). And even if they decide not to show up because it'll cost them, they will hold that over Binky1 for the rest of her life: "she made her own FAMILY pay money! How horrible of her!"
                                        I know this type of people; you think they were complaining BEFORE? Wait until she is "responsible" for them having to put down money, or miss Thanksgiving with the family.
                                        I agree with what most folk suggested here: bite the bullet this TDay, and keep reminding yourself this will be The Last Time. Then wait until Oct/Nov next year to announce that you and your hubby are going away for TDay, that it'll have to be someone else who hosts. Then you can do just that, or you can pull aside the chosen few who feel the same way as you and invite JUST
                                        them, under promise of secrecy, to be with you.
                                        You should not have to continue to have such stress-ridden, unhappy holidays. Make it so that this one will be, as I said, the Last Time.

                                        1. re: Michelly

                                          While I think the idea of just going away may ultimately be the easiest way to avoid the stress, if this dinner includes other (elderly and unable to host) relatives that binky1 and her family still want to celebrate with, then I think the restaurant option is the best way.

                                          Also, given the level of stess that this meal has created - I think this is also a great way to give the task of organizing the restaurant Thanksgiving to the spouse or one of these elderly relatives who is unable to host. While hosting the homecooked meal may fall on the one person who is the best cook and has the space best suited to hosting - picking a restaurant, negotiating who's paying what, and making a reservation are all tasks that can be done by someone else.

                                          While BIL and SIL may be the sore point for hosting, there may be a grandparent involved who really treasures the time together and would be happy to help arrange a restaurant meal to ensure the family stays together.

                                          1. re: cresyd

                                            Then that's what should happen. The OP has already done her share of the hosting and should at least have a break, if not be allowed to step down from the responsibility of having to keep everyone else happy.

                                          2. re: Michelly

                                            That's why the restaurant is the third in the list of difficulty. :-) There's the risk of 'forgetting' their wallets. Mind you, if that happens, you scratch that idea off the list, and stop inviting them altogether.

                                        2. Do what you wAnt to! It seems like you hold a lot of resentment - so just let go of being do good and then resenting and judging those who dont- do what you want!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. Go lay quietly on a beach with an umbrella drink and wait for it all to pass :)

                                            1. So now it's a year later!
                                              I'm curious what you've decided to do, Binky1!

                                              1. Ok so old thread, but here goes.

                                                I have a crazy cousin that just HAS to host TG every year.
                                                Truthfully, its the only gathering where most of us get together each year.

                                                The food is mediocre, the gravy is from a jar and the pies store bought.

                                                And every year she asks me to buy the wine for 12 guests that like to drink. I like good beverages so it always ends up costing me a lot more than it should. Cant show up with cheap wine now can i? :)

                                                I figure once a year I can get past the pettiness and the need for properly cooked food in the interest of just getting the family in the same house. Family, it is what it is!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: AdamD

                                                  <Family, it is what it is!>

                                                  Yeah, but all that stellar wine helps cope with the family that it is what it is :-).

                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                    Indeed! I guess I should have made that a larger part of my coping method.

                                                2. OK, so it is a year later!!! I have weighed the options, and decided a)I don't want to deal w/a crowded restaurant, and b)it's important for my kids to have holidays in their home with extended family around.
                                                  Over the past year I have talked to DH about how it can work better. He talked to his brother, about simple things like taking his shoes off when he comes in the house like everyone else does. We have invited them a little less frequently and give them an end time. I will go up in my room for a break if I need to. I've decided they just don't know and need limits, and as long as I'm polite and proactive, I'm good. One thing I have decided on this year is that if she makes a comment about the food, I will tell her it hurts my feelings and to please stop doing that, short and simple. She really functions on a child level, and that's what I'd do with a child.
                                                  They do love the kids and I focus on that, and thank them for always being there for them.
                                                  I cleaned the DR today, am shopping and setting the table tomorrow. I have delegated a dish, and asked BIL and SIL exactly what they are planning to bring so we're clear. They said drinks and pies. I will pick up soda that we enjoy so I don't count on them for that, and if they forget the pie, oh well, everyone will be stuffed anyway. I have decided also to stop worrying about her wellbeing or what she says, and will have a game ready and enjoy myself so that my children can see me relaxing and having a good time.
                                                  Much of this b/c of great ideas and the kind validation I received on Chowhound!! Thanks again to everyone!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: binky1

                                                    My mother had a SIL similar to yours. She drove my mother nuts. Thankfully, we lived about 200 miles away so it was only at family functions that she got to my mother. There was another SIL that lived much closer and really was bugged by the other SIL. (These were three women married to brothers.)

                                                    Finally, my mother just decided that the annoying SIL just didn't have the power to annoy her. My mother killed her with kindness.

                                                    This SIL and her family used to show up late every year for Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house. Finally, one year my father said "let's eat now, they can eat when they get here". My dad's oldest brother was steaming mad that we didn't wait for them to start eating, but I don't think they were late to another holiday meal. They were however, late to my grandmother's funeral. That too was started without them.

                                                    I have a cousin who has hosted Thanksgiving every year since 2003. Last summer, we got an e-mail announcing that after this year, they will host only every other year. There is no animosity, they just don't want to work that hard every Thanksgiving. There has been up 60 family members attending although most years it was around 40. The thing is, nobody else in the family has a big enough house to host that many so next year, everyone is on their own.

                                                  2. This year repeat to yourself in your head "this is it. This is the last year, and this too shall pass...."
                                                    And don't make any announcements.

                                                    And next summer start looking for a bargain cruise or another getaway deal. Book it. Have a glass of bubbly when you print your tickets.
                                                    Send an email to the offenders saying that this year you will be "traveling" and leave it at that. Even if "traveling" is to the next town an hour away. Call the family you want to see and invite them over for only dessert and wine one evening to catch up.

                                                    Or, declare how inspired you were by articles in the local paper, and how you have decided to start a new tradition of helping the less fortunate by volunteering on the holiday. Who knows, maybe the obnoxious ones will join and have their eyes opened a bit.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                      Remember it's only ONE FREAKING DAY in the year. The 'simians' who are constantly ruining the occasion couldn't care less how you or anyone else feels. The next day some of them won't even know if they went somewhere yesterday or not. That happens in most families.
                                                      As for them 'making you feel guilty' they'll attempt do that anyway.
                                                      Do not fall for that black mail.
                                                      This is what I'd do: About a month before TD I'd have a couple of 'informal' 'impromptu' family dinners with those you actually care about and who care about you. Maybe just another couple or two. Times that by two and you all have had your nice peaceful calm lovely get-to-together. Also by then everyone knows you guys are 'going away' for TD.
                                                      I know it's a hard thing to do b/c I've had to do it but sometimes you just have to 'cut some people loose' from your life. They may whine and try to 'quilt trip' you for a while but if you stand your ground in the long run most of them will fade away. Remember you don't owe anyone anything just b/c you are related. That's how these people view life and you.
                                                      If you don't actually want to 'go away-away' you can 'go-away' by going for a nice day-trip in the country. Treat yourselves to a nice little special lunch and be home for 'Dancing With The Stars'.
                                                      "I thought you were going away!" "We did. We decided not to go as far 'away' as we thought we might. Got to run now. We'll talk real soon. Next year we are planning on going away again it was so nice. You should try it".
                                                      Little up-date: This year we went to the Halloween party we were always invited to but never went to b/c we knew the 'family drunks/idiots/people who don't control their kids would be there. But we went. Result: A couple of the (cough) men got into a fist fight and so did their second/third wives. Most adults and some adolescents got drunk and a couple almost fell into the fire.
                                                      When it got dark no one seemed to know where any of the toddlers/five/six year olds actually were. The hot dogs and burgers never really happened and those that did were raw and cold but burnt. The old people sat off to one side attempting to be invisible so no one would try to get one of them aside to borrow money then they all went home before dark. The dudes in charge of the fireworks some, but not all of us had contributed to didn't show up.
                                                      Next year we will be 'going away' for Halloween.