Thanksgiving Table Talk: Graces, Jokes and Holiday Trivia
We all know the Thanksgiving Dinner Rules: Don’t burp at the table, and don’t talk about politics or religion. But since it’s traditional to start the meal by giving thanks (because, um, Thanksgiving) and also because you will need ideas to keep the conversation going (no politics!), I’ve been researching graces, jokes and holiday-related trivia for you to share at the table this year.
You’re on your own with the the burping. Although if your kids can burp the whole alphabet, that might be worth sharing, maybe after the meal is over.
I have an ongoing dream that one day I will stand up before a large group of people and lead a prayer which will leave my friends and family speechless, with a deeper and richer appreciation of their world. Thanksgiving would seem to be the perfect opportunity to make this happen, but I typically chicken out at the last minute and just share what I’m grateful for. Which is just fine, but I like something a little fancier on Thanksgiving.
This prayer, adapted from a traditional hymn, would be a nice way to start a meal.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends,
Father in heaven, we thank thee.
I think this grace is awfully precious, and perfect for younger children.
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you, God, for everything.
For very small children, go with something short and simple. This traditional grace may be familiar to guests who went to Catholic school.
Bless us, Lord, as we sit together,
Bless the food we eat today,
Bless the hands that made the food,
Bless us, Lord.
If you’re asking a child to lead the prayer, it might help to write it out for them on a note card or piece of paper, and have them practice ahead of time. It would also be really lovely to let your children create their own blessing to be shared before the meal. Each child can write his own, or they can work together to come up with a group blessing.
Drop Some Knowledge
Once you’re done praying and the mashed potatoes are making their way around the table, it’s time to talk. But not about politics! Unless you want to wind up eating alone in the kitchen.
Sharing some Thanksgiving trivia is a great way to keep the conversation neutral and impress your guests. Here’s a fun tidbit I learned this year: Sarah Josepha Hale, a 19th century author, was a major force behind making Thanksgiving a national holiday. But your guests probably know her better as the author of the classic nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She also raised the money needed to complete the Bunker Hill Monument, which commemorates the first major battles of the Revolutionary War. Who knew!
More good trivia: There was no turkey at the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims and Indians sat down to a dinner of eels. Even if this is not news to your guests, it still definitely works as a conversation starter, particularly with kids. Especially with picky eaters. “You don’t like the turkey? Imagine eating an EEL!!!”
And since your kids have no doubt just finished a Very Important elementary school social studies unit on Thanksgiving, you can get them to share what they have learned. As a bonus, this is an easy way to see who’s been paying attention in school!
Share a Laugh
If you run out of holiday-themed trivia, you can always resort to telling jokes.
Jokes4Us has an extensive collection of family-friendly jokes that will actually make the grownups laugh, which is great because knock-knock jokes about poop are the other thing you’re not supposed to talk about at the table. Which is a bummer for my kids because that’s pretty much their entire joke repertoire.
I love this one:
What key has legs and can’t open doors?
What do you call a pile of kittens?
Middle school kids will enjoy this joke, because it almost has swearing in it:
What did the fish say when he swam into the wall?
I’m laughing already.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving table traditions? Don’t say burping the alphabet. Please.
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