Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner: Using Our Best Holiday Manners

A reader once asked for some posts on etiquette for the up-coming holidays and holy days. All the theology in the world, all the lovely traditions and the most ethereal spirituality, are nothing if not accompanied by charity towards our neighbor. Love is expressed in thoughtfulness and consideration, in small kindnesses and courtesies, which is what good manners should be. It has occurred to me over the last few years that many people mistake gentleness and courtesy for weakness, just as they mistake brutality and rudeness for strength. No, it requires strength and discipline, as well as fortitude and courage, to be kind to everyone, to greet people who are obnoxious, to show love to everyone. Neither is it being obsequious or condescending to be polite to the rude, which does not, of course, mean being a doormat to bullies. They need to be handled, kindly but firmly.

Here is a practical, contemporary guide from Bon Appétit:
➤ Invite at least one non-family member to ensure that everyone is on their best behavior, help temper tensions, and extend the bread and salt of welcome to neighbors and friends. It’s especially fun to ask those, like the British, for whom Thanksgiving is a curious novelty.

➤ There must be music: a music-less house is missing something. Selections should be unobtrusive, fitting, and as far from a “holiday” or “dinner party” soundtrack as possible....

No scented candles! Roasting turkey and stuffing should be the only aromas.

Clean, tidy, clean again. Pay extra attention to your bathrooms, which should be well stocked and absolutely spotless.

Organize your home so there is room for coats, a place for children to play, and somewhere for the adults to escape. (It’s perfectly acceptable to pile all of your junk into one room and declare it out of bounds.)

➤ Skip the flowers and decorate your table with seasonal finds from the garden (or farmers’ market). Twigs, pinecones, gourds, leaves: anything autumnal, unscented, and low enough to allow sight lines across the table.

➤ The ideal schedule allows adequate time for prepping and cooking and lets you eat early enough to avoid indigestion but late enough to end the day on a congenial note. (If the meal wraps up at 4 p.m., you are both stuffed and starving by 8 p.m.)

➤ In communicating timing, be sneaky. Don’t say when the meal is to be served, or your guests will arrive at the last moment.

➤ Ask some close friends or good conversationalists to come early and be the first guests. This deflects the awkward early phase and allows you to get on with prep.

➤ On Thanksgiving, your sartorial efforts should match the exertions of the cook. Make the dress code smart and let guests interpret that as they see fit.

➤ Guests should be prompt but never early. It matters not if you’ve flown around the world or braved the elements—wait in your car, or stroll round the block, until the appointed hour. Remember: The unexpected early guest is a pest.

➤ If invited to a Thanksgiving where you won’t know many people, do some recon on your fellow guests to help break the ice. (Read more.)
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alaughland said...

It seems our society has descended to the lowest common denominator in the area of gracious living and courtesy. There are limited models for cultured behavior available to young people. I am grateful that my children did not grow up in the current atmosphere, although it was becoming degraded even then. I did however, constantly remind them that 'classy' cultured people are polite to everyone no matter where they rank on the 'social' scale of society, which have false standards as far as the value of a human life is concerned in the eyes of God.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, it really has but I think people are getting fed up and want some beauty and dignity in their lives.

Alexandra said...

Amen to that. Self restraint and kindness go a long way.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, they do indeed!