For most people, the holidays are stressful for a myriad of reasons most of which have at least something to do with our expectations of what the holidays SHOULD look like. For Thanksgiving there is the Norman Rockwell, Martha Stewart, Gourmet Magazine (let's just pretend it's still around because I still can't quite admit it's gone), Food Network, HGTV glossy happy picture of the perfect holiday that begs to be mimicked.
There are lots of things you can do to relieve the stress: potluck, order certain parts of the meal, give assignments to family members, etc. But, the biggest stress reliever you can give yourself is literally letting go of the pictures in your mind of what it SHOULD be.
If you really have trouble letting go of the pictures, sit down with a stack of magazines and make a collage of what you think the perfect Thanksgiving should look. Don't take a long time with this -- just rip the pictures out and shove them onto a piece of paper or cardboard, glue them on sloppily...it's not about creating art it's about taking the picture out of your head and putting it into a 3 dimensional reality. You may get emotional, you may not. You may see very quickly the ridiculousness of it all. You may want to let it sink in for a few days.
When you are ready to let it go, and you have a safe place to do this -- maybe the backyard barbecue, you can burn it. Or bury it, or rip it up.
The point is that acknowledging that which you EXPECT is the first step to letting it go. The best way to go through the holidays is without expectations, letting it be what it is, and focusing on the love. What brings people together on the holidays -- even if you think it buried and dusty and unrecognizable -- is love. Drop the expectations and let the love carry you through because the pictures you create out of love are your very own. No one else on the planet has your exact pictures. They are real and rich. They aren't airbrushed and there aren't teams of people to support them: they just are what they are.
So, let the expectations go. Expect nothing -- even the negative stuff (overindulging, bickering, etc.) -- and you might have the biggest holiday surprise of your life and some very cool pictures.