The Introvert’s Guide to Hosting Thanksgiving

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)
(Image credit: Lindsay Ribe)

As a cook, I see Thanksgiving as one of the most exciting holidays of the year — an annual excuse to spend days or weeks planning, cooking, and eating a feast with friends and family. But as an introvert who loves small, intimate dinner parties, I also find Thanksgiving exhausting and emotionally overwhelming, especially when I’m the host.

Are you an introvert too? If your holiday planning includes wondering if you can sneak some earplugs into the kitchen once it’s packed with screaming relatives, or thinking about how long you can hide in the bathroom this time before it starts to look weird, this survival guide is for you.

Potluck If Possible

Potluck Thanksgivings are an introvert’s dream come true. Everybody cooks at home in their own kitchens where they belong, and you get to cook by yourself, at your own pace, without having to talk to anybody except maybe your cat.

But if a potluck Thanksgiving just isn’t happening this year …

Clear Out the Kitchen by Any Means Necessary

Maybe that means putting all the drinks on a table in a room far away from the kitchen. Maybe it means yelling, “There’s a rabbit giving out free beer outside!” It could even mean my personal last resort: turning on football. Whatever you need to do, make Party Central somewhere other than the kitchen.

(Image credit: Kristin Teig)

Designate a Cooking Buddy

We introverts don’t hate cooking with everyone — there is always at least one friend or family member who gets that when we’re quietly focused on making a delicious gravy, we just want to be quiet. And focused. Seriously, we’re not mad at you, extroverts. Don’t freak out.

The people who understand your introverted ways are your allies in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Ask for their help before the day of the meal, lean on them when you need it, and give thanks — publicly or privately — when all the cooking is done.

Play Music in the Kitchen

For everyone else cooking alongside you who might feel that any silence in the kitchen is a gaping maw which must immediately be filled with chatter, you’ll probably need some music. Here are three playlists to get you started. (And if you don’t have speakers in the kitchen, there are at least five ways to amplify your iPhone on the cheap.)

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Make a List of Tasks to Be Done Outside the Kitchen

Sometimes you need a little alone time, or a way to politely banish a certain guest from the kitchen for a bit. In these cases, it is handy to have a list of jobs that must be done in another room, like setting the table, playing bartender, or greeting arriving guests.

Find Your Hiding Spot

You will need a break from people at some point in the day, so figure out a place to be alone when you need it. Remember that the extroverts at your gathering will feel better if you have some kind of plausible excuse for wanting to leave the party, so giving a reason for your disappearance is a good hosting practice. Lingering in the pantry, retreating into the bedroom to change out of your casual cooking clothes, or spending a long time looking for the extra wine glasses in the basement (even though you know they’re in the cupboard above the fridge) will give you the little bit of alone time you need to rest and regroup during the day.

If all else fails, there is always the Introvert’s Panic Room — also known as the bathroom.

Think About Saying No

If you don’t want to host, if you don’t want to attend the raucous Friendsgiving dominated by your partner’s college buddies, if you don’t want to invite your aunt’s offensive boyfriend, if you don’t want to host more than six people for Thanksgiving, if you don’t want to stay with your in-laws for the whole holiday weekend, just … don’t.

I know it is never quite that simple, but any movement toward creating a holiday that is actually a day you feel thankful for is better than another year of unhappy silence.

Don’t Feel Bad

It’s not easy being an introvert in an extroverts’ world, and this time of year is especially difficult. The holidays are all about coming together and enjoying time with others, so saying, “I need a break from you!” can feel tantamount to dumping the turkey on the floor and stomping on the pumpkin pie. There might be weird looks and hurt feelings from those who don’t understand your ways, but being an introvert, you’re probably already used to that.

Don’t feel bad. Instead, be thankful for all the great qualities that come with being an introvert. No, we might not be the life of the party, but we are its listeners, its contemplators, and often its heart, quietly beat-beat-beating away behind the scenes.