A Guide to Spending Thanksgiving With Someone Else’s Family

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Thanksgiving brings together three of my favorite things, family, eating, and football. With every decadent dish, I find myself being more and more thankful that my family’s not judging me for the 3rd helping of garlic mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, college sometimes means being very far away from your family when you need them the most.

Here’s a guide to help you navigate spending time family time – with a family that’s not yours.

First things first, always bring a hostess gift. No, I’m not saying you have to spend big bucks on buying the hostess a new pair of diamond earrings, but something thoughtful is a must. Hostess gifts are the best way to say “thanks for letting me crash at your place, eat your food, and be comfy all weekend – instead of spending time cold, alone, and hungry in my dorm,” but with more class. A nice candle or a bottle of nice(r) wine is always a safe choice, but being a little bit creative can go a long way. Try places like Williams Sonoma or HomeGoods for cute, original ideas.

Every host(ess) is different. Some people insist on making sure you’re the most comfortable you can be, while others literally mean “make yourself at home.” Going with the flow is key. Where your comfort level lies and where their hosting abilities lie may have a bit of a variance, but make sure that you have a concession. And no matter how comfortable you feel, watch what you say. It is their household after all.

Helping out in the kitchen? Make sure that what you’re doing really is help. Many cooks like to have their space when it comes to food prep, especially considering Thanksgiving may be one of the biggest meals of the year to prepare. Busy yourself with a task that you know you’re good at, whether it’s washing dishes, chopping onions, or setting the table; even doing the tiniest chores can be a big help. However, if your help is flat-out rejected, don’t push, be helpful elsewhere.

Remember that every family is different. They all have different values, different traditions and different family compositions. Be open-minded and embrace their way of celebrating! And leave the judgment at home. Remember, every family has that crazy aunt or the grandfather who says inappropriate things. Even Especially on the holiday.

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