Holidays traditions are changing, but these rules aren't.

By Christine Coppa
October 16, 2019
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Thanksgiving is a wonderful day when family and friends come together to enjoy delicious turkey, savory trimmings, like candied yams, and pie galore! But if you're wondering if this behavior or that custom is acceptable — or even expected of you — we're here to help. Whether you're hosting your own Turkey Day feast, dining at your in-laws' house, or enjoying a potluck Friendsgiving, here's how to be a calm and cool host and gracious guest on November 28.

Photo: filadendron/Getty Images

1. Don't come empty-handed.

The host may say, "Just bring yourself," but be a good guest and arrive with something in hand. Maryanne Parker, founder of Manor Of Manners, tells Allrecipes a bottle of bubbly is the perfect way to get the meal started.

"Chilled champagne can be served for toasting the host," she says. "If you bring wine, it might not pair with the food on the menu; this might be perceived as intrusive."

Parker says if you're not invited to a "potluck" style Thanksgiving, don't make a homemade dish that needs to be heated in the oven (that's likely maxed out).

"Bring something purchased from the store, with all of the ingredients included on the label." A fresh bouquet of seasonal flowers or potted herb for the hostess shows gratitude for opening up their home. A loaf of sliced artisan bread, Dijon mustard, or jam and cheese for those leftover turkey sandwiches is a nice treat, too.

2. Don't talk politics.

This year, of all years, there is no shortage of political banter to engage in. But do yourself a favor: pass the pie and don't discuss the impeachment inquiry or who you're voting for in 2020.

"If you meet someone and discover you strongly disagree on issues of politics, religion, or any other subject, don't let yourself be dragged into a debate," Maralee McKee noted on her website, MannersMentor.com.

Instead, she recommends biting your tongue or even excusing yourself if you have to: "You don't have to pretend you agree, but you can change the subject."

The Manners Mentor says to try this: "I enjoy talking politics, but today I'm focusing on getting to know everyone's stories. What's your best Thanksgiving memory from childhood?"

On that same note, Thanksgiving isn't the time to talk about an estranged relative in jail, a kid's not so great report card, or the time Uncle Joe got so drunk he fell into the dessert table. Keep the conversation light!

3. Do help with clean-up.

There's never too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to cleaning up after a big meal. McKee says it's fine to ask guests to pitch in.

"In fact, it gives them something to do, and they get to spend time with you," she says. "Thanksgiving is a communal meal. … It's not meant to be a one-woman or one-man show."

Big kids can haul trash bags outside, too. Now that you've pitched in, don't overstay your welcome — your host is tired.

4. Do alert the host to dietary restrictions.

Guests with food allergies or preferences need to make them known in advance. Your Thanksgiving host isn't a short-order cook and likely won't be able to create dishes without meat, eggs, nuts, dairy, or other specific allergens on last-minute notice.

"A guest with food allergies can bring a dish that is challenging for the host to prepare safely for them," Gina Clowes of AllergyMoms.com tells Allrecipes. She says the host should welcome the idea, in fact, and encourage that they bring enough for everyone to try.

This takes the heat off the chef, who would have to worry about not just an allergen-free dish, but cross contamination, too. Another fail-safe: "Keep ingredient labels on hand," advises Clowes.

Hosts, don't ditch classic green beans almondine casserole. Do have a steam-in-bag portion of green beans in the freezer you can easily pop in the microwave as a safe option. Dairy in your mashed potatoes? Throw a few taters wrapped in foil in the oven so guests can enjoy the baked version. Grab a bag of gluten-free rolls in the freezer section. Encourage friends who dislike meat to bring a Tofu Turkey or a hearty veggie dish like eggplant parmesan to complement the traditional veggies.

"Also, don't dress the salad and make use of that gravy boat — dressings, dips and garnishes that may present a problem for family and friends with allergies can be served on the side," Clowes says.