Tips on how to handle Thanksgiving in unfamiliar waters
Not all of us will make the traditional pilgrimage home for Thanksgiving. Whether away at school, stuck at work, or spending that oh-so-important first holiday with the in-laws (or future in-laws), one might soon be invited into the gracious home of accommodating strangers. With this in mind, we humbly present a few simple guidelines to help you play the perfect guest on turkey day.
It’s All In The Timing
First impressions are important. Being late will immediately call your character into question. Make sure you pay close attention to the time of the invitation and arrive promptly. There is no such thing as being, “fashionably late”; if you arrive more than 15 minutes beyond the time indicated on your invitation you are just plain late. Being late does not make you cool or more interesting; it only serves to draw unwanted attention to your arrival. The polite guest arrives on time, never late and never early.
The gentlemanly guest will defer to the habits of the house when it comes to dress. If it is at all possible, inquire ahead of time as to the tone and formality of the event. If you hear that your host will be wearing a tie, wear a tie. If you hear jeans, keep it casual. Of course maintaining one’s personal style is important, but it does not supersede situation.
Aggressive acts of personal style may draw unwanted attention. For example, Thanksgiving dinner, in an unfamiliar home, is no time to sport go-to-hell ankles, (as much as we enjoy letting our ankles breathe). When in doubt go business casual, dress smart and clean, tuck-in your shirttails and avoid jeans and sneakers. Wool trousers and corduroy pants are in season, pair a pair with a soft collared shirt like a button-down oxford and a wool or cashmere sweater. Keep it simple, elegant and timeless. You never know how long they’ll keep the photos.
Let’s Talk Turkey
“The distinction between gentleman and boor
is more clearly noted at the table than anywhere else.”
-W.R. Houghton. Rules of Etiquette and Home Culture. 1890
When it comes to table manners use your common sense. Most contemporary affairs do not require the knowledge of elaborate utensil settings. With this in mind, just remember that utensils start from the outside, moving in with each new course. The key to a good Thanksgiving, and a good meal in general, is moderation. Stuffing yourself is for the birds. When it comes to spirits Imbibe At Your Own Risk, there is nothing worse than a drunken guest. The inability to hold one’s liquor is the mark of a brash ruffian, a man of weak moral fiber. Table conversation should be kept light and festive. Leave your day-to-day trials and tribulations at the door. Remember you don’t need to sing for your supper. Being a good, active listener is just as important to the convivial atmosphere…and a whole lot safer.
Should I Stay or Should I Go
There is a subtle art to making a graceful exit. You never want to sneak out early, even if you are bored to death. But, you also never want to overstay your welcome. The art of the exit lies within your ability to feel the mood of the room. Once the meal is over the party may continue for a few more hours as host and guests relax in their tryptophanic haze. Find a natural moment to say your goodbyes and make sure you personally address your host no matter the number of guests. Often you are remembered by your last impression, so make it a positive one.
Promptly—the next day—send a Thank You note. A hand-written Thank You note may have fallen out of fashion in some circles, but it’s a special and elegant touch your hosts will certainly appreciate. If at all possible avoid the use of text or email; these digital formats are better than nothing, but just slightly better. The message can be simple and straightforward, just a few kind words to show your appreciation. Remember, brevity is the soul of wit.
Oh, and don’t forget to make sure you snag us a slice of pie.
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