6 "Polite" Things You Do at Thanksgiving That Are Actually Rude

You may mean well, but here are the biggest etiquette mistakes you might be making at Thanksgiving.

people reaching for side dishes around thanksgiving table
Photo: Blaine Moats/Dotdash Meredith

Good manners go a long way. It's what my parents always told me, and that bit of advice has served me well. I'm the kind of person that brings a gift to the host and puts their napkin in their lap; I help in the kitchen and I do the dishes. Really, I think I'm an awesome guest. But after being "away from people" for a bit—you know, pandemic—my brain has failed me a bit when it comes to remembering my once-great manners. And I think I'm not the only one either.

So before the holidays get into full swing, let's set the record straight on these "polite" things you do that are actually quite rude. If you find yourself blushing while reading this list, it's okay—we're all in this together!

6 Etiquette Mistakes You Might Be Making at Thanksgiving

1. Bringing your own (large) leftover containers.

We get it, you want leftovers. But unless your host has suggested that you should bring your own containers for any extras, it's best to leave your Pyrex at home. Another option is to offer to cook and bring something (so nice of you!) and use that dish to bring home leftovers—if they're offered to you, of course.

2. Providing your expertise on the preparation of any food that the host is cooking.

You may as well be a gourmet chef, but unless your host asks for your input, it's best to keep your expertise to yourself. Instead, read the room, handle a task for them that doesn't require direction (hanging people's coats, for example), or offer to be the bartender. There's a reason the saying, "too many cooks in the kitchen," exists.

3. Bringing ingredients for a dish that the hosts ends up having to make.

You're bringing something delicious to share at the holiday gathering—that's awesome! But don't go patting yourself on the back quite yet if your dish still requires more work when you arrive.

Assume that the oven is full, the countertops are loaded, and the fridge is jam-packed! In other words, make your dish (fully!) before you come because there's no room, space, or time for you to do it when you get there. That is, unless you've cleared it with the host ahead of time.

4. Asking repeatedly if you can help.

Asking your host if they need help is a great idea. But asking them over and over again isn't necessary, it's just plain annoying. By asking (just once), you've made it clear that your services are available, if needed. Trust us, your host will call on you if they need you. And remember, 'no' means 'no', so there's no need to press for different answer.

5. Offering to help cook when you have limited cooking skills.

Not confident in the kitchen? Now isn't the time to hone your skills. By offering to help, you should be clear with your host about where your strengths and weaknesses lie in the kitchen.

For example, if they ask you to make the gravy and you've never done that, or if you're going to need some serious hand-holding throughout the process, ask for a different task. Our guess is that your host would prefer your help with the mundane tasks—like peeling potatoes and trimming green beans—anyway. Leave the fancy finessing to them!

6. Suggesting a change to the place settings to "keep the peace."

We know you don't want to sit next to Aunt Betty and listen to her stories about the bunion on her right foot or her most recent bus tour of Gatlinburg, but this move isn't going to score you points with your host. Suggesting rearranging the table settings isn't helping, it's just being fussy. It's just one meal, so just suck it up and roll with it.

Or, if the move doesn't involve you, but you're worried that World War III might start at the dining table, consider being proactive and swapping places with the potential instigator. Explain your reasoning to your host privately before you sit down to eat. If there are any questions about your motives, explain that you just needed to be closer to the gravy boat.

Bottom Line

We know that everyone's holiday looks different, and that opinions around what's acceptable and what's rude vary. Ultimately, you know your crew the best, so use that as your primary guide, then fill in the gaps with our kind suggestions above. After all, good manners will get you far in life!

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