The best conversation starters for Thanksgiving dinner

Illustration of people at a table
Amanda Tsang/File

Ah, Thanksgiving dinner: the most awkward meal of the year. Being from a family of Mexican immigrants, we tend to stray from the conventional Thanksgiving foods and traditions. While some of you may have rolls sitting at your table, I have tortillas. However, we sometimes still have the uncomfortably awkward and painfully forced situations at our Thanksgiving dinners too.

To help you have a Thanksgiving dinner free of fighting, crying, pouting or whatever natural emotion that arises when you’ve gathered your entire family in one room, I’ve come up with some conversation starters for all of you. 

Things you’re looking forward to

Steering the conversation toward something that will make you happy and that you enjoy talking about may be a good idea. Doing this will put you in a good mood, leading to a smaller chance that the conversation will turn toward something more unpleasant.

Recent accomplishments

Most family members love to hear that their nephews, nieces, grandchildren, etc. are doing well. In fact, my family is my biggest supporter. They hype up anything that I do, mostly because they don’t really understand my schoolwork, but their unconditional love always feels so good. 

Talking to younger family members about their lives

If you’ve never sat down next to a 6-year-old and asked about what’s new in their life, you’re missing out. Not once have I received a boring response from a child when I ask this. They’re always very honest, and it’s sweet to hear about the simple challenges in their daily lives. Speaking to children in a more adult manner, to which they respond with their own childish banter (despite having a tone just as serious as your own), always cracks me up. 

Travel plans

Have you traveled recently? What about the uncle or aunt that you barely speak to but find yourself sitting next to Thanksgiving dinner? Ask about all the details, heck, ask them to whip out those family photos. This seems like a very safe option.

How good the food is

If worst comes to worst, always fall back on the food. People can always come together for food despite differences in language, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.

For some of you, Thanksgiving dinner may sound like a hellish nightmare. For others, you’re looking forward to going home and being surrounded by your family and friends. Maybe you’re in between. Regardless of how you feel, maybe take some time to think about what you’re grateful for. There’s always something to be thankful for. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, right?

Contact Paloma Torres at [email protected].