Thanksgiving Survival Guide

No more four-day-old leftover Chinese food today my friends. Today is the day for pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and a big turkey with delicious bread stuffing taking the place of all its internal organs. Today is the day for family and friends and being thankful for all that you have.

Today is Thanksgiving. But beware, all is not well on this special family day.

Among the vibrant falling leaves and cornucopias, a stressful sense of urgency pervades the happy home. For many, the pros of Thanksgiving are happily obvious, but the cons simmer in the back of the mind. In my personal experience, today is the day that my mother emerges as the dragon-headed dictator of my house, tending to every detail of the day, punishing anyone who dares to disobey her or tries to taste the food before everything is ready. My father will yell too loudly at whatever football game is blaring on the television, scavenging for whatever food he can while he tries to avoid my mother’s ever watchful eye. He knows that if he is caught the iron fist of my mom will drop down with a vengeance, leaving him to do the tasks he had been avoiding to begin with.

You, and possibly your siblings if you have them, may experience some of the same. The glory of eating so much that you cannot move, followed by a pleasant and all encompassing food coma is your main goal. But how will you survive the crack of your busy mother’s metaphorical whip? How will you protect your soft and vulnerable cheeks when your grandmother goes in for the dreaded, yet slightly endearing, pinch? How will you dodge the constant questions about your grades, personal life, and plans for the future?

I’ve made this handy guide to get me through my Thanksgiving, maybe it will help you get through yours too.

9:00 am to 11:00

Depending on how early you wake up, this will be the most peaceful time of the day. Sit back, watch the parade, and make sure to eat a small breakfast so you have more room later for when you need it.

11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Hide. This is when the cooking begins and mom turns into the culinary captain, taking out anything or anyone that gets in her way. The best course of action is to abscond from the kitchen and into your room. Don’t draw attention to yourself. If you choose to forgo the safety of your room, be prepared to make cooking your main priority for the next few hours. Try not to get too offended by your mother’s shouting, she’s trying her best.

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

This time of the day is what I like to call The Danger Zone. Guests are arriving, and you are pretty much obligated to interact. If you’re excited to show off your sparkling conversational skills, this can be fun for the first 40 minutes or so before you and your friends and relatives begin to get hangry, which is when you should probably give it a rest for a while before trying to talk again.

If you’re not feeling as excited to socialize, you can avoid many conversations by avoiding direct eye contact or simply nodding your head, smiling and walking away. This tactic works especially well when asked about your plans for the future. The nod and smile will reassure them that you totally know what you’re doing even if you don’t at all. They won’t suspect a thing.

Social butterfly or not, it’s important to pace yourself here. Don’t be ashamed if you have to go hide in the bathroom for a few minutes. Preserving energy is crucial. You still have a whole dinner to get through.

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Pick your seat at the dinner table at around 4:30. It’s important to establish your dominance early by setting a drink down or moving your silverware into a threatening X to warn others to stay away. After you’ve done this, offer to help bring out the food to the table. This way you can put your favorite dishes closer to your seat and everyone will think you’re simply helping out. You get brownie points AND extra mashed potatoes.

Once everyone is seated, it’s important to keep conversation light so you can stuff in as much food as you possibly can, and also to avoid any controversial topics.

Whatever you do, DO NOT BRING UP POLITICS. Unless you’re interested in hearing at least 6 different long-winded opinion-based speeches, each taking up about 4 minutes each, do not mention anything. Now is not the time for tension and arguing, it’s not even the time for talking at all, it’s time to eat.

If another member of your family brings up politics, try your best to take the attention off of them. You could do this by screeching and suddenly grabbing a large amount of stuffing with your bare hand or jumping on the table and trying to resuscitate the turkey. If these distraction tactics seem too intense for you, you can always politely change the subject by bringing up something like the quality of your aunt’s special green bean casserole. Nobody really thinks it’s that great but your aunt will love the compliments.

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

It’s smart to put in at least 15 minutes washing dishes because you won’t feel as bad for not assisting as much earlier, plus your family will appreciate the help and not hold it against you later. When the guests begin to slowly file out the door, there are always one or two stragglers that prevent you from sleeping or peacefully watching Netflix. You can encourage them to leave by sitting uncomfortably close to them and yawning loudly and frequently. Once they finally depart, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Congratulations, you have survived Thanksgiving. Your bed awaits you.

In case you need more help, here are some words of wisdom from fellow Oyster River students gearing up for Turkey Day:


“My only piece of advice would be that when your mom starts cooking and she hasn’t given you a job, the best plan of action is to vacate the kitchen until the meal is done to best survive arguments from things going wrong and misunderstandings.” -Coleman Moore (‘18)

“Dress as straight as possible and keep your liberal agenda to yourself.” -Nathalie Cumming (‘17)

“Don’t be the guy with the interesting factoid about what makes you sleepy afterwards. Everybody’s heard that.” -Nick Ryan (‘18)

“If you’re going to make tofurky, buy the ones that have the little tempeh wishbone. Also don’t throw water on a grease fire.” -Hunter Grieve (‘17)

“My one piece of advice would be to bring leftovers home! My favorite sandwich is a Thanksgiving-leftover panini!” -Lou Leroux (‘17)

“If anyone starts talking politics, promptly chug the gravy.” -Owen Ammann (‘17)

Written by Lily Mangan