Margaret Minnicks, an ordained minister and Bible teacher, is used to giving advice about life.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are national holidays in the United States and some other parts of the world, although they are celebrated on different dates in different places. In the US, Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the last Thursday in November, and Christmas is always celebrated on December 25th.
It is a tradition for families and friends to get together to celebrate major holidays even if they do not visit much at other times of the year. The purpose of this article is to advise those who are dining with others about how to be thoughtful, appropriate, and careful with their talk at the Holiday dinner table.
Why Examine What You Say at the Table?
It is not unusual for people who have not seen each other in over a year or since the last major holiday to get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Once everyone has gathered, it is common for family members and friends to ask questions and talk about things that have transpired since they last saw one another. Since there is bound to be a lot of talking around the dinner table, it's important that everyone thinks carefully about what they say so they do not offend anyone.
Keep in mind that some people might be tired from having traveled a long distance and won't be ready for chit-chat until they get situated. Once attendees are comfortable and dinner table conversation begins, try to abide by the following tips to ensure no one is made to feel uncomfortable because of something someone says.
4 Tips for Appropriate Holiday Dinner Conversation
- Don't get too personal.
- Don't argue (especially about politics or religion).
- Don't brag.
- Don't be a food critic (or the food police).
1. Don't Get Too Personal
Some people do not appreciate having to answer questions about themselves while sitting around the dinner table. Perhaps personal conversations can be carried out on a one-on-one basis at some other time during the holiday weekend when it is more appropriate.
It is rude to ask a couple that has been dating for a long time why they haven't tied the knot yet. It can be equally off-putting to ask them when they plan to do so. A couple who has been unsuccessful in trying to start a family likely won't want to answer questions about their fertility issues in front of the whole family while dining. No one deserves to be put on the spot by being asked personal questions in a public setting.
2. Don't Argue (Especially About Politics or Religion)
These days, our news feeds are filled with heated arguments about politics and ideology. Keep in mind that the dinner table is not a campaign stop for anybody's favorite politician, nor is it a soapbox for anyone's spiritual or ideological agenda. People who belong to different political parties shouldn't use Thanksgiving dinner to try to persuade others to believe what they believe.
If political issues can't be resolved in the White House or Congress, they surely will not be resolved around your family's Christmas dinner table. Therefore, arguments should be entirely off-limits. Even disagreements about topics less polarizing than politics can easily snowball into raised voices and resentment. To ensure an enjoyable and successful dinner for the whole group, it's best to avoid them altogether.
3. Don't Brag
Most people get a bit turned off when listening to others brag about their accomplishments. Boasting may boost the speaker's ego, but it often deflates the self-esteem of others. The best thing to do in a holiday dinner setting is to refrain from bragging altogether.
Constantly talking about one's high-paying job may come off as insensitive to a person who is out of work or displeased with their current occupation. Bragging about a new car won't impress a person who had to take the bus to the gathering because their car is in the shop. Keep the boasting to a minimum, and be mindful that everyone's situation is different. Accomplishments, possessions, and career success need not be paraded at group gatherings.
4. Don't Be a Food Critic (Or the Food Police)
As tempting as it may be, try to refrain from asking who prepared certain dishes or voicing your opinions about the food. If you do not like your cousin's macaroni and cheese or your sister's corn pudding, just don't eat them. There's no reason to be a food critic at the table. Spare the cooks' feelings by not talking negatively about any of the dishes.
While on the subject of food, it is also important to refrain from making comments about the amount of food on someone else's plate. People can manage their own diets and decide for themselves whether they are overeating. You have no right to comment about the amount of gravy on someone's mashed potatoes or their second helping of stuffing. Those with diabetes should not be called out because you see them eating a slice of pie. It's best to allow individuals to manage their own dining habits without comment or criticism—especially at family holiday gatherings.
How to Promote Kind Conversation
Now that we've gone over several things you shouldn't do at a holiday dinner, here are a few things you can do without hurting anyone's feelings:
- Follow the "golden rule" by doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Engage in conversation that demonstrates love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.
- If you feel tempted to discuss something that could make the dinner less pleasant for anyone in attendance, practice self-control and keep your thoughts to yourself.
If you heed these warnings and abide by these suggestions, your holiday dinner will be a success and you will not deter people from returning the following year. In fact, your family and friends will look forward to being in your company.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on December 15, 2019:
Thanks, Alyssa, Virginia, and Chery for reading and commenting on my article. Happy Holidays to all of you!
Alyssa from Ohio on December 15, 2019:
This could not come at a better time. Excellent reminders for us all! I particularly love your line, "If political issues can't be resolved in the White House or Congress, they surely will not be resolved around your family's Christmas dinner table." So very true! Thank you for sharing this! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on December 04, 2019:
I'm glad you put that about commenting on other's food choices. It's really off-putting to feel criticized when you are trying to enjoy a holiday feast.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on November 25, 2019:
This is great advise. Thanks for your perspective