Our Thanksgiving Guide – Turkey & Potatoes & Pie…Oh My!
You’ve been invited to Thanksgiving (Also known as Turkey Day) dinner at a US American’s house; now what? Thanksgiving is one of the most uniquely American holidays celebrated in the US because it is one of the only 100% secular holidays. It is not associated with any religion and was created to celebrate a meal our settlers shared with the native people who helped them survive the first year. This is a holiday all about family and friends sharing a large meal (feast) together and enjoying each other’s company.
Turkey & Potatoes & Pie…Oh My! Here are 10 helpful tips when attending the Thanksgiving holiday as a guest at someone’s house.
In the US, if you are invited to a social activity at someone’s house, it is considered impolite not to let them know if you will or will not be attending. Also, if you are bringing a friend with you, make sure it is OK with the host and they know the friend is coming. Never show up with a guest you have not told the host about.
Arrive on time
Most Thanksgiving meals take place in the mid-to-late afternoon and, as you have probably learned, US American’s are punctual people for the most part. Your host has most likely timed the meal to be ready at a certain time and will expect all of the guests to arrive on time. It is also almost as bad to arrive early as late. There may be last minute things the host is preparing and it may make her uncomfortable if you arrive early.
Know what to expect on the menu
There is going to be a lot of food, so be ready to eat! The main dish at almost all Thanksgiving dinners in the US is turkey. Generally, the turkey is slow roasted in the over for many hours. Sometimes, particularly in the south, the turkey may be deep fried. Other typical dishes are mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls or cornbread, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a pie of some sort (pecan, pumpkin, and sweet potato are common).
Offer to bring a dish to help with the meal
Many times the host will tell you not to bring anything and that is OK. It is just nice to offer. Also, if you have special dietary needs (are a vegetarian for example) you may want to offer to bring a dish that meets your need. You don’t want to make your host feel as if they need to make special food for you, so you may just want to say, “I am a vegetarian. Would it be OK if I brought a tofu main dish to contribute to the meal?”
If you do not opt to bring a dish for the meal, you may want to bring a “host gift” of a bottle or wine or flowers.
Who will be at the meal?
First and foremost, Thanksgiving is a family holiday, so expect mostly family at the meal. However, family can mean a lot of things. It can be extended family (grandparents, cousins, in-laws). It can also mean really close family friends who may be called Aunt or Uncle. Children in the family will be at the celebration. There may be a “kids table” where the children set apart from the adults or the children may sit at the same table with the adults.
Dress to impress
Many families in the US dress up for the Thanksgiving holiday. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit, but jeans and T-shirt are probably not appropriate. If you are concerned about dress, you can always ask the host about the dress code when you RSVP.
Football (American, not soccer)
For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal is followed by watching or playing a game of football. Depending on how well you know your host and what the atmosphere is after the meal, you may want to stay after the meal to join the family outside for a game of “pick up” football or to sit on the couch and watch football on TV. Be prepared for a long day just in case.
When to leave
Try to take cues from your host and do not overstay your welcome. In some families, after the meal, everyone will just take a nap. When in doubt, leave at a reasonable time after the meal is finished and definitely do not be the last guest to leave.
Thank your host
Always thank your host via email or a hand-written note for having you at their Thanksgiving meal.