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Tips for a Happy Thanksgiving

We can’t offer you a turkey hotline, but here are some tips for guests and hosts to help make your Thanksgiving both happy and memorable.

As a Guest:

  • SL_tipsforahappy_WORSVP. Let your host know right away if you can come or not. If you received a "family" invitation, let him or her know how many of you can come. Don’t show up with uninvited guests. There is usually room for one more at Thanksgiving, but this is something you must discuss with your host ahead of time.
  • Offer to contribute to the meal – but don't dictate the menu. Your best bet is to make your offer open-ended and follow your host's direction. If you or your "party" have special dietary needs, it's very gracious to offer to bring a dish that meets those needs. "Jen is a vegetarian – I’d love to bring a dish for her if that's okay with you."
  • Dress appropriately. At the very least, clean and pressed. As a true sign of consideration, dress one notch up. Your hosts are probably going all out, and your attire can either say, "I appreciate the effort you are making for all of us," or "I thought you were ordering take out."
  • Arrive on time. Yes, it is a day of feasting, but that turkey is going to be done at some point and your hosts are trying to plan around that magic moment. If you arrive late, don’t expect anyone to wait for you.
  • Put your cell phone away at the dinner table. You can check texts and scores after the meal.
  • Avoid controversial or painful family subjects. This is a day to be together in a spirit of generosity and thankfulness for all you do have. Let it be so.
  • Offer to help with the clean-up. Family or non-family, this is one day where it is a great idea to pitch in.
  • Leave on time. If you are a houseguest, stick to the agreed begin and end times of your visit.

  • Say thank you. A phone call or, better yet, a hand-written note of thanks to your hosts shows your appreciation for all their hard work.

As a Host:

  • Extend the invitation at least a month in advance, longer for those who might be traveling. If out-of-town guests are staying with you, set a beginning and an end for the visit. Three days is usually the standard.
  • Be as accommodating as possible to 'extras.' "John and I would love to come, but our friend Tanya will be spending Thanksgiving alone – is it possible to include her?" If you have the room, of course they should bring Tanya! (Be creative – fit in as many as possible. This is the celebration that exemplifies the generous spirit!)
  • Have a flexible menu plan. Because Thanksgiving is a bit of a pot luck affair, be prepared to be "coordination central." Accept all offers for special diet accommodations – see 'Jen the vegetarian' above.
  • Review the guest list with everyone in your household. Cluing your immediate family in on who will be sharing Thanksgiving with you can help set the tone for the day. If little Joey greets Great-aunt Miriam with a big smile and a "Hi, Aunt Miriam," just imagine how welcome she will feel.
  • Assign tasks. Greeters, hors d’ouevres passers, 'bar tenders,' introducers,' servers – even though most guests may be family members, give them the red carpet treatment.
  • Take a tip from the airlines: serve and seat young children and the elderly first.
  • FHB – an acronym to be whispered to immediate family ONLY! FHB means "Family Hold Back." If there is a critical shortage of a critical food item, discretely whisper to family members, "FHB the dark meat." It's the secret signal that guests get first dibs on the dark meat. (Read more on FHB here.)
  • Turn off the TV during Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving has been around long before football or television. VCR or DVR, use that technology! Focus your attention where it belongs: on the lovingly prepared food, your family, and your friends. When the dishes are done, EVERYONE can enjoy the games (or the chat in the other room!)
  • Say thank you. Don't forget to thank everyone who participated in the planning, cooking and cleaning up.