Table Tactics for Family Feasts

November, 2011 · By Coryanne Ettiene

Compared to many families made popular on reality TV, my family is dull, dry and lacks the gusto to make for captivated viewing…  but I adore them nonetheless and find comfort in the fact that the biggest drama we have hosted on Thanksgiving is when the dog ran away with the turkey, or the one time a beloved English relative drank himself under the table…literally.     Whilst some of us look forward to family gatherings, others of us have the type of family that makes for great reality TV, and  with the holidays looming, it is inevitable that you will find yourself around a table filled with a variety of relatives dodging white elephants and trying to make it through your pumpkin pie without the urge to hurl it across the table.   If you are looking for harmony at the table this year, embrace these 10 tips to build a few family memories without the docudrama.

Embrace the family do-gooder:  We all have that happy clappy relative that wants nothing more than to put on the family holiday only read about in stories.  Give them a moment to bring in the holiday cheer, find the humor in their holiday attire and try to let their good spirits rub off on you…even if just for a moment.

Give the exaggerator a moment to shine:  It is no doubt evident to everyone at the table that the story they are telling is well beyond humanly possible, but why spoil the fun?  Let them have their center stage, and then try to direct the conversation elsewhere once they are done.

Offer your pity:  If your family includes a martyr, offer up your sympathies to their sacrifices and give them the gift of martyrdom this holiday season.  Often times all they want is to be heard, and acknowledged, and the best way to do that is by saying, “you deserve a break”….and if you are anything like me, keep the sarcasm to a minimum, this is serious stuff.

Derail the nosy:  Especially frustrating to those who lead a private life, the busybody in every family is relentless and always listening.  They are best approached in groups where the conversation can be derailed away from their fact-finding mission.

Avoid sibling rivalry:  Hard as we try, it is inevitable that we regress to our teenage selves when we are around our siblings. Keep the rivalry, light and infrequent for the sake of everyone at the table.

Look for a peacemaker:  Politics clash and siblings rival, having a peacemaker on hand to sooth the fire of conflict before it arises is the best way to keep the family moving away from drama and towards harmony.

Use Place-cards:  Assigned seating is the best defense against conflict at the table—it not only allows you to arrange your guests by temperament, it ensures that you are seated next to those that will bring you the most enjoyment of your holiday gathering.

Mix family with friends: Adding friends to a family gathering almost always ensures that everyone will be on their best behavior, and it allows you to share the holidays with your closets friends.

Create happy memories:  Boredom is the fuel to any family feud; keep your guest sober and busy by planning a number of activities both before and after the meal.

Keep an eye on the bar:  Drunken family members offer little chance of a happy time.  Where possible, keep your drinks to a minimum before the meal is served and save the cocktails for when you have a full stomach.


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