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Thanksgiving Dinner Etiquette 101

Updated on December 29, 2011
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing online for over eight years. She covers a wide variety of topics—anything from hamsters to office work.

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!


Submit a Comment
  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thank you for your comment. Happy Holidays to you!

  • chrlswlkr99 profile image

    Charles Ray Walker Sr. 

    8 years ago from Laurel Mississippi 39443

    Hello And Happy Holiday To Everyone.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I am glad you feel better about your decision based on this hub. As far as the tupperware goes, yes, it is a good idea to keep it in the car. You don't want to be too obvious. :-)

    Thanks for reading and for the comment!

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    9 years ago from USA

    This is great - I feel better about not inviting a coworker to Thanksgiving several years ago. I'm not sure I agree with the Tupperware though - it is easier to provide our own than to make the hostess find enough for everyone, and hope that you return it. Maybe if I kept it in the car ...

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I understand... those yams can be a problem. I am all about helping one person at a time. I am glad I can assist you. Thanks for reading and for your efforts on becoming a better person with excellent etiquette.

  • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


    9 years ago from Reno, Nevada


    I am actually guilty of two of these offenses. I will say...the one food fight I started was between me...and a slippery one else was involved.

    Perhaps by the end of the holiday will have made me into a fresher Thought Sandwich (what with) your learned knowledge on etiquette and such.. I thank you in advance for your efforts and awesome Hubs.


  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thank you for the comment. Actually, the system for advertising and revenue can be a bit more complicated than that. But thank you for trying!

  • pinktulipfairie profile image


    9 years ago from Torrey Pines Beach

    SO I AM not sure but I might havejust made you a little money. I AM POOR.One thing about not having my girls is no more broken knitting needles. Point being if I understand if I click on an advertiser on your blogand buy something you getsome small amount. Correct. If so I just replaced said needle from your blog.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Sorry this hub made you hungry. I am glad you got a good laugh though. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!

  • pinktulipfairie profile image


    9 years ago from Torrey Pines Beach

    OMG by the way I was so laughing my butt off.

  • pinktulipfairie profile image


    9 years ago from Torrey Pines Beach

    Are you trying to make me hungry. I know who's house I want to be at for Thanksgiving.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Wow, your Uncle Rich sounds really special. I can't really say anything about bringing the food to the host's house and cooking it because I've been known to do that myself. I guess I need to work on that one! Haha. Thanks for reading and for the comment!

  • James Halpin profile image

    James Halpin 

    9 years ago from York, Pennsylvania

    Love it! I was laughing so much because I was seeing my Uncle Rich in most of this Hub. In his honor Iwould like to add you don't bring something and cook it at the host's house. They have enogh to do then worry about if there is room on the stove for you toboil the potatoes!

    He has done this several times. Also he's famous for bringing random women as dates. One lady he brought hehad only known for two weeks. There is 75 of us in our family. That poor woman was so over-whelmmed we never saw her again.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Hahaha... that is true. Thanksgiving is the wrong time to pick on the kids in front of Grandma. Holidays can be such a pain sometimes. Thanks for the comment and the votes!

  • Stephanie Henkel profile image

    Stephanie Henkel 

    9 years ago from USA

    Love the hub - I know a few people, who shall remain nameless, who should have read this years ago,haha...

    Also, parents, don't take the opportunity to embarrass your kids in front of Granny - no picking about getting a job, failing math or having a slutty girlfriend, please! Grandma (that's me) hates that!

    You're always fun, Jeannie! Voted up, useful, funny...

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Wow! I walked away from the computer for about 2 hours and I came back to 6 comments. Thanks, everyone! I am glad everyone enjoyed this hub. I am also glad so many people agree with me and find it useful in some way. Thanks to all of you for reading and for posting comments.

  • ktrapp profile image

    Kristin Trapp 

    9 years ago from Illinois

    This is funny, sad, and oh-so-true, all rolled into one great hub. I have heard or witnessed each of these etiquette faux pas either at Thanksgiving dinners or other dinner get-togethers. This is very timely advice - voting up and very, very useful.

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 

    9 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Awesome guide with some very valid points! Wearing pants with an elastic waist helps also for those who tend to overeat. Voted UP!

  • applecsmith profile image

    Carrie Smith 

    9 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    This is a great guide! I especially love the part about not confronting people at the dinner table. This is such a true point! And everyone needs to bring food to the dinner, no more freeloaders. :)

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Fabulous and timely hub! :) Bravo! So glad you put this out there! :) Good stuff--great hub--um, guess I'd better stop there, but...HOORAY for you! :)

    Voted up and all the others!

  • DeborahNeyens profile image

    Deborah Neyens 

    9 years ago from Iowa

    Great hub! Love your point about the drama-free zone. The Thanksgiving dinner table also is not the place to discuss politics or religion. : )

  • Cloverleaf profile image


    9 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

    Hi Jeannie, thanks for sharing these thanksgiving etiquette tips! We've already had our Canadian Thanksgiving but I'll be sure to pass your guide onto others in anticipation of the many thanksgiving dinners to be enjoyed on November 24th :) Voted up.


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