Should I Bring a Dish to Thanksgiving at Someone else's Home?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

When you’re asked to attend a Thanksgiving meal at someone else’s home, you may find yourself in a quandary about whether you should bring anything to the meal. Of course, you may not have a choice; some hosts may automatically assign you with the task of bringing something, be it dessert, rolls, a side dish or drinks. Other hosts don’t specifically ask for you to bring a dish to Thanksgiving. There are a number of reasons why you should at the very least offer one.

Fine chocolates make a good hostess gift.
Fine chocolates make a good hostess gift.

If there was ever a holiday that suggested potluck, Thanksgiving is surely it. Thanksgiving not only is a time to share the company of friends and families, but many also reflect on the early potlucks shared by pilgrims and Indians, before this relationship soured. For the sake of the holiday alone, offering to bring a dish commemorates this early sharing.

Apples are commonly associated with fall, and they are often enjoyed in Thanksgiving favorites like apple-cranberry sauce and apple pie.
Apples are commonly associated with fall, and they are often enjoyed in Thanksgiving favorites like apple-cranberry sauce and apple pie.

An invitation to dinner especially to a possibly large dinner is usually met by the polite offer on the part of the guest to provide something to the meal. Even if you don’t bring a dish to Thanksgiving, consider bringing a bottle of wine or for teetotalers a nice sparkling apple juice, and also as the recipient of an invitation, think of a small gift for your host, if not wine, flowers, chocolates, or a holiday plant make good choices.

Thanksgiving dinner can be a potluck affair where each guest brings a different dish.
Thanksgiving dinner can be a potluck affair where each guest brings a different dish.

Some people have dietary restrictions either medically or by choice that means things on a Thanksgiving menu may not be something you can or desire to eat. If you’re a vegetarian for example, how do you get around the fact that the main dish on Thanksgiving is usually turkey? Instead of asking your host to go to the extra trouble of preparing you a vegetarian meal, do explain your dilemma and ask if you could provide a vegetarian/vegan casserole, or another dish where you can be sure you’re not allergic to ingredients. When you don’t have the opportunity to ask, simply bring a dish that’s appropriate to your diet, and do your explaining as you present your contribution.

Many people who host Thanksgiving request that their guests bring a side dish to dinner.
Many people who host Thanksgiving request that their guests bring a side dish to dinner.

There are many hosts who truly enjoy preparing Thanksgiving meal, and put considerable planning into having everything “just so.” While you should always offer to bring a dish to Thanksgiving, don’t be alarmed or feel your cooking is insulted if a host declines this offer. The host or chef may have a wonderfully coordinated meal planned and has already done all the shopping and most of the preparation.

Guests to a Thanksgiving dinner may bring a casserole.
Guests to a Thanksgiving dinner may bring a casserole.

Do offer, when the meal is finished, to help with the cleanup, or offer your services if you don’t bring a dish to Thanksgiving, to help with preparation beforehand. With a host who has a clear idea of what they want, this still may be declined. Instead of feeling offended, appreciate the host for allowing you plenty of free time to enjoy the holiday.

Instead of bringing food to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by someone else, it may be appropriate to offer to help with cooking.
Instead of bringing food to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by someone else, it may be appropriate to offer to help with cooking.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

submariner

@ Anon42542- I love coffee, and that is a great idea. I usually just bring a bottle of some alcoholic beverage (depending on the host) and a desert. I feel that these are simple and will not intrude on the meal that the host worked so hard to make. The only time I actually bring a food item is if I am asked specifically. I'll have to remember that tip about the coffee for next thanksgiving.

anon42542

A great idea, especially for those who don't cook, is to bring a pound of fine coffee for after dinner -- it shows you contributed something but doesn't seem like you're horning in on food preparation.

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