The best part of Thanksgiving — besides, of course, the food — is the opportunity to get together for some quality time with family and friends. It’s important to know how to behave yourself this holiday season, especially if you’re being graciously invited as a guest to someone else’s home. Most of the tricks to being the best party guest ever amount to basic human decency, but there are also some lesser-known etiquette rules that you may not realize you’re at risk of breaking.
Thanksgiving travel is tough enough, but trying to make last-minute plans is even more difficult — for everyone involved. If you’re invited to someone’s home for the holiday, it’s important to RSVP as soon as possible. Thanksgiving is a meal, after all, so your host needs to know how much turkey to buy and how many table settings they’ll need. RSVPing at the last minute or showing up without letting your host know at all is a major faux pas.
When you do RSVP, be sure to share any dietary restrictions or allergies you may have with your host. If you’re vegetarian, allergic to gluten or on a special diet, let your host know. Traditional Thanksgiving dishes are full of allergens, so this knowledge helps your host prepare some dishes you can enjoy and protects you from getting sick.
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It’s terrible party-guest etiquette to show up empty-handed. Bring along a small seasonal gift, such as a wreath, candle or a festive bottle of wine to serve with dinner. A little token of appreciation can go a long way.
Respect your host and everyone else’s time by being there when you say will be. If your host asks you to arrive at 5 p.m., make it your business to be there around 5 p.m. If you show up at 4, they may still be in the middle of tidying up the house and cooking dinner. If you get there at 6:30, you may delay the meal for others.
The only thing worse than arriving empty-handed or arriving late is arriving with a surprise someone. Even if you’re smitten with your brand-new significant other or feel bad for your co-worker who plans on spending Thanksgiving alone, it’s important to clear any additional guests with your host before you show up. If your host declines, you should accept their answer graciously and not make a fuss.
If your host didn’t ask you to bring anything (or even if they did), you should still be sure to offer to assist them in the kitchen. You can do something as small as setting a timer or gathering ingredients, or you could offer to set the table or run out to the store for last-minute items.
If you are helping out your host in the kitchen, that doesn’t mean you should act as a backseat chef. Don’t criticize their knife skills or start salting the stuffing without being asked, and definitely don’t touch the turkey unless you’re told. Give your host space and let them lead in the kitchen.
From parades to dog shows to football, there is a lot of special programming for this holiday. Don’t change the channel without asking your fellow guests first, and definitely don’t override everyone and turn on the game when your family wants to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special.
The television isn’t the only thing you shouldn’t dominate on Thanksgiving. Conversation should be kept light, flowing and equal among guests. While we’re sure you’re very fascinating, other guests deserve a chance to speak their mind too. Making small talk like a pro is a learned skill, and it’s definitely one you should work at and practice during the holidays.
Thanksgiving may seem like it’s all about overindulgence. You’re encouraged to stuff your face and fill your belly with delicious wines and pumpkin beers. However, you should really try to refrain from getting drunk on Thanksgiving, especially when you’re in mixed company.
Thanksgiving can be … a lot. You’ll likely end up sharing the table with all kinds of people, but no matter what you do, it’s important that you don’t start unnecessary drama or family fights. Avoid sensitive or divisive topics, don’t bring up past family scandals and dismiss any snide remarks with firm boundaries by walking away.
It can be tempting to head home right after dinner to get some sleep or go out to the mall and get a head start on holiday shopping. It’s super rude to just get up and jet, however, as it will make it seem as though you only showed up for the free food and don’t care for the company.
Just because you should stay and enjoy the party for a while doesn’t mean you’re in the clear to stay for as long as you want. If coffee has been served and your welcoming host is starting to look a bit sleepy, that means it’s time to head out.
No holiday season is complete without a delicious leftover sandwich, but that doesn’t mean all of that green bean casserole and stuffing that’s left is fair game. A gracious host will offer you some of their leftovers, so don’t just grab a bowl of sweet potatoes and head out the door. Wait to be offered or ask if it’s OK first if your host makes the mistake of not offering on their own.
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