It’s Thanksgiving day. The weather is crisp, and the host’s home smells like a magical land, with scents of roasted turkey, cinnamon, and warm chestnuts wafting through the air. You just sat down with your family and friends to a table crowned with all of the traditional fare, and the wine is flowing.
As you pass platters and dig in, remember, this is an opportune time to unplug and connect over some good conversation. To keep things from getting awkward or (even worse) political, we’ve tapped some experts for a few talking points to get your guests gabbing … and gobbling!
- Play Q & A
If you’re hosting a traditional sit-down meal at your home, place a question card underneath everyone’s plate — but not just any card.
“Opt for easy and fun questions that won’t get anyone’s panties in a bunch,” says Arden Clise, founder of Clise Etiquette and author of Spinach In Your Boss’s Teeth. She advises to steer clear of politics and current world events; that could ignite debate. Instead, pose general questions on the cards, like:
- What’s one item on your bucket list?
- If you could meet anyone, past or present, who would it be?
- What’s your all-time favorite movie?
- If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
Get the kids involved, too with questions like:
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- If you could have one superhero power, what would it be?
- If your parents let you dye your hair, what color would you choose?
Clise says soon everyone will be joining in and expressing answers, plus follow-up questions, too. If you’re hosting a buffet, you can always toss these questions into a fishbowl and encourage each guest to select one.
- Get in the holiday spirit.
Thanksgiving kicks off the festive holiday season, after all, so it’s a great time to talk about Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve.
“Ask your guests what they are most looking forward to, regarding the upcoming holidays,” Clise says. You’ll be surprised how quickly the room fills with chatter. Soon guests will be chiming in about the new lights they bought for their home, the cut-your-own tree farm they can’t wait to visit, holiday shows and pageants, cookie swaps, and travel plans. And we’re certain your little guests will jump for joy while telling everyone what they hope to receive during the eight nights of Hanukkah or when Santa visits this year.
Pro tip: Today is a great day to pass out Secret Santa cards if that’s your family’s thing.
- Break out a game!
Especially perfect for a Friendsgiving gathering, Cards Against Humanity is a silly way to rouse a crowd when dessert and coffee is out for the taking. How it works: Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card. For example, a black card might say “Dear Abby, I’m having some trouble with ______ and would like your advice.” A guest might choose a white card that says “The Kool-Aid Man.” Get ready for big laughs!
- Opt for the fail-safe tried and true option.
“Sharing what we are thankful around the table is a wonderful practice that will leave no one speechless,” says Maryanne Parker from Manor of Manners, “Even a very difficult year can teach us something meaningful and important, just as a successful one is something to celebrate!”
Parker says to remember our joy and vulnerability can bring us together with the rest of the family. So whether you’re thankful for the meal in front of you, your loyal golden retriever, a new baby on the way, or that you’ve finally reached the legal drinking age and ice-cold beer goes great with turkey — share, share, share!
Pro tip: Pick up a mini pumpkin at a local farm. Pass the pumpkin around the table. The person with the pumpkin shares.
- Remember to pay tribute.
Some of us are about to embark on our first holiday season without a loved one. Thanksgiving, and the holidays in general, may be a time of extreme grief for people.
“It is a very sensitive matter to lose someone close to you, see and feel emptiness at the Thanksgiving table,” Parker says. “Make family and friends feel secure and less lonely by sharing something positive and memorable about the person who is no longer with us. Say a prayer together or have a toast.” Sharing sweet stories and memories of past holidays is a lovely idea, too.