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  • Writer's pictureMs. Loretta

Ms. Loretta, My Kinfolk Plus Thanksgiving Equals Disaster!

Dear Ms. Loretta

I’m hoping and praying for a drama-free Thanksgiving this year. Four generations of family plus our friends are coming to my mother’s house for dinner. It seems like all they come to do, sometimes, is to eat, drink, then talk about sensitive topics that ultimately lead to arguments instigated by two or three guests. Where is the thanks in all of that? The drama, while caused by a hand full of people, puts a damper on the whole occasion. Some guests don’t even contribute to the feast—no plates, no sodas, nothing. I just think that ain’t right. It’s a Thanksgiving gathering, shouldn’t we all contribute to creating a thankful atmosphere?


~I Want to Skip Thanksgiving~

Dear “I Want to Skip”,

Thanksgiving is a tradition shared by many families. It marks a special day to enjoy each other’s company and give thanks for all the good things in life. It’s a day where family chefs labor with love to present their best dishes for the enjoyment of everyone present. Many times, the menu consists of dishes handed down from generation to generation. If for no other reason, the investment of time, skills, and resources should encourage guests to give thanks that the best meats, produce, spices, and herbs are used to create mouth-watering dishes for their enjoyment. The continuation of family traditions, like celebrating Thanksgiving, is the glue that binds families and friends across time. Certainly, it is not an occasion to display drama, strife, disrespect, or ungratefulness. However, it is a good time to display proper etiquette and demonstrate manners.

#1 Demonstrate a Spirit of Cooperation

Usually, everyone knows, at least a month in advance, who is hosting Thanksgiving dinner. There may be extra guests who are invited at the last minute. As soon as the invitation is extended by the host, assume a spirit of cooperation.

Ask, “What do you want me to bring?” If the host says don’t worry about bringing anything, follow up with an offer of contributing items like liquid refreshments, napkins, or disposable dinnerware.

If the host says those items are already taken care of, leave it open for them to contact you should they desire for you to pick up something for the occasion.

However, don’t show up to the dinner (breakfast or brunch) empty handed. This advice is for all adults aged 18 or over and for last-minute guests too. Pick up a bouquet of flowers for the host (as long as the host isn’t allergic) or a special drink or a simple, inexpensive gift for the host to show your appreciation for the invitation and for their hosting the Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving, by definition, is a collaboration of guests with an invitation to not only attend but to also contribute to the feast.

#2 Arrive on Time

Whether it’s potluck, buffet, or a sit-down meal, the family chefs have timed the food to be served at a specific hour. Hors d'oeuvres (appetizers) may be served before dinner but usually the hosts will inform guests of the flow for the occasion. Avoid extreme tardiness unless it is unavoidable, like having to work.

#3 Dress for the Occasion

When you accept the invitation, ask if there is a preference for type of attire. If the host communicates there is a preference, follow it. If there is no preference, don’t take that as an opportunity to come dressed like you’ve been working in the yard all day or just rolled out of bed. Whether your style is casual, business formal, or evening cocktail, dress in your best. Exemplify grooming and style. Clothes do not need to be expensive, but they should be presentable . . . clean and pressed, shoes too. Men, upon entering a building, should remove their hat including baseball caps. Carry a pair of socks or indoor slippers just in case the host doesn’t permit wearing street shoes in their home.

#4 Leave Divisive Issues and Old Disputes at Home

Expect that a prayer will be offered before dinner is served. If you’re not the religious type, that’s ok. But don’t make a scene about people practicing their religion at a Thanksgiving feast or as an excuse to launch a debate about the pros and cons of religion. Debating religion is one of the top two topics to be avoided during this type of occasion. The other is politics.

Politics can sometimes be divisive even among family members. Very seldom do we find that everyone at a dinner party is nonchalant about politics. More often, there may be at least two people on opposing sides of political issues and when they bring debate into family dinners, it is not because they are seeking middle ground. Usually, it is done to create “I gotcha” moments and to win imaginary battles. It’s better to ban a discussion of politics from the dinner table and opt instead for more neutral and pleasant conversations.

Life can be messy sometimes and people who love one another may find themselves disliking each other because of things that have happened in the past Yet, they’ll find themselves in the same space celebrating holiday traditions. There is the potential that unwelcome sparks may fly when two people who share unpleasant history find themselves near one another. This is a perfect opportunity to let manners shine. Keep the “reason for the season” in the forefront and remember it is absolutely necessary to consider how other people can be affected by arguments. Plus, when there are multi generations present, manners dictate we must be respectful to elders and role models for children. If a guest insists on rehashing hurt feelings from the past or exhibiting inappropriate or toxic behavior, they shouldn’t be surprised if they are asked to leave the party.

Thanksgiving isn’t the time for that.

#5 Expressing Gratitude

Before leaving the party, be sure to express thanks to the hosts and offer a goodbye expression to each elder. Plus, send at least a text message later to the host and express your gratitude again. In the text message, pay compliments to all the family chefs who labored to provide a delicious meal.

#6 Make Thanksgiving Tradition Your Own

From the food served to incorporating after dinner games, you can begin a new or alter existing Thanksgiving traditions. You may want to skip a lavish dinner and instead get the family together to volunteer to serve food to the less fortunate. Instead of a meal, you may want to have an intimate reception, serve appetizers, and fill it with fun activities.

Thanksgiving celebration, or any type of social engagement, is enhanced through the practice of demonstrating proper etiquette and good manners. Our personal brand depends on how we show up in life and present ourselves to the world.

Stay encouraged and remain optimistic that this Thanksgiving will be your best yet. Although, you may need to implement some ground rules to help family be on their best behavior and for you to enjoy the type of experience you are seeking. Communicate your expectations. Spread the benefits of etiquette and manners so others can learn.

Ms. Loretta

"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. Don't ruin your personal brand. Protect it."

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