3 things to bring to Thanksgiving dinner


Want to Be the Best Guest at Thanksgiving Dinner? Bring These 3 Things.
Illustration: Dana Davis

Want to Be the Best Guest at Thanksgiving Dinner? Bring These 3 Things.


by Rose Maura Lorre

Back when I was a perennial guest at other people’s Thanksgiving dinners, wine and flowers were my go-to gifts for the host. Who doesn’t love flowers, I reasoned, and when has an extra bottle of wine ever gone to waste?

I wasn’t wrong about all that. But after I inherited the honor of hosting my extended family’s annual Thanksgiving feasts, I realized that as generous and thoughtful as such gestures are, you may be inadvertently assigning the host more work. Prepping a vase for a beautiful bouquet of autumnal blooms, finding an extra ice bucket for a bottle of Riesling, and playing Tetris to find space on the table for both adds to their last-minute to-do list.

That’s why I now believe that the greatest token of thanks is taking tasks off of your host’s proverbial plate by bringing along these three things—which as a bonus, won’t cost you much, either.

1. Your own apron

Upon arrival, hang up your coat, don an apron you brought from home—or better yet, wear the apron under your coat so you can reveal it Clark Kent–style—stride into the kitchen and declare, “I’m here to help.”

You have just become a holiday hero.

To a host who may be too frazzled to think about delegating, this is much better than the passive, “Let me know if I can help.” You are now the host’s go-to assistant, and they don’t even have to dig through an unkempt drawer of cast-off kitchen linens to find you an apron!

Sure, you could spring for a brand-new apron and give it to the host at the end of the night (the Williams-Sonoma Classic Apron makes for a handsome gift and costs roughly the same as a nice-but-not-ridiculous bottle of wine), but that extra step is wholly unnecessary. By volunteering yourself kindly yet assertively for whatever needs doing, you’ve already done more than enough. (Other friends and family will assist, of course, but I promise that before the end of the night, the host will recall your sous-chef-superhero moment with glee.)

Upon arrival, hang up your coat, don an apron you brought from home … stride into the kitchen and declare, “I’m here to help.”

2. Your own take-home containers for leftovers

The forethought that the host puts into Thanksgiving dinner ends with guests being seated, glasses clinking, and the turkey being carved. As the party at the table enjoys their holiday banquet, it has yet to occur to the host that they might produce more leftovers than they have storage or stomach space for.

You can do your host the huge favor of anticipating this problem and helping solve it by coming equipped with your own snap-lid containersreusable silicone bags, or just some repurposed takeout tubs. Now your host won’t have to make a mental note to track you down for borrowed containers. (I’ll go to war before I relinquish ownership of my cherished Stasher bags.) This also mitigates many hosts’ after-Thanksgiving struggle of the guilt that comes from gorging on too many leftovers or allowing them to go to waste. There’s a fine line between being pushy about demanding specific leftovers and being helpful. But if you were at my Thanksgiving, I’d be so pleased by your proactive approach that I’d insist you help yourself to first dibs while I tucked into another glass of wine.

3. A handy stain remover

When the gravy boat gets passed around a little too enthusiastically, your fellow guests will appreciate a quick refresh from a Tide to Go pen or, as we’ve recommended as a laundry pre-treat, some OxiClean spray. (Transfer the latter into a travel-size bottle for easier carrying and gift-giving; your host might appreciate it for their own post-event cleanup). Tide pens are frequently sold in packs of three, so you can offer them up en masse as a need-a-pen, take-a-pen present for all, or you can leave them behind at the end of the night. Either way, your host will be thrilled that they won’t have to get out of their seat to whip up a makeshift stain solution.

I know that for some of us, attending a get-together without a gift for the host feels gauche and contrary to the good manners instilled in us as kids. I, too, take pride in erring on the side of overabundance when it comes to gift-giving. Conveying your gratitude to your host with a more classic show of thanks is never a bad move—in fact, we have some creative ideas that go well beyond wine and flowers if you’d like some suggestions—although I recommend giving them to your host after the meal rather than as soon as you walk in the door.

Just remember that whatever you bring, you’re never showing up empty-handed when you offer a helping hand. That’s the kind of giving I’m most thankful for.

This article was edited by Catherine Kast and Annemarie Conte.

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