Black family Thanksgiving dinner is filled with traditions, love, laughter, and bonding with everyone. If you’re a non-black reveler attending Thanksgiving with a black family, expect to be welcomed with warm hugs. You’ll also meet a large group of people, perhaps three to four generations.
Besides, there are a few things to note to have a good time and survive as the only few non-blacks.
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Observe Black Family Thanksgiving Unwritten Rules
Don’t Come Empty Handed
It’s thoughtful and acceptable to come to a black family Thanksgiving with a gift or contribution. If you’re not sure what to bring, ask. Even if they say so, you should bring something. Below are a few options.
- Collard greens
- Southern turkey
- Homemade cornbread
- Baked Mac and cheese
You can also bring wine or a fruit basket. Bringing a gift is a way to let everyone at the gathering know you appreciate them.
Leave the green, red, or pink gelatin-based salads and casseroles at home. Black people don’t eat that.
Be a Cheerful Eater
You’re expected to fill your plate with enough food, including candied yams and collard greens. If you’re not used to eating Southern food, pick enough options as part of the family.
And be ready to hear people talk about Southern food at the dinner table. This is the time to keep quiet and learn about black food and recipes.
Be Ready for Potato Salad
One favorite root crop in the black family is the potato. You can make different recipes out of potatoes. One top recipe at black dinner is potato salad. This recipe appears yellow, with paprika and eggs as the main ingredients. You’ll love it.
Don’t Pick from Others’ Plate
In a black family Thanksgiving gathering, it’s rude to pick food from the plates of others during dinner. No matter how friendly you are with someone, don’t do it unless the person makes the offer.
Be Ready to Dance
What’s a black family Thanksgiving without singing and dancing? Everyone, including you, who may be a non-black reveler is expected to dance with others. You’ll be surprised to be called to dance by an elder if you’re younger.
In some cases, you may be called to recite a poem or share insights from the Bible. Don’t be offended; such gatherings are purely traditional, and no one is left out.
Be Open for Warm Hugs
Black people go beyond handshakes to make you feel warm and welcome. As such, even as a non-black person, be ready for a lot of hugs and big hugs from young and old. Hugs are a way to show appreciation for showing up and to feel loved and at home.
Don’t take Photos of the Food
Avoid the temptation to take photos of the nice dishes you see to post on social media. Unless you’re asked, but hardly. This habit is like playing a food anthropologist around big mothers and setting the table. You’re not ready for the side eye!
No, they’re not angry with you, but they don’t understand what you’re taking the pictures for, either.
Bring Vegan Food
If you’re vegan, let your host know so they can make exceptions for you. Other than that, it’s wise to bring some vegan dishes to eat and to share with others. It’s also polite to ask or inform your host before bringing the dish.
When you arrive, say hello and hold small talks with everyone individually before the family gathers for dinner. The response will likely be, “We know you, baby”!
This isn’t an occasion to be an introvert, even if you’re one. A black family Thanksgiving is always home for everyone, including you. You’ll hear jokes about non-black people occasionally; join the laugh because it’s not too serious.
However, wait to be invited to play games or dance after dinner.
Wait for the Drama to Unfold
Avoid asking questions like “How are you related to Daisy”? Everyone’s family is such a gathering, and it’s for Thanksgiving, not tracing a family tree. Hence, wait for small talks about family drama to learn these things without asking. And be ready for some drama and laughter.
Offer to Help
Roll your sleeves and offer to help in the kitchen or clean after dinner. Please don’t take it personally if your request is declined. There’s always something you can help with: make yourself valuable.
Avoid Using First Names for the Elderly
Black southern culture is purely traditional, including giving respect to the elderly. In a Thanksgiving gathering, use ‘ma’am and sir’ rather than addressing people by their names, especially the elderly.
In return, your new name will be ‘baby, honey, sweetheart’. For example, “Can you get on the dance floor, baby”. And when this happens, know that you’re home.
Black family Thanksgiving is a gathering of the whole family, including those near and far, non-black revelers and close friends. If you find yourself invited to such an event, don’t worry too much; just do what you’ll do when you go to Rome.
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