Cooking a special holiday meal is not a "fly by the seat of your pants" type of undertaking. Forethought and simple, but important planning are paramount. Using this "less-stress" timeline (see what we did there? "less-stress," not "stress-less," because let’s face it: A completely stress-free holiday dinner is impossible) will make conquering the culinary shindig manageable, maybe even memorable. Some dishes can be prepared up to a week ahead of time, others within days of the meal, leaving very few recipes needing intensive attention the day of your gathering. You will have more time to visit with friends and family … which, for some of us, is the most stressful aspect of the holiday meal.