10 Tips on Making Your Thanksgiving Go Smoothly (We're Not Talking Food Here)

Categories: Random Ephemera

Ben Franske via Wikipedia
Thanksgiving is perhaps the most counter-intuitive holiday in existence. The premise is simple; you and your closest family and friends get together and have a meal. Couldn't be simpler, right? However, in practice you run up against a hoard of tiny little frictions that collectively (And hopefully metaphorically) threaten to turn the whole evening into a blazing failure.

It's really not as hard as you think to make a dinner run smoothly, though, and today I thought I'd help you prep.

10. Initiate Constant Communication: Email and Facebook are wonderful things because they allow mass, recorded communication at the leisure of the respondent. Use this to your advantage. Finalize who all is coming, what will be on the menu, what time to be there, and any other basic information at least two weeks in advance, and encourage everyone to reply all with any questions or comments. The more that people know what to expect the less they will feel gypped when those expectations are not met.

9. Institute a No-Politics Rule: Maybe you come from a family of united liberals or conservatives with no dissenting voices. If so, you may skip this step. In reality, families are made up of all kinds of different viewpoints, and the atmosphere regarding political differences has been more noxious than your uncle's broccoli farts. When you send your email described above, I encourage you to remind your guests that while the Pilgrims and the Native Americans did sit down to give thanks at a feast, Thanksgiving as we know it grew out of an attempt to stop the Civil War by bringing families divided by issues together as one. There's a moral in that.

8. Assume That Your Tastes/Allergies Will Not Be Catered To: One of the reasons letting people know exactly what is going to be on the menu is a good idea is because people who have limitations like vegetarianism and food allergies can plan accordingly. Just because they may not want the prime rib doesn't mean that they don't want to see their Nana and visit family, but it does mean that they should probably have a big lunch and fill up on pie rather than sit and starve while others munch on obliviously.

If you have a serious food allergy, though, you should definitely let the host know. There is no breach of etiquette worth a trip to the emergency room because of anaphylaxis.

7. Leave Your Kids Alone: I've touched on this before regarding Christmas, but we way overstimulate our kids on the holidays. We dress them up and make them talk to people they see rarely, then make them sit down and eat food they almost never eat. If you have a house full of kids, just assign the most laid-back adult to keep an eye on them and make sure they don't kill each other, and then let them run around and play until it's time for dinner. There will be plenty of time to catch up with grandma after they've worked off their social anxiety with a little exercise and input on their level.

See also: Some Advice You'll Forget By Next Christmas

6. Plan on Being Flexible About the Television: Football and Thanksgiving are almost synonymous, but if you don't get to watch the game of your choice then it's not the end of the world. As far as I can tell there are approximately 500 different football games in the fall, and you can afford to miss one if it keeps a tribe of toddlers quiet watching Yo Gabba Gabba. That's what DVR is for.

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MadMac topcommenter

Good stuff, Mr. F. Even if you've known peeps your entire life they can surprise you. Even if #9 is not instituted, it's a great way to extricate yourself from political "discussion," before it turns into a knock-down-drag-out.

I also love #2. There is a use for those plastic go-boxes with fitted lids; this is it.

I would humbly suggest a #11--it's okay to beg off. My Mrs.' family is 1st class and I LOVE going to PAT for turkey day. My peeps? Gee, really, no. I went once. When I was eight. From that year on, I'd rather--and did--spend turkey day with my hard-drinking-football-obsessed father than Mutha' McClellan's peeps. Cough--cra-cra--cough.


Excellent advice Jef.  My wife and I started a tradition that we will attend thanksgiving with one of our two families each year, but that later during the holiday, we make our own personal thanksgiving.  I cook a turkey breast, we make stuffing, potatos, green bean casserol, etc. the way WE like them.  Plus, extra thanksgiving!

MadMac topcommenter

Bonus! And I'm stealing this. Just so's you know.


It is a great idea, and it is our own family tradition (as a new family). 

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