The Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner Guest Slideshow
November 16, 2011
1. Share Your Dietary Needs Well in Advance
Don’t announce that you are a vegetarian or will only eat free-range, organic turkey just as the carefully roasted, larger-than-life bird is about to be carved. Let your host know as soon as you send your RSVP — or at the very least, the day before.
2. Make Room for Family Favorites
Even if they aren't your favorites, they are likely dishes that have been made at Thanksgiving for decades and are beloved by some guests (even if they make your skin crawl, or are from a can). Family holidays are more about tradition than a perfect spread... even when the tradition is Aunt Betty's famous Green Bean Surprise. Yes, even then.
Still have an issue? See the next slide.
3. Keep Your Dish Dislikes to Yourself
When Aunt Betty's Green Bean Surprise makes its way to the table, don’t announce to everyone how much you hate it. Just because you're related doesn't mean you can, or should, totally let your hair down and allow anything and everything to come out of your mouth. Kindness and discretion is always welcome at any table, even when it's family.
4. Remember Your Manners
Manners still count, even around family. The word manners comes from the Latin root of the word manus, meaning "of the hand." The actions we choose to use when handling those around us, even family, can make or break a gathering. So when you sit down this year, remember to keep your elbows off the table, use the utensils that have been set, and take your teeth-picking to the restroom.
5. Be on Time
Don’t arrive late and leave early. Although it's not usually your intention, any time you arrive late or leave early, it communicates arrogance and is akin to saying, “What I have going on is more important than this."
The only exception is if you've arranged your timing well in advance with your host, and they can plan accordingly. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed and savored, something that's hard to do when you've barely taken your coat off before putting it back on again.
Don’t Arrive to the Table Drunk
It happens, especially when the elephant in the room joins the festivities. Pace yourself, and save the drinking for after dinner has been served (assuming you’re not driving).
7. Offer to Lend a Hand
Yes, the tryptophan will kick in at some point and a cozy couch might beckon, but as my mother always said, "Many hands make light work," and even Grandma would like to put her feet up and relax. So ask what you can do and stick around until the last dish is loaded and Grandma's apron has been taken off.
8. Be Smart When Assigning Seating
Just because you don’t like your sister-in-law, and she’s closer in age to your daughter than you, doesn’t mean she has to sit with the teenagers, college kids, and the moms of small children at the kiddie table.
For big family gatherings, if everyone can't fit around the table, begin with this: Keep the parents together and the kids together — or if there is an seven-year-gap between cousins, let the 20-year-olds join the “big kids” table. Then sit the 13-and-unders together.
9. Stay Calm When Cooking
When prepping a holiday meal, more often than not, something horrible is bound to happen if you’re not calm and prepared. Don’t panic if the turkey burns, dries out, or falls on the floor. It happens, and besides, most of us don't really care for turkey anyway. All we want is to finally sit down and enjoy the bounty of side dishes and pies before we pass out from hunger.
10. Resist the Couch’s Call
Don’t fall asleep after dinner, especially if you’re the host. Booze, turkey, a long day getting ready, and celebrating can be exhausting, so reach for a cup of coffee, go on a long walk, or lead a family game to keep you awake and festive all day long.