It’s Thanksgiving. We know we should be on our best behavior, but our society changes so fast and frequently it is hard to know what that even means anymore. We took a look online and found widely differing advice on good behavior at the Thanksgiving table. Bon Appétit suggests that it is a good idea to be sneaky: “In communicating timing, be sneaky. Don’t say when the meal is to be served, or your guests will arrive at the last moment.” (http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/holidays/article/thanksgiving-etiquette-guide) Etiquette International warns “Do not keep the TV on during the Thanksgiving meal.” (http://www.etiquetteinternational.com/Tips/thanksgiving.aspx) Emily Post, the undisputed queen of table manners suggests:
- Chew with your mouth closed.
- Keep your smartphone off the table and set to silent or vibrate. Wait to check calls and texts until you are finished with the meal and away from the table.
- Don’t use your utensils like a shovel or stab your food.
- Don’t pick your teeth at the table.
- Remember to use your napkin.
- Wait until you’re done chewing to sip or swallow a drink. (Choking is clearly an exception.)
- Cut only one piece of food at a time.
- Avoid slouching and don’t place your elbows on the table while eating (though it is okay to prop your elbows on the table while conversing between courses, and always has been, even in Emily’s day).
- Instead of reaching across the table for something, ask for it to be passed to you.
- Take part in the dinner conversation.
1-9 are easily done, but dinner conversation? Uh oh. No matter how overcooked the turkey, this can be the toughest part of the meal. It is widely understood that when it comes to traditional family gatherings, we are not to speak of such things as politics, sex, money, marriage, parenting styles, or family issues— ‘Mom always loved Billy more,’ or ‘why aren’t you married yet?’ That leaves art, movies, sports (which may inspire civil unrest about the turned off television from Etiquette International), and weather (which may inspire skirmishes about global climate change).
Do not let your mouth runneth over, but instead let your cup runneth over. “My Cup Runneth Over” is an expression that means “I have more than enough for my needs.” It is Thanksgiving after all, why not practice a little gratitude? Go around the table and list three things for wish you are grateful. This is a sweet practice that brings the meaning of the event to the hearts of the guests at your table. Give it a try! It might just become a welcomed part of your tradition.
image George Henry Durrie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons