November CCED Email

How to Survive Thanksgiving Dinner

I have some bad news.

This is the week when people start giving you advice about what NOT to talk about during Thanksgiving dinner. Get ready.

They're going to give you lists of topics that are taboo and subjects that are "triggering." They'll tell you to avoid any and all conversation about politics and religion. Skip all those hot button issues, they say. Stick to talking about the weather and the food.

But these days, even the weather can be controversial, so maybe just stick to talking about the food. That seems safe, right?

You should be okay, as long as you avoid taking sides in any debates over stuffing (inside or outside the bird?), cranberry sauce (canned or homemade?) or sweet potatoes (mashed or candied?).

Fight the urge to crack jokes about gluten, vegans or Tofurky.

And if you're forced to cast a vote on the whole pumpkin versus pecan pie thing? Just say BOTH and quickly change the subject.

It's the easiest way to avoid violence.

I joke, but this ramping up of Thanksgiving tension has become a serious issue. Every year, there seems to be more focus on how to avoid conflict during Turkey Day dinner. 

You'd think we were all sitting down to break bread inside the UFC octagon instead of our kitchens and dining rooms.

Mental health experts write that the key to a successful holiday gathering is to "lay ground rules" and "set parameters."

Maybe appoint a neutral party to officiate and use de-escalation phrases like “Let’s talk later, this doesn’t feel productive” and “Please don’t stand on the table, you’re crushing the dinner rolls.”

Call me old-fashioned, but it seems like we’ve lost our way when it comes to Thanksgiving.

It shouldn't be so hard to have a happy holiday. Maybe forget about talking points for one night and give your smartphone the night off. There's a time and place for healthy, passionate debate, but that time is NOT right after I ask you to pass the gravy.

In the old days, my mouth was too full to talk. If I stopped to weigh in on foreign policy or domestic spending, there were six other people who'd use that time to swoop in on the meat tray.

Who would choose current events over capicola and prosciutto?

Seriously, save your TED talks for AFTER the tiramisu.

Better yet, save your TED talk for an actual TED talk and just pass the gravy already.

I grew up in an Italian family. On Thanksgiving, the focus was always on the food. Specifically, how much we could make and how much we could eat.

It wasn't a race, it was a marathon. 

Things would kick off around 2pm with light snacking and homemade wine. Then we’d move on to appetizers and antipasto before my grandmother served up her famous ricotta cheese ravioli, meatballs and red sauce.

We’d eventually make it to the turkey, finish with a salad and then take a short break before diving back in for coffee and dessert.

My biggest concern was pacing myself so that I could make it through the first dessert, while leaving enough room for leftovers and another round of Italian cookies before bed.

For my family, it was all about savoring the meal, enjoying each other’s company and, well… savoring the meal some more.

Sure, we talked and argued like everyone else. Some people disagreed with other people. I heard my share of Italian curse words. One time I even saw one man chase another man up a tree (long story). 

But I don’t remember any kind of agenda. Nobody waited all year for those moments between courses to take bold stands on the big issues. The biggest fight was usually over the wishbone.

At the Lombardi house, we reserved our pent-up anger and aggression for those who most deserved it: the Detroit Lions.

Now I know everyone’s family dynamics are different. No family is perfect. We certainly weren't. But the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving was never conflict.

We never had to come up with strategies for keeping the conversation civil. Our only advice for guests? Come hungry. Come VERY hungry.  

This year, now that more people are able to be together, it's a great time to hit the reset button on Thanksgiving.

If we focus on the things that connect us, the things that we're all grateful for, maybe we can get back to a time when families came together to celebrate the things that they have in common, rather than focus on what divides them.

It's easy if you just follow my advice.

Any time someone says something you disagree with, something that makes your eye twitch or your teeth grind, something that you absolutely, positively must refute, correct or make fun of... don't do it.

Just SHUT UP and EAT.

It works for me.

Have fun fighting over climate science and the Second Amendment! I'm going in for another slice of pecan pie before my second nap.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading...  



Larry Lombardi
Director of Economic Development

Clean & Elegant
Fully Responsive
Clean & Elegant
Fully Responsive

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