Rick Lovett

Rick Lovett

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What To Avoid At Thanksgiving

The most important thing at any Thanksgiving gathering is not the food, but a friendly, warm experience. Of course the food is important but what really matters and what everyone will remember is the overall experience. Was it fun, comfortable, relaxing?

To help, here are some common hosting mistakes to avoid.

Only planning the big meal

The main attraction of Thanksgiving Day is obviously the turkey meal, but you need some opening acts too. For many Thanksgiving gatherings, the only activity that needs to be planned is watching football, but I’ve heard that some Thanksgiving parties involve taking walks, playing board games, or delivering poignant speeches about love and family. Having something planned is particularly important if kids will be there—they can’t quietly get drunk like the rest of your guests. This isn’t to say you have to micromanage everyone’s schedule, but remember: Thanksgiving is a whole day.

Overpacking the house

I am breaking this rule this Thanksgiving—we are hosting way more people than our tiny house will support—but it will probably end in disaster and recrimination. People will be eating from mismatched dinner plates, and many adults will be seated at the kids’ table. We will run out of forks. No one will have room to do anything, and everyone will leave in a huff. Please use future-me as an example and don’t follow my lead. We’re eating in the damn driveway! Pray it doesn’t rain.

Forgetting the appetizers

You have to prepare a lot of food for a Thanksgiving feast, but don’t forget the hours leading up to the meal. Your guests need bacon-wrapped figs, pigs in blankets, and other foods wrapped in foods. Or at least some chips and salsa. If anyone offers to bring a dish to dinner, put them on appetizer duty. They’ll probably knock themselves out with something that would be an afterthought to you. Speaking of people asking to help out…

Turning down help (or taking too much help)

You don’t have to go it alone. If your guests offer to help out on Thanksgiving, tell them “hell yes” and take them up on it. Unless your friends and family are complete jerk-faces, at least one guest will at least offer to help clean up after dinner, and everyone else should be shamed into helping. Under no circumstances should you say, “oh, no, I’ll take care of the clean-up.” That’s what they want you to do, and they will leave you with a disaster area of a kitchen and some serious grudges to nurse.

That said, if your friends and close family offer to help, and you take them up on it, don’t go too far with their services. You could end up with the people you care about most preparing and serving food to the people you only invited because you felt obligated to.

Not cleaning the house well enough

I wouldn’t think to include the obvious advice to “clean your damn house” if I hadn’t been invited to a Friendsgiving in college where the hosts didn’t even tidy their rancid sty of an apartment before dinner. Please, in the name of all that is good and holy, clean your place before having anyone over for any meal—but especially Thanksgiving. You don’t have to clean the bedrooms or other places that guests won’t use. But the bathrooms definitely need some bleach.

Using Thanksgiving to deal with family issues

If you’re the “responsible” sibling and hosting Thanksgiving because Mom’s health isn’t so great and Dad doesn’t feel up to it, do not lord it over your siblings by acting all superior just because you live in the suburbs and your husband is an accountant or whatever the fuck he does. You’re not any better than anyone else, Melissa. I saw the way you smirked when I told you about the methadone clinic. Recovery is work, and besides, what do you do all day but pilates and talk about how you’re going to open a candle business? You know what? We’re leaving and taking the dog with us. We’ll go to Denny’s or something. Anything is better than this hell hole.

Stressing out about it too much

Chances are good that your Thanksgiving is going to be a disaster—that’s how Thanksgiving is— but the kind of disaster matters. There’s the type of disaster where the Turkey gets burned and you forgot to buy potatoes, but everyone laughs and makes pasta and it’s really the best Thanksgiving ever. Then there’s the kind of disaster where the “dancer” that cousin Dave is dating passes out drunk, your niece locks herself in the bathroom to cry, and we have to call 911. Whatever happens, roll with the disasters, and keep a light heart and a sense of humor. Hopefully no one will remember the truly bad parts of the day.

Food On Table

Photo: Getty Images

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