1. First and foremost, shift your mindset and your thinking about holidays. You have to get beyond the idea that a holiday has to happen on the actual traditional date of the holiday. Who says Thanksgiving has to be on the fourth Thursday of November? So much of the ambiance of the holidays is in the spirit of being together and celebrating the intent of that holiday or holidays. And, it can be done on different dates. Does Halloween have to be in October? Can we shift birthdays to new months for the sake of The Big Squeeze? Yes, some of these holidays are religiously deep and entrenched and you can still celebrate on those dates but with new traditions.
2. Select a date for your Big Squeeze well in advance. Get everyone’s consensus. Have them commit. Luckily, we all seem to have the first or second weekends of December open, so one of those two dates are locked in.
3. Plan a long weekend, Friday to Sunday. Some may come in on Thursday evening. Others hopefully will arrive Friday at some time. It all depends on work schedules, travel and each person/family’s life.
4. Decide what you’re going to "squeeze" into those days. For us it was Thanksgiving, Christmas with a Chinese gift exchange, Santa for the little ones and the Fall/December birthdays. Use a cool theme for the Chinese gift exchange. I sent out famous movie quotes, like "Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” to each person coming and their gift was their interpretation of this quote. Believe me, no one wanted the Norseman’s bone drinking cup to be worn around one’s neck (yes, complete with a very long straw!) thereby freeing one’s hands for other things!
5. Create an agenda for the weekend. Packing it all in. The Chinese Gift Exchange had a spending limit of $25 bucks. Names were exchanged in advance amongst adults ($100 buck limit) for one nice gift. Santa Claus came for the little ones. Three birthdays were celebrated. There was a big Griswold-like holiday outdoor event we all went to complete with tacky sweaters, Rudolph noses and more. Cocktails started at 5 on those two evenings. There was always an array of finger foods and munchies on a big table spread. Dinner, buffet style, graced two evenings. Yes, it was jammed packed but everyone was ready and knew what to expect.
6. Send out the agenda in advance. Let everyone know so they can get their heads wrapped around the times, demands, know what to pack and more. I included general times for meals, gift exchanges, the "celebration" of Santa, and more. Remember, time is precious and you want to "squeeze" in everything leaving little to chance.
7. Have a master planner for the event. I dub this person "The Big Cheese" for "The Big Squeeze!" With my family, it was me. We were the hosting home(s) and we did the planning and preparation of the menu. Of course, everyone pitches in and helps once they get there, but the advance work is done by the host(s). Since we hosted the event at our home, I did all of the meal planning and pre-work. Yes, it takes some effort and energy, but with advance prep, everything runs smoothly. Buffet style is best. Big pots of soup or stews. Things you can make in advance and warm up are great. Once everyone fills their plates and bowls, then they find their places at the table or tables, including card tables, coffee tables and more!
8. Arrange all lodging. Have welcome gifts. Doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. Just something that says "Thanks for making this happen + coming the distance!" Make a big sign for the front door from poster board: Welcome to The Big Squeeze 2015! Things like this set the tone and mood.
9. Plan some games and family activities. Try to ban cell phones, extensive time on social media and other things that are distracting from the camaraderie of the about 72 hours of family being together—this may be the only time in an entire year it happens.
10. Have plenty of great food, treats, snacks, wine, libations and energy. You’ll be operating on overdrive. Notice that I didn’t say anything about decorating and stressing yourself out about this aspect of The Big Squeeze. It’s all about food, family getting together and making outrageous memories!