Anyone who has gone to college out of state, moved away from home for their first job, or gone traveling in the fall knows this feeling. It's the one that approaches as November rolls on, the one that has nothing to do with midterms or work and everything to do with turkey-shaped napkins and decorative gourds.
It's the mixed bag of nervousness and awkwardness that accompanies knowing you are going to spend Thanksgiving, the holiday dedicated to gluttony, questionable values (the slaughter of Native Americans, anyone?), and adorably awkward family traditions, with relatives that do not belong to you.
I was incredibly lucky. The family I got to spend the last few Thanksgivings with was amazing, hilarious, and generous enough to include me and another California orphan in their festivities. Thanksgiving with them was an incredible celebration of family, friends, and fall in Vermont, and I'm going to miss them this year.
In that spirit, here's a list of ways to make the holiday fun for you and your adopted Thanksgiving family.
1. Bring your best small talk game.
Nothing makes that first introduction easier than a small army's worth of funny, pithy, witty, or whatever-your-style comments in your arsenal.
2. Help out!
The single best thing I did that first Thanksgiving with my friend's family was offer to help out with a dish. If my charming personality didn't win them over, my stuffing sure helped. If you're not into cooking, be a sous chef. Chop veggies, arrange place settings. Being useful makes your feel less like a guest and more like someone who belongs at the table.
3. Ask questions.
Other people's relatives have stories that you haven't heard before. It's totally worth it.
4. Try everything once.
Seriously. Do it. People do some awesome things with pumpkins and sweet potatoes this time of year.
5. Embrace the quirks.
Your family does weird things on Thanksgiving too. Everyone's does. Dive head-first into whatever traditions your adopt-a-family is working with, whether they involve ceramic squirrels, specific cranberry sauce recipes, or mandatory Black Friday J.Crew visits.
6. Don't get too drunk.
This should be self-explanatory, but it isn't. You are not the charming elderly uncle who is allowed to get wasted at dinner. One day, you might be. But today is not that day. Unless the mean level of inebriation at the dinner table is very high, stay within an acceptable distance of sober, for everyone's sake.
7. Be yourself.
Theoretically, you should like these people. There must be some reason you're at Thanksgiving with them!
8. Sit back and relax.
These aren't your relatives. They can't embarrass you. You are not related to them. Chill out. Have fun.
9. Give thanks!
You are happy, healthy, and eating Thanksgiving dinner regardless of how far you are from home. Someone has opened their home to you and let you be a part of their family tradition. It's definitely something to celebrate.