Lesson #55: How to Host a Fake Holiday

by Rachel on November 22, 2010

Last week, after I spent too much time watching Thanksgiving specials on Food Network and sharing last year’s Thanksgiving recipes, I got major Thanksgiving envy. I thought I was OK with not cooking this year, but I was actually…not. Like Shelby said last week, “Thanksgiving is only fun when you control the menu.”

She’s so right. To get excited about the holiday, I needed to exercise a little control over some sort of menu, even if it wasn’t the serious and official Thanksgiving menu. If I didn’t get some recipes out of my system, I feared I might get a little overexcited in Eric’s mom’s kitchen, and no one wants to blow it at the first meeting because she got pushy about cranberry sauce. So, I asked Eric if I could make us a “Fake Thanksgiving” dinner. I wasn’t planning to do the whole meal, but I needed to cook some of my favorites. I basically ended up with a Thanksgiving version of The Feast — and it was fabulous.

While planning this, I realized…Fake Holidays should happen more often. When should you throw a fake holiday?

  • When you’re in a country that doesn’t celebrate your favorite holiday and missing your homeland like WHAT
  • When you’re in your homeland but can’t afford to fly home twice in one month for the hols (like me!)
  • When you’ve never cooked a big holiday dinner before and you want to practice without any pressure
  • When you secretly want to celebrate a holiday that isn’t part of your culture
  • Whenever you feel like celebrating a holiday and it’s not that holiday

There’s pretty much never a bad reason to celebrate!

OK, convinced you need to do this too? Here’s how to host your own Fake Holiday.

1. Choose one or two dishes that are most important to you. Whether it’s a recipe your mom makes every year or just something new from Nigella you’re dying to try, decide what dishes you must have to make it feel like a holiday. For me, it was bacon-wrapped dates and baked brie. (Seriously, this whole thing began as an excuse to make those two dishes.) I also really wanted to try the Eat, Live, Run maple pecan bites, so I added that to my menu. And I wanted to make a cocktail, so I went with Angela’s Project Tasteless pecan pie martini.

Because it’s not a holiday till I can get get get get you drunk! We also made Cindy’s Project Tasteless winning boilo.

2. Break it down. If you’re only cooking for one or two people, cooking full versions of traditional recipes is just silly. Like, a full turkey? No. That’s a waste. I thought about doing a turkey breast, but it was still a bit more than I wanted to spend, so I decided to do soup for the main course instead. And I halved the recipe for the bacon-wrapped dates.

Since we are still celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I just wanted this to be a warm-up.

3. Be creative when it comes to the other dishes. When choosing the other dishes for your Fake Holiday, cut corners! You don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen or hundreds of dollars on this mini-meal. Focus on choosing the right tastes that you know will make you feel like you’re at home. Instead of making soup from scratch, I ended up picking up two servings of butternut squash bisque from the Central Market hot bar. I normally hate all squashy soup — it always seems to taste like baby food — but I loved how savory this one was when I sampled it. I also picked up some green beans to saute in butter.

We didn’t have turkey, but we had the other important Thanksgiving flavors! And all for about $6.

3. Celebrate like you mean it. If you are doing this, go all-out with it. Put on your party dress, set the table, put on some mood music — don’t hold back! You’re entertaining a really VIP guest: you! No holiday meal is complete without dessert, so I paired the maple pecan bites with homemade pumpkin ice cream I made earlier this fall.

Those little pecan delights tasted just like pie, and only took about half the work. Also, I sprinkled chopped cooked bacon on top before I baked them. Like I said…you’re the VIP guest, so you can put bacon on the dessert because you don’t have to appeal to your vegan cousin.

A Fake Holiday is a great way to have your fantasy holiday without any of the stress or gross side dishes you hate. Do everything the way you want to do it — trust me, when you’re dealing with your nagging relatives at the next holiday, you’ll relish the faux one.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jackie (ananda prana) November 22, 2010 at 10:08 am

This is a really good idea :) I bet your man appreciated it!! I might give it a shot while I’m in Canada this week over the holiday.


2 Stephanie @ Single in the City November 22, 2010 at 10:13 am

I love that idea! Especially since after I bought stuff to make Thanksgiving dinner, I was invited to my friend’s home for the holiday and a girl’s day out the day after. Guess I’ll be cooking turkey with all the fixins for New Years!


3 Diane November 22, 2010 at 10:15 am

I was just thinking I should do something like this! I’m heading to a vegan Thanksgiving potluck with some friends and housemates, but I still want turkey and my mom’s famous chocolate-coffee pie. I CAN have it all!


4 Cynthia (It All Changes) November 22, 2010 at 10:22 am

I love this. The holidays are not convenient for my schedule…AT ALL! We eat quick and easy meals. Instead I want to make my own holiday where it fits in my calendar!


5 erin m. {{well in l.a.}} November 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

Yum! Great approach for getting a little more festive any day of the week! I’m tackling my first full bird this year, hosting Thanksgiving at my place. Should be interesting… :)


6 Laura Georgina November 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

Spot on! I celebrated Christmas away from family for four years (and I’ve been home for Thanksgiving once in the last ten years) so fake holidays are a MUST. I totally got used to Thanksgiving the Saturday after the actual holiday, have substituted everything from weird turkey scallops to chicken to pork, and run the gamut from ALL the fixings to green beans and sweet potatoes in all my fake Thanksgivings. I loved ALL of them, and they would have been even better if I’d had your advice from the very beginning.


7 shelby @ eatdrinkrun November 22, 2010 at 11:57 am

Fake holidays are the best! I’ve been known to make Thanksgiving dinner in the springtime just because.

Your bacon wrapped dates have caused me to drool on my keyboard, BTW. MMMMM.


8 angela November 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm

This is excellent. I haven’t been home for a Thanksgiving in 10 years so I don’t really get into it. I’m not a huge fan of most of the food at my husband’s family’s Thanksgiving, and to be honest he isn’t either! If I weren’t sick and lazy and broke I’d be all over this. Maybe next year. Or in July or something. ;)


9 Alexa @ The Girl In Chucks November 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for the tips!

I will have to throw a faux Thanksgiving because I am spending my Thanksgiving at the race track with my SO. My SO who didn’t want to go to the race track’s Thanksgiving buffet. My SO who when asked if he would like me to pre-make Thanksgiving food on Wednesday, so we could have it for dinner after the track on Thursday, shrugged and said, “I don’t really care what we eat. I don’t really care about the holiday…do you REALLY care? We could just, you know, order a pizza when we get back home…”


Pizza on Thanksgiving? I need a cocktail….


10 Angela @ A Healthy Fit November 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm

How did you like the cocktail?


11 Smash @ Appreciate The Now November 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Yum — sounds good! Mine would be a dressing, turkey, cranberry sauce, and brie sandwich on crusty bread — the epitome of the day after Thanksgiving.


12 Dani November 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I’ve always wanted to celebrate the day we change the clocks back to daylight savings time. From now on, this will be my fake holiday. Enjoy yours!


13 Devon November 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I will come to your fake holidays any time. YUM!


14 Cyndie November 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I really want to do this, because I have to work on thanksgiving :( I might make it to the tail-end of my boyfriend’s family’s dinner, but I won’t be able to bring anything. And I love to bake.

I’m thinking I should at least bake a pumpkin pie before Thursday. One that far surpasses anything my boyfriend or brothers will eat at their Thanksgiving dinners, and they will remember me while I’m slaving away at work.


15 marie November 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm

love this!!! I am going to host one here in London next weekend- I just can’t stand spending Thanksgiving and not having some sort of celebration! p.s. baked brie makes me want to cry tears of joy whenever I eat it. YUM.


16 Julie @ Honey B. Nutrition November 22, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I so agree with the impromptu holiday celebration! Why should particular feasts, or even the entire theme of a certain holiday, have to only be celebrated on one day? Spread the joy! I have no doubt made Thanksgiving dinner on other days of the year. It is great practice. If you perfect one or two things this time around, can you bring those dishes as a “gift” to the hostess?? That way you will at least know there will be one or two dishes you like and you will look good for potential future mom-in-law??


17 Kristin November 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm

What a great idea. Who made up the rule that you can only have Thanksgiving flavors on Thanksgiving? Or only green beer on St. Patrick’s Day?


18 ursula November 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Having a fake holiday is such a great idea! I never thought of that before…


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