10 Creative Conversation Topics for Thanksgiving Dinner
While much of our preparation for Thanksgiving dinner is spent on menu planning, cooking, cleaning, and decorating, we often neglect preparation for one of the most important elements: social interaction at the Thanksgiving dinner table. New boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses attending as guests, newly blended families, longstanding grudges between relatives, or a recent death or tragedy in the family are among the many situations that contribute to difficulty connecting or tension at the dinner table. If we want our guests to leave Thanksgiving dinner feeling thankful, we need to plan ahead. This does not mean micro-managing the conversation, but it does require that we take some time beforehand to think about what might help people interact. One way is to come up ahead of time with creative Thanksgiving conversation topics that will get every guest having fun and learning more about each other. Here are some ideas:
Topic # 1 - Look at the person to your left. What quality in them are you most thankful for? This can help connect people who don't normally talk, and can even lead to some laughs.
Topic # 2 - What event of this year are you most thankful for? This could be a personal or public event. Some people only get to catch up once a year during the holidays, so this can give them a chance to hear the latest news in each other's lives. (*Note - this has the potential to turn to politics in some groups, which can raise an emotional debate, so ask people ahead of time to steer clear of politics if you think this will lead to conflict tonight.)
Topic # 3 - Which food we'll eat tonight are you most thankful for? Even the shyest guest will have no trouble coming up with an answer, and the added benefit is that stressed-out or burned-out cooks will feel appreciated.
Topic # 4 - What lesson have you learned this year that you are thankful for? This question digs a little deeper, so guests might need some time to think about their answers. We seldom get a chance to reflect on our lives like this, so this can be a special time.
Topic # 5 - What book or movie this year have you been thankful for? A more light-hearted question that still helps everyone learn about each other.
Topic # 6 - What personal accomplishment this year are you thankful for? If you have some guests that would be likely to give a speech on the progress of their career, you can decide to ask people ahead of time to limit their answer to a couple sentences.
Topic # 7 - What disappointment this year are you thankful for? It can be a great question for reflecting on how hard times can actually turn out to be blessings in disguise.
Topic # 8 - What new skill that you've learned this year are you thankful for? You can see that many of these conversation topics help people reflect on their year. Many people are surprised at the abilities they have developed to deal with new situations or roles.
Topic # 9 - What habit have you developed this year that you are most thankful for? We spend a lot of time talking about eliminating bad habits, but it's worth something to look at the good habits we've developed and celebrate that they've become a part of our everday life.
Topic # 10 - What is the one thing in life you are most thankful for? This really gets to the heart of Thanksgiving's theme, and it helps people get to the point of what matters most to them.
Feel free to brainstorm your own ideas. Conversation topics and questions can be answered one by one as you go around the table, or you can write the questions on slips of paper and place them by people's plates, or have them draw out of a hat. Don't feel pressure to use all of these -- you can also just have them on hand in case the conversation fizzles or you need to steer people away from an argument. The point is to get people talking, and to laugh and give thanks as a group for all of our blessings.