Do This, Not That: Thanksgiving Do's and Don't's for the Holiday Guest

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Being something of a professional Thanksgiving guest -- we live too far away to host any family get-togethers, and frequently travel during the holidays -- I have seen some heinous holiday behavior over the years.

You would think being a good guest, especially as an adult, would be second nature, but for whatever reason, adults still seem to have trouble being gracious guests. Do you think things like removing your shoes, bringing a gift, and offering to help are common sense? Yeah, me too -- but plenty of people don't.

To save this Horrible Holiday Guest from their own behavior this Thanksgiving, I have compiled a list of Thanksgiving guest do's and don't's to help him or her to navigate the perilous world of dining in someone else's home.

Do: Bring Something

First, offer to bring something -- a side dish, a couple of bottles of wine, or a dessert. If your host(ess) rebuffs your offer, bring something anyway! Showing up empty-handed is against the law. I called 911 and checked.

A bottle of wine is my favorite go-to, particularly if the host or hostess says there is plenty of food and seems anxious for you not to bring any more. If you aren't brilliant at pairing food and wine, or you don't know the exact menu, go with champagne.

Don't: Bring Your Dog (Without Asking)

Even dog-friendly homes can be overwhelmed when four-legged friends come along for Thanksgiving dinner. When I lived in Fairbanks -- a very dog-friendly place -- holidays were often cramped when every person showed up, and brought their dog. And you can't just let dogs outside when it's -40, or when there is no fence to keep them close, so don't just show up with Fido and expect a warm reception.

Therefore, if you can leave your dog at home (and as a dog owner, I don't see why you can't), do so. If your hosts invite you to bring Pooch along, by all means feel free, but I hesitate to advise asking if it's okay. Just like on a wedding invitation, the names of all the guests should be included in the original invite. If no one mentions your dog, you shouldn't either.

Do: Be On Time

"Be on time" doesn't just mean "don't be late" -- it also means don't be early! Unless you are asked to come early and help with the prep, your hosts probably do not want you to come and hang out and yammer on about your job, new girlfriend, old boss, or whatever while they cook, clean, and prep the house for their other guests.

Don't: Linger For Hours

I'm not saying you should jump up and run out the door after you slam down the pumpkin pie, but if you look around and you're the last one standing -- and have been for awhile -- it might be time to thank your hosts and politely take your leave.

Do: Dress For the Occasion

No need for a tux or a ball gown, unless you're going to an actual gala, but how about upping the oomph for the holiday? Slouching around a party in sweats, even a party in which football watching and gorging on food is a central theme, is bad form for a guest. Could everyone look nice, just this once?

Don't: Forget Slippers

I have long been in the habit of bringing slippers with me when I visit another home, though perhaps in warm-weather Houston this step is unnecessary. Remember, I come from lands of cold and snow, where removing shoes when entering a home is required for at least six months out of the year; if you've ever stepped in melted snow in just your socks, you're feeling me right now.

I'm keeping this one in, but I suspect a few more years in Houston might break me of this habit. What say you, Houstonians?

Do: Eat Your Peas ... and Anything Else You Are Offered
If you see something on the table you don't like, and no one offers it, don't worry about it. But if your host makes a big deal out of Aunt Edna's Famous Cranberry Sauce while spooning it onto your plate, but cranberries aren't your thing, just taste it politely and move on. Unless you're allergic, and then of course you get a pass.

Don't: Be A Pig

Whatever is on the table that you love? Someone else probably loves it, too. Take reasonable portions and wait until everyone has had a serving before going in for seconds. Don't reach across the table, or shout at the person serving the turkey to "save you" your favorite portion of the bird.

How about you, readers? Any holiday guest pet peeves you would like to share?



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8 comments
Christine Ha
Christine Ha

Great post. Being Asian, I especially dig the "shoes off" tip. Go along with what's culturally acceptable, i.e. take your shoes off upon entering an Asian home unless the host[ess] says otherwise. Oh, and don't forget "Don't over drink." But if you do, "Don't clog the sink with your throw-up."

trisch
trisch

I agree. Growing up, we always took our shoes off when visiting other Asian families, but I just assumed it was a custom maintained by my parents' generation. Totally caught me by surprise when I went to a housewarming for a friend's new townhouse -- there I was all dolled up in my new boots, and I had to take them off at the door and wander around all evening in my holey socks. Oops! Now, I've moved to China, and it's the standard expectation here. Except at my house, where hubby has already decreed that shoes are welcome since he doesn't intend to take his off when entering either. Our poor housekeeper is aghast and will likely be following him around with a vacuum cleaner.

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

Slippers.  Never seen that.  Not once.

CMN
CMN

Nor have I, and I'm from Indiana.  Never been asked to leave my shoes at the door either.  Maybe I'm bred from heathens.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I am going to make my first trip to Indiana this week. And I will assuredly leave my shoes at the door! (Slippers already packed!)

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Like I said, this may be a totally cold weather thing. I don't like to walk around barefoot, and I don't like to assume I can keep my shoes on in someone else's home.

When I visit AK or NY I still BRING slippers for visiting friends. I also used to bring water everywhere in AK, b/c many of our friends lived in dry cabins. But I knew that one wouldn't apply here ;-)

Hbeard85
Hbeard85

Can I please add: DO NOT check your cell phone constantly. Leave it in your purse, car, ect. Turn it off, please? This is a time with family, friends and loved ones. Don't be a social-jerk by txting/tweeting/facebooking at the table.

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