Hard to believe, but it’s almost been 7 years since my grandmother went off to Glory. In that same respect, it’s been just as long since my rather large extended family of 9 aunts and uncles, countless cousins, and even more countless cousins’ kids have gathered at Big Mama’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was a tradition for as long as I could remember, but one that faded into memory once she passed. Since then, each family in that extensive group have created new traditions to pass down to their own generations.
But one thing that will always tie us together is the fact that we’re black folk doing Thanksgiving dinner. Even if we no longer squeeze together under the same tiny roof to celebrate the holiday, we’ll still forever be united in the universality of the black Thanksgiving. If you’re new to the game (though, honestly, I don’t see how you can be in 2017), here are a few things you can expect during a Black Thanksgiving. Govern yourselves accordingly:
(1) Count on starting late. Goes without saying. There’s a floating stereotype about my people and our propensity to be late for everything. As much as Obama’s transformative existence has helped to defy some of the stereotypes typically associated with us, sometimes there’s a reason a cliche is a cliche. That said, a good rule of thumb in determining what time you’ll actually be eating is to add a minimum of 2 hours to the originally stated start time. If y’all decided to start at 1 pm, count on eating at around 3:30, 4:00 pm. That said, make sure this is not your first meal of the day. You’ll be disappointed.
(2) Thanksgiving isn’t the time to experiment with new dishes not already familiar to you. This should be common knowledge…but apparently this one falls flat on people; including yours truly. I hinted at the idea of trying something different this year, and my wife QUICKLY shut that mess down. Even I had to be reminded of the rules. Thanksgiving food is supposed to made from the soul. Souls don’t operate with a cookbook.
(3) Speaking of “not being the time to try something new”, fam, if you have a new sidepiece, especially if you’re currently married or working out the details of your divorce, leave their a** at home. Please. The only tackling we should be seeing on Thanksgiving Day is during the football games (Go Lions!).
(4) Prayers that are less than four minutes long aren’t prayers. I know everybody is there for the main attraction – the food itself. But there’s one thing black folk generally love more than food. It’s Jesus. That said, count on your deacon uncle going anywhere between 4-7 minutes on the prayer. They’ve gotta be sure to remind God of how ‘umbly they come before Him, how thankful they are for allowing everyone to safely travel over the ‘highways and biways’, and something about the ‘sick and shut in.’ If you can do it on the sly, it’s actually very smart strategy to let one of the kids do the prayer. Sure, you’ll have to listen to the “thank you for the shoes on my feet, clothes on my back” bit, and you’ll probably have to endure the “God bless my teacher, God bless my dog, God bless the mailman” bit for a minute. But it’s better than Uncle Deacon’s sermon.
(5) If you’re not a cook, stay away from the kitchen. Lingering around the kitchen and bothering the cooks will surely get you cut.
(6) No, it is NOT pumpkin pie. But at least one white dude gets it:
(7) Men in the family, make sure your car is properly gassed and that you’re not blocked in. At some point or during multiple points, you will be leaving to make last-second store runs. I mean, it makes sense. When the cooks’ minds are consumed with making Turkey, dressing (not stuffing), greens, ham, and a litany of other calorically-abundant foods, the last thing on their minds are the plates to serve them on, the cutlery to eat them with, the cups to drink from, or the trash liners to throw our plates in. Since most of the bruhs don’t cook well enough to contribute on that front, we have to pull our weight in other ways. Our weight being Greek for “our cars.”
(8) Find that one “while you’re up person” and get as much mileage out of them as you possibly can. In my family, it’s usually my sister-in-law, Skye. If she was a leased car, she’d already put in her annual mileage limit making back-and-forth trips to get deviled eggs, pound cake, and juice. God bless her.
(9) You are required to help clean up. Ha. Just kidding.
(10) Somebody is gonna get hit with shade. The trick is: don’t take it personally. In a black household, it’s bound to happen to everyone. One year, it was me for “eatin’ pretty good.” But it can be anybody. No man knoweth the day, nor the hour. But I will say that something obvious, like bringing your new boy/girlfriend will make you an instant target. Be careful.
As tempted as you might be to ‘clapback’, just roll with the punches. But if you insist on hitting back, come prepared with a list of zingers. To firm up your contingency plan, compile a comprehensive list with every family member in mind, since you won’t know where your shade attacks will be coming from. If you have a large family like mine, count on writing a books’ worth of disses and funny comebacks. But I’m warning you, that can be as tiring as cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
There are about 329 other rules worth mentioning, but I don’t want to overload your circuits or WordPress’s servers. So I’ll leave you alone and let you enjoy your holiday. Sometimes you gotta know when to step away from the table. See what I did there?
Anyway, wishing you all a fun, safe, Thanksgiving!