Last week, Victoria and I were interviewed for Metro New York about what to do if you’re a college student spending Thanksgiving with a friend’s family. However, a lot of the advice can be applied in many situations, like spending the holidays with your in-laws or your extended family. Here are a few more tips on how to get through it all without going crazy!
- Offer to help out as much as you can, but make sure you can really do it: Jumping into the kitchen so Aunt Martha doesn’t have to make everything is fantastic, but don’t do it unless you actually know how to make green bean casserole. The only thing more stressful than having to cook five dishes is having to cook four while answering a million questions about the fifth. If that’s the case, see if there are other ways you can help, like running errands, watching the kids, or setting the table.
- Don’t be a dick about dietary restrictions: Some people refuse to believe gluten allergies exist. Others think anyone who isn’t a vegan is a murderer. Most of us can and should meet in the middle. My thought is that the host gets a heavy say in what’s served at their house, within reason. For instance, if you’re a guest in a Kosher household, don’t bring your bacon-wrapped scallop appetizer. However, if you’re the host but the only vegetarian, maybe request that most of the dishes remain vegetarian, but let someone bring a turkey. Also, speak up if you have a serious allergy, like if you’re so allergic to peanuts that the presence of them anywhere on the table will make you break out in hives. And if you have a lot of restrictions, bring a dish or two that you know you can eat.
- Be flexible with traditions: I was slightly horrified the first time I went to a Thanksgiving dinner and everything was served on paper plates, because I’m a horrible snob and you should never invite me anywhere. But then I remembered that shrimp curry is often served alongside turkey at my family’s house. The holiday is about sharing traditions, not judging them.
- Pick your battles: We got into this a little in Metro about balancing changing the subject gracefully with calling out someone’s racist uncle. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort to call someone out, and sometimes you can’t just let it slide. Everyone has their own personal thresholds.
- Have an exit strategy: Most of us have probably felt stressed out at at least one Thanksgiving (or other holiday). It can be a perfect storm of stress, family tensions and loud little kids. Have a plan if you’re prone to getting overwhelmed by these things, like taking a walk or running an errand. Last year I got so overwhelmed at one holiday I excused myself to the bathroom and instead lay down in the guest room for ten minutes. No one will miss you for that period of time.
- Don’t forget to use your good table manners: The basics- put your napkin on your lap, chew with your mouth closed, elbows off the table, and say please and thank you.