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Thanksgiving Dinner Etiquette 101

Updated on December 29, 2011
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Jeannie has been writing online for over 10 years. She covers a wide variety of topics - hobbies, opinions, dating advice, and more!

The Big Day

For those of you that live in the U.S., you know every year on the fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day. For those of you not living in the U.S., perhaps you just learned something new. Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together and give thanks. For some reason, this is also a time to slaughter numerous turkeys, but let's not dwell on that.

Each year, many families get together and sit around the table for what should be a lovely meal. Each year, some families actually do that and enjoy their Thanksgiving. Then there are other families. There are some families that see Thanksgiving Day as a day to pick fights or grab some free food. No, this is really not in the spirit of Thanksgiving. So before you anger your relatives this year, let's explore some simple rules of Thanksgiving Dinner Etiquette.

Bring a Dish

If you are going to a nice family meal on Thanksgiving and everyone is encouraged to bring a dish, then bring some food! Most families are not going to be nasty about it, but in general, no one likes a freeloader. If you are down on your luck, most folks can look past you skipping a year when bringing food. However, if you do it every year, people are angry at you. Do you notice glares when you sit down at the table? It is because you are cheap.

Maybe you can't afford to bring a lot. Perhaps you are a bad cook. Well, guess what? The last time I checked, even the dollar store sells cans of cranberry sauce. Pick up a couple of cans before you make it to the meal, you stingy creep. Everyone is going to give you the evil eye. If looks could kill, you'd be choking on the stuffing (which coincidentally, you also did not provide). So bring a dish!

If possible, coordinate with everyone attending the dinner. That way, you don't end up with 4 bowls full of candied sweet potatoes. However, if you do end up with 4 bowls of candied sweet potatoes, feel free to give me a call. I can take some of that off your hands. I will show up with the cans of cranberry sauce.

Don't Be Greedy

Please do not show up at your family's house with bowls of tupperware containers in a bag just waiting to take all the leftovers. I don't care if you did bring the ham. No one likes a greedy eater.

When the meal is ready, make sure everyone gets a chance to get a full plate of food, too. Don't go back for seconds before some people even get their first plate of food. No one likes a piggy eater. Not only will you earn a bad reputation, you may not get invited back next year. So keep the tuperware at home and don't be too selfish.

The Dinner Table is a Drama Free Zone

No one cares about the time Cousin Larry forgot to pay you that $20 back in 1983. Also, no one wants to hear about how your brother got the better bike at Christmas in 1972. Furthermore, Fred and Sue have been divorced for 11 years! Stop talking about her as if she is still in the family when Fred's new wife is at the table.

Seriously, Thanksgiving dinner is NOT the time to air past grievances. Just because everyone is sitting at the table does not mean it is time to start confronting people. Your family members are not a captive audience and stop treating them that way. As far as the drama goes, no one cares! If you want to prevent a flying turkey leg from hitting you in the head, just keep your resentments to yourself, at least for one day.

Mystery Guests = Awkward Dinner

There are just some people that round up folks and bring them to Thanksgiving dinner without warning. OK, that is real nice and all, but no one knows who Harvey is and, quite frankly, he is creeping everyone out. It is sweet to care about others during the holidays. However, you have to keep your family members in mind, too.

Don't go around town looking for hungry people and then bring them to the family Thanksgiving dinner. If it were your home, you can do whatever you want. When going to someone else's home, you simply cannot. It is bad enough we have to tolerate relatives that are rude or annoying. Now, there is some dude at the table no one really knows and it is awkward to say the least.

Don't Be Disgusting

During the Thanksgiving meal, try to remain on your best behavior. You can burp and pass gas as much as you want at your own home, but while at the Thanksgiving dinner, pretend you have some manners. This means:

  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Don't talk with food in your mouth.
  • Don't slurp.
  • Keep the burping at a minimum.
  • Don't steal food from someone else's plate.
  • Do not throw food or start a food fight.
  • Try to avoid overeating.
  • Keep your pants buttoned and zipped at all times!

If you follow all of these simple rules, you are on your way to becoming the best Thanksgiving dinner guest ever. Surely, you will even get invited back next year. Try to keep in mind, Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, and surely it cannot be that difficult to eat a polite dinner with your family for just that one time. Happy Thanksgiving!


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