In our increasingly casual society, it’s easy to forego table manners. Who cares where your napkin sits when you’re eating macaroni and cheese on the couch while watching Chopped? But if there’s one meal at which your table etiquette actually matters, it’s Thanksgiving dinner. While not a formal meal per se, the effort of roasting a turkey, chopping up countless onions and celery for stuffing, and baking the perfect pumpkin pie demands a little respect… or at least eating at the table.
So maybe you’re a little out of practice when it comes to basic table manners and etiquette. You’re not sure what the rules are regarding passing food (move the dishes to the right) or how to dress (nicely). But worry not, ye of little table etiquette. We have you covered with these 15 things you should never do at the Thanksgiving table and how to conduct yourself at an oftentimes stressful family gathering.
You may have a friend who doesn’t have anywhere else to go on Thanksgiving, but before you just show up with a random person, clear it up with your host. A plus-one on a holiday could mean too little food, too little space, and a lot of awkward interactions.
We understand. We get bloated and lethargic after Thanksgiving dinner too. But don’t show up to dinner in sweatpants. You don’t need to dress to the nines, but you should put in a little effort.
Your host just might have a seating plan; you never know how much detail they put into their Thanksgiving dinner plans. Before you just grab a seat at the head of the table, ask your host if they care where you plant your plate.
Texting and taking calls during dinner is an all-too-common table etiquette mistake, but seriously: Refrain. Thanksgiving is a special occasion. Turn your phone on silent (or at least vibrate) and focus on the people you’re actually eating dinner with.
This habit will seriously gross your dining partners out. Instead of trying to cool down something that you feel is too hot with your own breath, just eat another side dish while your scorching hot food cools down naturally.
Listen, we know that spending time with a lot of family can be difficult. But when you have a few glasses (or bottles) of wine or some particularly potent Christmas ales, you never know what you’ll say. So watch your alcohol intake.
The rules of napkin etiquette are kind of tricky. Once everyone is seated at the table and before you start eating, place your napkin in your lap. If you need to get up to use the restroom or grab another glass of wine from the kitchen, place your napkin on your chair.
It may seem like a small etiquette mistake, but it’s sort of a big deal. Think of salt and pepper as an inseparable married couple. They belong together and should always be passed as a set.
If you want more gravy for your turkey (understandable!), don’t reach over other diner’s plates. Instead, ask for someone to pass you the desired dish. And if you’re the one doing the passing, pass to the right.
Don’t add salt or pepper to your mashed potatoes and gravy before you take a bite. It’s an insult to the chef. Try at least one little taste before you season your meal. You don’t want to ruin anything by adding too much salt, after all.
Maybe it goes without saying, but don’t literally stuff your face at Thanksgiving. The Brussels sprouts aren’t going anywhere. Take your time, enjoy your company, and enjoy your food… slowly.
Sit up straight. Not only will you look more refined at the table, but sitting up straight aids with digestion, so you’ll have more room for dessert.
The stuffing and cranberries look beautiful on your plate. They look less appealing in your mouth. Even if you’re just bursting at the seams to cut in to the conversation, wait until you’ve swallowed your bite. While you’re at it, don’t speak with a utensil in your hand either. Waving around your fork or knife when talking to another person is rude and kind of scary-looking.
Things are a little… divisive these days. Don’t bring up your feelings about the president, activism, or the Second Amendment at the Thanksgiving table. Trust us, things will go a lot smoother. While we’re at it, maybe don’t discuss money, sex, family scandals, or these other 12 things.