Manners Matter: Keeping the Peace at Thanksgiving

Dear Mary Pat,

I’m dreading Thanksgiving. My family is very split politically, and there’s always a major fight before we even get to carve the turkey. For decades, we have celebrated Thanksgiving together because we all travel to our respective in-laws’ homes for Christmas. My mom was always the peacemaker of the family, but she’s been gone for three years now, and things have gotten progressively worse since. My husband and I have always hosted, and we are thinking this might be the last year if it turns into another major dust-up. How can I keep the peace this year and turn the page on the ugliness?


Sad Hostess

Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Dear Sad Hostess,

This isn’t the first time I’ve answered a question along these lines. Not everyone is meant to spend the holidays together, even if they are family, but let’s not give up quite yet. As hosts, you and your husband can set the ground rules. 

The first rule should be: No discussing politics. We are all inundated with politics 24/7 on our televisions, phones and elsewhere, so it shouldn’t be difficult to shelve this topic for one day. In fact, it might be a relief for all.

Also, alcohol can fuel some of these disagreements. You can help by making sure there are plenty of snacks to go with any pre-dinner drinks that are served, trying to keep dinner on schedule (I know you’re at the mercy of the meat thermometer, so always give yourself at least an extra hour in the morning), and not being too heavy handed when you’re pouring alcohol. Of course, ultimately it’s up to each individual to keep tabs on what she or he consumes.

Most importantly, reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving. Take time before your meal to list the things you’re grateful for. You can even go around the table, asking each guest to add something. Focusing on the positives and the things that you have in common is much more gratifying than debating about politics.

Let me know how it all goes.

Good luck,

Mary Pat