Good manners at Thanksgiving should apply for everyone from guests to hosts
Thanksgiving is a time when families gather. It's also a time when guests who may not be familiar with family rituals may also be in attendance. They're venturing into the unknown and there is often no way for either side to be forewarned about the little quirks that are common - even among "normal" people.
If you're diving into a Thanksgiving in the arms of strangers or as a hostess are expecting some unknowns on your doorstep, here are a few tips to make this big day go more smoothly. No guarantees, of course, since we can't control Uncle Frank or the random unlikable "potentially significant other."
Many of these suggestions will apply to any family dinner or general gathering. They're in addition to all the general manners that should be minded.
If you're expecting an important call, warn the hostess - or your guests - ahead of time. Otherwise, turn off those phones.
Preferably, you want to be comfortably dressed to leave plenty of room for food. That does not mean sweat pants, unless you're hiding at home. Even then, that's pushing it.
For game lovers, this is also a very important day. As a host, be sure you're inviting enthusiasts or let them congregate in another room. Just be sure to mention it when extending invitations. If, as a hostess, you won't be turning on the TV, be sure to mention that, too. As a guest, you can simply say, oh, we don't want to miss the big game. And that should lead your hostess to clue you in.
As a guest don't overstay your welcome. If it's not clear as to when the day is supposed to wrap up, there will be plenty of non-verbal hints from the hostess. Don't wait for it to become verbal. As a hostess, it is up to you to be very clear about a stop and start. If it's going into the wee hours, say so. If not, explain you're having the dinner at such-and-such a time so everyone can get home in time for the "really big game."
For the Host:
Have plenty of extra utensils on hand. A guest is often mortified to have dropped something. Be sure to downplay it and whisk the offending new floor addition away.
Always have plenty of condiments at hand. Salt and pepper shakers should be readily within reach of most of your guests without too much "hand-to-hand" passing. In fact, if they must be passed, take both - even if one is requested - and set them beside the next guest. That person, in turn, will pass them to the requester. Do not stop to use them in between their original spot and the intended destination. No, no; not nice.
If kids are coming, ask any parents you know well to bring favorite games to keep them occupied. To be safe, tuck your most valuable breakables out of reach, if not completely out of sight.
Plan for extra guests. This is a day to be thankful and quite often, your family or invited guests may learn of an acquaintance who is spending it alone. Make sure a few extra places can always be squeezed in if necessary.
Be prepared with a hostess gift. This might mean a bottle of wine, which is almost always welcome. If you're not sure that the family in question imbibes, keep a nice gift candle on hand and present it in an attractive wrapping. At the very least, for a last-minute invitation, bring flowers in a basket or a vase.
If you're asked to bring a dish and are terribly useless in the kitchen, just stop at your local deli or bakery. You don't have to admit you're clueless to the hostess - that simply makes you look like a slacker.
If ice is getting low and you see the hostess whispering or gesturing frantically, offer to assist. You can offer to run any last-minute errands such as refills on ice, etc.
If you're bringing kids, find out if other youngsters are attending and offer to bring some games that will keep them out of trouble.
Respondez s'il vou plait as soon as possible. That means promptly - as soon as you're invited. Consult with your "other," if need be and then get right back to the host.
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