Whether you serve your Thanksgiving meal family style, buffet, or plated, there is room to add some pizzazz to the table and, therefore, the event.  People notice when you take the time to make something special.  It lifts their spirits and enlivens conversation, making your time together more enjoyable.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started.

Flowers, pumpkins, and gourds, oh my! These are the staples of Thanksgiving decorating and are used several ways. A woven basket of small gourds makes a colorful centerpiece for your table. Just make sure your centerpiece is no higher than 7 inches so guests can still see each other.

Cut the top off a small pumpkin, scoop out the pulp and place flowers inside to create a unique table accessory. It is easier to arrange the flowers in a small jar that sits perfectly in the pumpkin. This also allows you to keep water in it so your arrangement lasts longer.

Tiny vases of baby mums are great to cluster in empty spaces on your table or buffet.  Spread them down the table amongst the pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, or arrangements of larger flowers.

Consider creating a table runner of several small gourds, pumpkins, and flower arrangements.  Place a large cluster as the centerpiece of the table, then scatter the rest down the table in each direction.  Or, if your table is round, scatter them in a circular area around the centerpiece.

Size matters. As mentioned above, keep your table pieces 7 inches or shorter. This ensures that guests are able to make eye contact and keep their conversations going.  Very important if a fun, lively event is your goal.

Use any large pumpkins, gourds, or flower arrangements in other areas of your home.  On your coffee table, in your entryway, or on the front porch.

Get your family involved. Holiday decorating not only creates a pleasant, colorful atmosphere, it also provides a memorable bonding experience with your children.  Find ways to get them involved.  They might help arrange the items on the table.  If you have more than one child you may give each of them an assignment of decorating a specific area – the table, the living room, the entryway, etc.

Reap the rewards. Your guests and family members enjoy your efforts to make their holiday even more special.  Your children have their confidence bolstered from the compliments they receive on their decorations. Your Thanksgiving holiday is a success!
Pumpkins and Gourds
Pumpkins and gourds make colorful table arrangements
Flowers in a Pumpkin
Flowers arranged in a small pumpkin provide unique table decorations
Using baby mums
Tiny vases of baby mums make lovely space fillers
Roses
Large flower arrangements can be enjoyed in other areas of your home

Test your Thanksgiving Manners with our True/False Etiquette Questions Below

1. As soon as you are seated at the table and have your food, you may begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

2. If someone asks for the salt, pass them both, the salt and the pepper.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

3. At the beginning of a sit-down, family-style meal, food is first passed to the right.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

4. Cut up all your food before you begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

5. If a toast is given, but you don’t drink,  just sit and watch everyone else hold up their glass.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

 

6. If you have to get up from the table place your napkin in your chair.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

7. If you have to remove a piece of meat or a bite of food that you can’t chew, discreetly slide it back onto your fork and place it on your plate. Try to cover it up with something else so that it is not visible to others

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

8. Crumble up your napkin and put it in your plate when you are finished with your meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

9. If you have to sneeze or cough at the table, always turn your head to the side and cover your mouth with the napkin. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

10. By placing your silverware in the 3:15 or 6:30 position on your plate, it means that you are finished eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

Thanksgiving can be a joyful time with family and friends, or it can seem like you the host, have taken on too many responsibilities as the cook, server, and dishwasher. Whether having dinner with new in-laws, old friends, or close family members, there are certain tricks and tips that can make you look like a pro at hosting a thanksgiving feast.

Plan ahead. Make the turkey and side dishes in advance. Set a schedule and lay out exactly how much time you will need.

Accept help. If others offer to bring an item or come early to assist you, always welcome their kind gesture.

Set it pretty. Entertaining is the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops when it comes to your table setting. Use the china, crystal, and silver that you have. Place flowers, candles, and seasonal items down the center of the table to create ambiance. It is well worth the extra minutes and effort.

Shake up the seating arrangements. If possible, separate couples so that they are not sitting across from or next to each other. Seat people according to personality and interests.

Set the tone. Most guest will follow the host’s lead. Your mood is critical to set the tone of the dinner.  Always remain positive and keep a smile on your face.  Your attitude can put any guests at ease.

Get dressed and ready early. If you stayed up all night cooking and cleaning, never allow your guests to know you are tired or stressed. It is always best to plan ahead and make sure you are refreshed and ready for any small emergencies that may occur.

Steer the conversation. Stay away from conversations about sex, religion, or politics. These topics have been known to put a damper on the evening. Do your best to direct the conversations so that they don’t lead down a dangerous path.

Have your 10 questions ready to go. If you are acting as host, consider the opposing views of dinner guests. Plan a list of appropriate discussion points ahead of time. Stick to topics suitable and appropriate for all audiences.  Pick 10 questions to get the conversation going – include the weather, pets, movies, books, travel and so on.  Pay attention to local and national news so that you are well informed about things happening around you.

Make it a game. Between courses, if there is a lull in the conversation and guests get that glazed-over look, pull out a game such as Table Topics. Have guests draw a card and answer questions that are posed. Boredom be gone!

Stay neutral. Try not to take sides. Make your guests comfortable by listening to different points of view.  The relationships between guests in your home are far more important than anyone being right or feeling superior.

Being a great host takes planning and patience. Good conversation is as important as good food, wine, and flowers to ensure that everyone will have a great time - including you, the host.

Who are the enemies of etiquette today? Well, they are lurking everywhere and screaming for your attention.

We have compiled a list of our top “Enemies of Etiquette” as we like to call them so that you can be on the lookout.

The Enemy: Technology

Children and parents alike are glued to their devices. Seeing a family of four all staring at their iPhones during a dinner out is a common occurrence. With these distractions at our finger tips, communication and socialization are diminishing.

Advice: Actively be aware of how much time you spend staring at the screen.  Take back your precious time.

The Enemy: Social Media

Not only do we communicate more and with larger audiences, we do so at lightning speed, using emojis, status updates and 140 character announcements. Immediate updates, cute dog videos, personal information about friends and acquaintances along with new or fake news updates is constantly being thrown our way.

Advice: Limit time using social media, be aware of what you are reading and absorbing and always think before you post on any social site.

The Enemy: The Race

You’re in a hurry, I’m in a hurry, were all in a hurry! There is never enough time - - and especially not enough time for manners or courtesy.

Advice: Slow down, you’re not the only one whose time is important.  There is always time to show respect for others.

The Enemy: Trolls

People say things online that they would never dream of uttering out loud. The amount of hate and irresponsibility on social sites and in comment sections is unbelievable. Words have power and what we say online has just as much weight as what we say in person.

Advice: Don’t get involved with trolls – don’t read their remarks – ban and block those individuals. If you think you are being one – stop it immediately!

The Enemy: Time

Over-scheduled, rushed, too busy to sit down and eat together – this is typical. The Harris Poll states that 59% of people claim their family has fewer dinners together than they did growing up. This is cause for concern since the family dinner is the cornerstone of conversation skills and consideration for others.

Advice: Make time to have meals together.  This is an important sharing time – not only for families with children, but for everyone.  Sharing your day and listening to someone else is one of the best things we can do to eradicate the enemies of etiquette.

The “enemies of etiquette” all have one goal - To divide us. We must stay vigilant and continue fighting the battle in the hopes of preserving courtesy and respect. 

While some customs from long ago have remained fixtures in our modern society, there are many that have faded into obscurity and for good reason. We have uncovered the explanations behind some of today’s common and strange customs that managed to stick around.

The Handshake

Dating back to Ancient Greece – a source of many modern Western customs – this greeting was a sign of equality and mutual respect.

Shaking hands replaced bows and curtsies, while also serving as proof that both parties came unarmed.

In medieval Europe, the handshake became a powerful symbol of the bond between husband and wife. It was the final gesture of wedding ceremonies.

Today, a hand shake can symbolize multiple things but mainly it is used to say hello, goodbye, congratulations, and to seal the deal.

“Achoooo. . . . God Bless you!”

It’s almost as much of a reflex as sneezing itself.  Here in the United States, when someone sneezes, “God Bless you” will often be heard immediately after.

But why? We don’t acknowledge any other bodily functions in such a way. So how did this response originate? 

Some point to the Greeks and Romans for starting this fascination with sneezing. They viewed it as a sign of wellness – a means of expelling bad spirits from the body – and would routinely offer blessings unto the sneezer.

Centuries later, widespread fears brought on by the outbreak of the bubonic plague cast suspicion on the sneeze. Pope Gregory VII called on the people of Europe to utter a short prayer, “Bless you”, after every sneeze to protect against the sickness.

Upon reflection, it is a very strange custom - - -that doesn't appear to be fading anytime soon.

Dining Styles - Continental or American Style Dining?

As all of The American School of Protocol’s Certified Graduates know, there is a stark difference in dining styles once you cross the Atlantic.

In the United States, “Zig-Zag” is used, while our European neighbors predominantly eat “Continental.”

It is very surprising to learn that the traditional European method was in fact originally the American style. The "dining style divide" resulted when British colonists sailed across the Atlantic, bringing their multi-step cutting method to the New World.

The colonists retained this dining style, but back in Europe, the Industrial Revolution brought a faster pace of life that left little room for the niceties and courtesies of the previous era, leading to the more streamlined Continental style.

Clinking glasses

After a toast, it is tradition to clink glasses with fellow diners. This iconic act of celebration comes from a dark past.

Clinking glasses originally started with the intention of spilling a little of the other person’s drink into your own to demonstrate that neither party had poisoned the other’s glass. The clink was a sign of good will, a feeling that has endured to today.

Elbows off!

“Don’t put your elbows on the table!” The origin of this classic motherly saying dates back to medieval times.

Feasts were held in great halls and hundreds of people would eat together at long wooden tables. While the food was often plentiful, space was not.

Furthermore, when dining in the presence of the lords and ladies of the realm, it was deemed “peasant-like” to hunch over one’s plate, guarding the food from others. The act gave off an aura of distrust, and has since become a commonly repeated rule.

Today, it is acceptable to have your elbows on the dining table in between courses and when there are no dishes on the table.  Other than that it's a good idea to follow this old rule. 

It is truly interesting to trace our everyday behaviors – many of which we don’t give a second thought.

A recent article posted by The Conversation, an academic content website, listed 10 ways schools, parents, and communities can prevent school shootings now.

Number one on their list to combat this major problem is for schools and communities to teach social and emotional skills.

The article states that decrease in free play time and frequent social media use has reduced children’s opportunities to learn these basic social skills. Children should be learning these skills sets in school, but often times they are not.

As an etiquette and life skills educational company, The American School of Protocol, completely agrees that children need to learn life skills. However, we have found that during the school day is not when the majority of this learning takes place.

Many schools have completely eliminated character building classes and activities due to academic pressure and the need to meet certain benchmarks on state administered exams.

Studies have found that schools only try to implement a character building program, once it is too late or as a buffer to help solve an existing problem.  Children spend more time at school and extracurricular activities than ever before.  The lack of  instruction from parents is now becoming more apparent.

Character Education, Etiquette, and Life Skills are all necessary to help formulate a balanced and socially compassionate child who can conduct themselves with confidence and consideration for others. Eliminating home economics, life skills and character building paired with our new digital era and lifestyle, qualified etiquette teachers are more in demand than ever before, but without instruction in the class room and etiquette teachers in the communities, the outlook for the future of our youth is grim.

After every tragic event our requests, internet searches and calls soar. We also hear from individuals around the world who have the same problem. The American School of Protocol’s goal is for every state and city across the United States to have a knowledgeable etiquette teacher who is offering classes to students of all ages.

We continually find underqualified and inexperienced instructors who want to help, but just aren’t accomplishing their goals. Etiquette is an unregulated industry.  This is why it is so easy for other companies to market and sell certificates and programs that don’t teach the information correctly or address the real issues.

We have developed our 5-Day Certification Training and a complete Character Education Series for teachers who want to make sure they are teaching  high quality, accurate educational materials.

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To parents, educators, entrepreneurs, we need you to step up and bring etiquette to your community. If this has been on the back burner, we encourage you to lay out your goals and make it happen. Now is the time!

The centuries old pattern of ‘going into retirement at a certain age’ is fading away - - - and it’s for a good reason. Doctors around the world are now saying that instead of heading into retirement, you are better off staying in work to keep physically and mentally active.

Instead of facing retirement without a plan, many are embarking on this new chapter of their lives by reinventing themselves. Searching for a new career path, starting a business, making your hobby profitable, these are challenges that ex-retirees are finding exciting and purposeful.

After retirement many succumb to loneliness, isolation and health deterioration. With all the recent studies we know that going into auto-pilot, drifting without purpose only gets you one place fast.

The AARP Bulletin recently searched out ordinary people who have done extraordinary things with their second careers.  They discovered that 40 percent of people working at age 62 had changed careers since they turned 55. We found this article to align with many of the individuals who attend The American School of Protocol’s Etiquette Certification Training.

President and Founder of The American School of Protocol, Peggy Newfield says, “Seventy percent of the trainees who attend our program are planning for their second career. They are utilizing their new found freedom after retirement as a way to not only keep themselves busy, but also an avenue to give back.”

Peggy Newfield speaking to trainees during the 5-Day Etiquette Certification Training

According to Newfield, “With over 800 certified graduates, I have found that careers can take off at any age. There is only one ingredient that has to be there: PASSION.”

During The American School of Protocol’s five day training program trainees learn how to set up an etiquette consulting and teaching business. Through hands-on tutorials, small sessions, and class discussion each graduate leaves feeling empowered and ready to set out on their new career path.

“ASP’s proven outline and ongoing support is the roadmap to success” says Martha Berge who graduated from the program in 2015. After retiring Berge found herself bored and in need of stimulating work. 

“After working as a marketing executive for 35 years I was not ready to just lounge around. I needed a purpose.”

Berge is now using the skill set she learned during Etiquette Certification Training to reach out to her community. She is a keynote speaker once a month at rotary meetings and has a set evening every week where she answers etiquette questions at her local country club. 

With 15 grandchildren Berge also makes it a point to personally teach her grandchildren. “They find my sessions to be fun and truly look forward to it.”

Berge says the experience and skill set that she gained during the 5-Day Certification training has empowered her.  She now feels more connected to her family and community than ever before. 

“My children and grandchildren call me to ask etiquette questions. I have been asked to attend a local high school job fair and speak to the students about interview skills and how to land the job. The opportunities seems endless.” 

Newfield, who founded The American School of Protocol in 1980 strongly believes that those heading into retirement need to plan for this new chapter of their lives.

“Keeping your mind busy improves your chances of staying healthier longer. It’s a fact. Instead of focusing on ‘retirement’ we need to start thinking about what to do next.” 

Newfield strongly states, "You are still here and have something to offer. Don’t sit around and waste your time lunching and shopping.  Make yourself useful and do something you will be proud of."

To Learn more about The American School of Protocol’s Certification Training that is helping to launch second careers all over the world click here.

#1 Bring a gift for the host. 

#2 Offer to help to the host.

#3 Participate in the holiday traditions.

#4 Ask the host where you should sit at the dining table.

#5 Wait for the host to begin the meal. A blessing or a few words will often be shared to thank everyone for being there.

#6 Eat slowly and engage in conversation with others during the meal.

#7 Say something nice about the food and thank those who helped make all the preparations.

#8 After the meal is over, see how you can help clean up.

#9 Don't overstay your welcome.

#10 Send a thank-you note to the host expressing your gratitude and appreciation for the meal.

 

Awkward, inappropriate and ill-mannered conversations are meant to rock the boat. Encounters like these will make you ready to abandon ship and often leave you feeling drunk as a sailor.

What’s even worse is when you are held prisoner to this inappropriate dialogue which is heading for shipwreck because it is unfolding over a meal.

An interesting discussion usually makes the meal even more enjoyable, however even the best food can smell fishy when paired with unwanted dinner conversation.

Below are a few tactics that will keep you from being dead in the water when you feel like the titanic heading straight toward an iceberg of unfortunate conversation.

Know which way the wind blows

If someone asks you an inappropriate question, know the ropes and don’t take the bait.

Simply respond by saying “What an interesting question. I am going to need some time to think about that.”

Hook, line and sinker

Then, as quickly as you can, take the wind out of the sails and change the subject to something lighter- - - like how delicious the oyster appetizer looks.

Loose lips sink ships

If you can feel that the tone of the conversation will veer you off the straight and narrow guess what? You are the captain of this ship.

Quickly hold the topic at bay by linking to something said in a previous conversation.

Keep your head above water

It is always good etiquette to keep the response positive. Find something complimentary to say about the guest or topic.

Then, stay on course and begin moving full speed ahead.

Barge right in

You can also be more honest and answer with, “I really don’t want to dive right into the deep end … I just want to hear about you and what’s going on in your life.”

Rats abandon a sinking ship

Be ready to turn the tables and look for opportunities to engage in a conversation with someone else.

Sink or swim

If you sink you will end up with knots in your stomach.

If you swim, use humor as your lifeboat to steer the conversation into calmer seas.

Be ready to walk the plank

If the focus doesn’t change remember the restroom is a safe harbor. Kindly excuse yourself and take a few minutes to gather your thoughts.

Don’t let any conversation leave you high and dry. Throw caution to the winds and remember, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.