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For a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, Etiquette Is Key

Being nice during a family holiday is sometimes easier said than done. Enter the etiquette experts!

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Bringing the Dog

This one is personal. I take my dog, Sugar-Shane, everywhere. My family is eating at my cousin's house for the first time this year. Sugar could stay in the hotel room, but I would be much happier if I could bring him. Titus and King were caught a bit off guard by this one, but they did say that I could bring Sugar if I got permission from the host.

"You must be emotionally prepared for the dog to be rejected," says Titus. I'm not. And if I am allowed to bring him, I have to keep him on the periphery, King says, in case other guests are allergic. Basically, I'll be banished to some corner to eat so my dog doesn't disturb anyone else. I'm not crazy about this bit of advice!

In a black household, it is as certain as collard greens during Thanksgiving: The food is going to be blessed. If prayer isn't your thing, Titus, who is a Christian, says keep it to yourself. It is also rude, she points out, to bow your head silently at the table and pray to yourself. "That is the opposite of what Christ himself would do," she says. "You submit to your environment."

She also suggests that it's rude for anyone but the host to suggest blessing the food, unless it is just a family dynamic. If a guest does jump in and do that, Titus says, the host should graciously "relinquish and save the guest the embarrassment."

Helping With the Dishes

I don't mind helping with the dishes, but having every guest crowded in the kitchen for the big cleanup doesn't really work. But Titus says that we should offer to help, no matter what. "Assist in clearing the table, then ask for an assignment," she advises.

So what if you get stuck with a task like cleaning a grill that's a sticky mess after the featured bird was prepared there? It may not be fair, but both of our experts say that good etiquette means getting it done with a smile on your face. Immediately after, you can start planning alternative dinner arrangements for next year!

Using Cell Phones or Social Media

I'm actually looking forward to tweeting a play-by-play during my family's gathering this year. Titus, however, warns that this would be a huge faux pas and that cell phones and PDAs should be turned off at the table. If you must check your messages after dinner? "Go to a private area," she says, "and never check while you are having a conversation with someone standing in front of you."