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Setting the Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the stuffing, the pumping pie, and the easy flow of wine into glasses that clink with the people you love. I love how the entire day is spent anticipating the time you’ll spend gathered around the table to share a meal. There’s a beautiful simplicity to Thanksgiving. It’s not about gifts or gimmicks or fancy, shiny mementos – it’s about giving thanks for what you have.

Setting the table has always been an exercise in taking action on whatever inspires me in the moment. It’s the best kind of creative expression because it’s enjoyed for one meal and then it’s dismantled and forever gone. Thanksgiving, for me, is about rustic wood tables, natural linens, unassuming centerpieces, and minimal fuss. In a word: simplicity. I save the elaborate floral arrangements and the silver for Christmas or New Year’s. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to practice “less is more”— to celebrate what you already have by highlighting what you appreciate everyday.

If this was a quick, easy meal I could just “whip up”, then it would make more sense to devote all my extra energy into creating a stunning, time-consuming tablescape. But as we all know, preparing Thanksgiving dinner is the equivalent of the SuperBowl to home cooks, and therefore I don’t really have the time or the energy to spend orchestrating complicated decorations. Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, being the grand master of the festivities is potentially the longest, most exhausting experience of your year if you don’t give yourself time to enjoy the process. My penchant for biting off more than I can chew has taught me this: don’t suffer unnecessarily for things that don’t matter. No one cares. Yes, it’s wonderful and right to want to make a holiday special, but what people really care about is A) the food, and B) having a good time. The host/hostess sets the tone. Thanksgiving, for many, is just about getting through an entire evening of family drama, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that if the cook is having a good time, there’s a pretty good chance that everyone else will survive the dinner unscathed.

Thanksgiving Tablescape
Ellie Dreaming of Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to meditate on santosa, or contentment—to honor the blessings and lessons bestowed upon us since the last turkey was carved. This year, I’m keeping it simple. I’m using whatever squash or gourd-like produce is floating around in my fridge as my centerpiece. In lieu of flowers, I’ll forage the sidewalks in my neighborhood for branches of colorful fall foliage. A handful of small votive candles scattered around the table completes any haphazard display you’ve put together and casts a warm glow over the evening. I always use my grandmother’s beloved turkey plates because they represent a piece of family tradition, and because it’s nice to have pieces you can look forward to using every year. Gold flatware brings order to the table; the clean lines play well with the natural centerpiece, and their modern, chic feel compliments the vintage plates. You can find the gold flatware and linen napkins at one of my favorite NYC home stores, Canvas.

Simple Thanksgiving Table Decorations

When it comes to setting your Thanksgiving table, know this: whatever you do will be beautiful. Let go of any pressure to “make it special” because it will only inhibit your creative process. The Thanksgiving meal is an offering—we’re giving thanks—so in a way it’s an alter for one of the sweetest pujas of the year. Keep it simple and let the heart of what you’re celebrating inspire all of the many preparations that go into creating your holiday.

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  • Thanks for welcoming me into your h(om)e.

    May this meditation help you find the peace within. I look forward to sharing more inspiration and goodies with you in my regular newsletters.

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