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Late Thanksgiving Dinner?

I know that some families enjoy Thanksgiving for lunch (noon/early afternoon), but for those with guests who don't have to travel far and thus won't have issues with post-consumption lethargy, do you ever serve later in the 7-9pm hours?

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  1. Always.

    It's why we call it "Thanksgiving Dinner" as opposed to "Thanksgiving meal"

    11 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Do you eat breakfast and lunch beforehand? I suggested the late night idea but complaints were that they would be so hungry but didn't want to eat breakfast and lunch and then miss out on the good dinner eats.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        Yes - both breakfast and lunch.

        We don't believe in gorging ourselves just b/c it's Thanksgiving. It's a normal meal, but simply with (more) family and friend.

        Celebrating Thanksgiving for us is more about being with loved ones, the food is there more as background music (and generally it's not even turkey).

        We could just as well be eating instant ramen and Saltine crackers as long as we are doing it with friends and family.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          It is easy to "overeat" turkey without actually "gorging" oneself (at least in our family) since when you eat it takes around 20 minutes for your "brain" to feel full.... so if you eat until you are full because it is a special dinner then you end up being stuffed.

          Usually Thanksgiving (Christmas being the other) is one of two occasions where we would have much larger number of guests invited over since you would pick up maybe extra students from University or College, sometimes teachers, co-workers, etc. in addition to any additional family you would have locally since it is important for people not to be alone on important celebratory days like Thanksgiving. The people you eat with is always more important than just the food. Food always tastes better when shared with friends and family.

          Personally, I did not like all the sides etc. that were common (mashed potatoes, turnip, etc) - so for me Thanksgiving dinner was hot turkey sandwiches & and of course the stuffing which is why a whole bird was always important. Stuffing made without a turkey ... is just not stuffing to me. Always looked forward to leftovers that would be used in turkey curry, and turkey & rice soup.

          1. re: cacruden

            What I did find strangely different between my American Thanksgiving and my normal Canadian Thanksgiving was that the American one typically had more religion intertwined with their Thanksgiving feast/holiday.... while the Canadian one never had any religious ties in the same way as the American one. Religious holidays were Easter and Christmas. Thanksgiving was purely traditional.

            1. re: cacruden

              I find that very strange. Even the super religious folks I know don't consider Thanksgiving a religious holiday in the US. Theist religion is that they say grace before the meal. Many people do that at everyday though.

              1. re: melpy

                It was more than just grace before the meal, that would not have triggered that feeling.... although my father kept it short and to the point "For this food we are about to receive, thank god.... amen". It was more of a reorientation of the thankfulness of the harvest and to the natives that saved an il-prepared european group to going around the big table and indicating what you were thankful of god for.... To which I just decided to pick a politically correct thanking of my co-workers :o. There were some other small things in addition to it, but it became more of thanksgiving to god. Not quite a Christmas or Easter but more than just a festive feast.

              2. re: cacruden

                I have never noticed any religious aspect to Thanksgiving either.

                1. re: cacruden

                  The American Thanksgiving holiday has ties to the 'first Thanksgiving' with the Pilgrims giving thanks for a good harvest. The Pilgrims left their homeland because of religious persecution. While many people do not include a religious aspect of Thanksgiving, many do. I think it depends on how religious a family is to start with. Many times that is partly determined by their geographical location. The big population centers, especially on the coasts, seem to have a more secular bent.

                  1. re: cacruden

                    I was raised in small-town Missouri and despite being regular churchgoers in a mainline Protestant church, never believed it to be a religious holiday. And in those days we sang "We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing..." and another religious song set to Sibelius' Finlandia in the school's assembly just before being dismissed for the 4-day weekiend. (And how things have changed since then on that score. No opinions necessary, just remarking.)

                    My dear late MIL born in 1900 and brought to this country from the Ukraine in 1902, an educated non-religious Jew, always remarked that there were a tradition of harvest festivals in all cultures. And in their family, Thanksgiving was THE holiday, the one for which all the little wandering sheep were encouraged to return to the fold, heavy airport traffic or not. No other holiday or birthday was the equivalent. Very markedly non-religious from start to finish.

                    So much depends on the family whose celebration it is. I am sure there are homes in which all celebrations include religious elements, but even in these days of some revival in Christian faiths, I am sure there are just as many that aren't.

              3. re: fldhkybnva

                That's how our family is, everyone cries if we eat past 2:00 since no one wants to eat before the big meal! I personally prefer a 1:00 meal time!

              4. re: ipsedixit

                The meaning of "Dinner" is regional. The way I grew up is:

                Dinner-noon meal
                Supper- evening meal

                We have Thanksgiving dinner.

              5. I'm later than that. We're visiting relatives for Thanksgiving, but the three of us need to have one too. I plan to cook a turkey on the grill (like we always do), mashed potatoes, dressing, some cranberry relish, and maybe waldorf salad, but then maybe not. A truncated version, customized for us.

                2 Replies
                1. re: EWSflash

                  Grilled turkey, that sounds fabulous!

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    We Love grilled turkey! DH smoked one Sunday just for us, his family just doesn't appreciate it, so Thursday it will be roasted in the oven.

                  2. I didn't know anybody celebrated it at lunch. Everyone I know including my family in Canada have it as a dinner. This year I was asked to cater for thanksgiving "dinner" by my American boss, I agreed and have been planning everything in my head. Yesterday he told me the dinner was at 1:00pm which thuroughly confused me. I can adapt to the time fine, I just found it odd, but maybe it's pretty normal then.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: TeRReT

                      I didn't realize until I was an adult, that some people ate it as a lunch. I think that is very strange and don't care for that idea at all. We always called it "Thanksgiving dinner" and ate it at dinner time (after 5 pm).
                      Everyone eats breakfast, then arrives "whenever' for drinks and apps and to hang out/help/get in the way before dinner between 5 and 6 pm.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        Same here. We never had family in town and dinner was at 4 or 5 when I was growing up.

                      2. re: TeRReT

                        Yeah, I'm Canadian and it was always dinner. We'd have a light lunch at about noon - bread, cheese, pickles,salad, and be ready to eat by about 7.

                        1. re: TeRReT

                          My brother's inlaws serve holiday meals at noon. Many years ago my father was out of the country for Thanksgiving so my family and my mother ended up at this noon meal. After the meal all of the food was put away and the kitchen cleaned. Then about 5 pm the food was brought out again. I thought it was too much family togetherness for too long.

                          1. re: TeRReT

                            OMG, that would make it very difficult...... No wonder the Americans I had Thanksgiving in London UK with served cold turkey.... they are probably use to it if they have an early turkey. When growing up, my mom would have to get up at around 5am to stuff the bird and get it in the oven for it to be ready for dinner (at around 6 - 7pm)..... Sometimes had trouble squeezing it in the oven :o

                            If it has to be ready by 1pm, you basically have to put it in the oven around midnight (if you want it warm) and that means someone is getting no sleep.

                            1. re: cacruden

                              Yeah, beyond not wanting to show up and deal with relatives by noon, and beyond thinking it's too early in the day for a major feast, the torture on the cook is terrible!

                              1. re: cacruden

                                Must be one big bird!
                                I put my turkey in at 7:30 am and we ate at 12:30 with an hour of resting time. Should have been 30 minutes but we were wrestling with the mashed potato for 30 minutes. 16 lb. bird

                                1. re: melpy

                                  The largest bird we had was a 33lb bird I believe. Others, not as large but 16lb would be a little small.

                                  1. re: melpy

                                    Actually melpy, I think at least an hour is a better resting time :)

                              2. Ugh. Hubby's family always ate holiday meals at 12 NOON. Period. Hated it. We will do 6 or 7 pm. You know, dinner time-ish, but not too late for eating a lot.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: sandylc

                                  I don't like to eat that late because you don't get hungry for turkey and stuffing sandwiches. For us, the perfect time is 3:30, no lunch first, late breakfast. It is late enough to be easy in terms of getting the turkey in the oven, but leaves time for the essential late night turkey sandwich ;)

                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                    Indeed, good point. I think I enjoy the post-dinner sandwich leftovers kickoff that night more than the actual meal. Though I don't miss out on a good share of leftovers over the weekend as usual. I seem to dig into the fridge after Thanksgiving for a week.

                                  2. re: sandylc

                                    Last year my mother-in-law decided to move the eating time up from noon to 11:30am because they just simply couldn't wait any longer. They typically eat lunch by 11am any more. No matter what the occasion is, we must eat the "dinner" at noon at their home.

                                    I grew up in a household where dinner was served sometime between 6-6:30 no matter what. I personally prefer sometime after 7pm myself. I am fine with a holiday dinner that takes place mid afternoon. There is something about the day being a holiday that just says that the way it is done should be a little bit different somehow, but, the noon thing kills me. It would be different if it was early to accommodate someones schedule but since it isn't...

                                  3. My grandparents ate their dinner around 2pm every day of their married lives. Thanksgiving for our family was no different. I loved it. We'd eat a huge meal, prepared by my grandmother who was an incredible French cook, take a nap, and have a light meal later on from the leftovers.
                                    It's a remarkably healthy way to eat, as my many friends who were raised on a kibbutz, will testify.
                                    I prefer it this way.

                                    1. i've had it at both times....a mid afternoon dinner and a supper. but i prefer earlier so i can have leftovers later.

                                      1. Our Thursday Thanksgiving will be at about 4:30 or 5. On Saturday it will be late lunch-ish at 1pm because most of us are traveling at least an hour.

                                        1. We've always had an early afternoon meal for Thanksgiving. It gives time for the food to settle, and the ones preparing the meals time to 'put the kitchen to rights', before having dessert later in the afternoon. It also gives guests time to stop and see other family that will not have been at the dinner.

                                          1. We always have ours around 2. By the time everyone drives in, it's perfect. Lazy morning cooking and people filter in around noon to 1. Football and snacks, then dinner, then dessert, football, and wallowing :)

                                            1. Ours is usually ready about 3:00, then we have turkey sandwiches around 8:00.
                                              This year, we are empty nesters, and have been invited to a client/friend's home for Thanksgiving dinner, arriving at 5:00. My sour cream apple pie has been requested.

                                              Since DH and I love our usual Thanksgiving fare, we are fixing the turkey, stuffing and sweet potato-apple dish today so we can have our own leftover turkey sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. The host for Thanksgiving dinner is allergic to gluten and to 'anything with feathers', so I don't know what we are having there.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                No turkey and no gluten, not much left other than potatoes and cranberry sauce, yikes.

                                                1. re: rasputina

                                                  We're not having turkey or anything with gluten and I'm wondering if I'll have enough room on the table for everything!

                                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                    Well, the meal did not revolve around the host's food allergies. There was lamb and turkey that he smoked, roast turkey, sweet dressing, Brussels sprouts with bacon, onions and sour cream..two kinds of sweet potato with pecan dishes, salmon that the host smoked wrapped in baby spinach with a dab of garlic mayo, arugula salad with pomegranate and goat cheese, a semi-mashed chickpea spread with rice crackers, mashed Yukon golds with shiitake mushroom gravy..and several desserts, all delicious.
                                                    DH and I agreed that our favorites were a tossup between the smoked lamb and the Brussels sprouts. What a meal. And a great bunch of fun people, too. Life is good.

                                              2. Ours is usually a late lunch (or whenever Grandma says it's time!). My Grandpa, for as long as I can remember, called lunch "dinner" and the evening meal "supper". So, in my family Thanksgiving "dinner" is still lunch.

                                                We have two rules for family dinners: 1. If you come empty handed, you're on kitchen clean up duty (luckily we have that one reliable empty handed relative). 2. Someone must check the fridge after all of the food has been set out buffet style to see if Grandma "forgot" anything. (I think she does this on purpose these days because she knows we think it's funny.)

                                                1. We are planning for about 4:30 or 5:00. Family flying in that day arriving about 1:00. We'll have some apps and drinks before dinner. Nobody ever seems to want much of anything to eat later on. The sandwiches are for Friday!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: miriamjo

                                                    This is a great idea. My family is fairly small and extended family is 12 people maximum, yet we always make enough food for a small country. Inevitably, every year we forget a few items and discover them later.

                                                  2. No we never serve in the 7-9 pm range, I could only see that happening if there was some sort of emergency that day.

                                                    We usually eat around 2 but this year scheduling issues meant I did not get my prep done yesterday so the meal was moved back to 4ish to allow me to do everything, including making pies and rolls from scratch this morning. Now all my stuff is done I'm waiting for the turkey to finish cooking. Just 3 of us this year so I don't have to entertain either.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                      Enjoy your meal as soon as the bird is ready! I think we are looking at a 6-7pm time here. We always aim for earlier but of course...things happen.

                                                    2. 4:00 or 5:00 has always been the norm for me - my grandparents had it earlier when I was a kid, I think, but I wasn't so conscious of time then. Today we're eating at some friends' house, tomorrow we'll be in San Diego for TG2 with my brother, his daughter and her tribe, also around 4:00. In both cases that's the best possible time, since we won't be out too late tonight, and tomorrow night we'll have plenty of time to drive home.

                                                      I should also point out that in our Midwestern family "dinner" was simply the big meal of the day, and could take the place of either lunch or supper if it were sufficiently grand. Thanksgiving dinner and Sunday dinner both typically displaced lunch.

                                                      1. We will be today.

                                                        My dear mother passed away last night, & frankly I'm way way behind in my cooking today. But since it's just hubby & me, no big deal. Sigh.

                                                        14 Replies
                                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                                          I'm so very sorry for your loss, which I imagine must be especially hard in light of this family- centric holiday.

                                                          1. re: JenJeninCT

                                                            Thanks. It's been a very rough day.

                                                            1. re: Bacardi1

                                                              B1 - my heart goes out to you, dear. I am so sorry.

                                                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                A particularly tender time of year for such a loss. We are all thinking of you.

                                                                1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                  ((Bacardi1))... I am truly sad to hear this. My condolences to you and your family.

                                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                    Thank you so much everyone. I just spoke with my dad, who is non-ambulatory & in a nursing home, & he seems to be okay. He did get to see mom before she passed - my brother arranged an ambulance to take him to mom's hospice so he could spend some time with her. Unfortunately, this whole thing is happening out-of-state, so I can't even be an in-person comfort at the moment.

                                                                    Sad all round. And my turkey is still roasting in the oven (it's 8:40 p.m.), but I do have the sides done. Hubby has been wonderful about the late meal. Says we can pretend we're sophisticated Europeans. Lol - if I could laugh right now.

                                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                      Oh Bacardi, my sympathies! Words always fall short, but I will keep you, your brother, and especially your father in my thoughts! Hug your husband tight tonight!

                                                                      1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                        Thank you all!!

                                                                        We ended up sitting down to dinner around 10 p.m., which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

                                                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                          Wow, what tough thing for your family. I am so sorry for your loss. Five years ago my mother ended up in the hospital the Saturday after Thanksgiving and from there to a nursing home. She died there three months later. It's so very difficult now, but I promise you that you will feel better, but it takes some time. It sounds like you have a good man for a husband.

                                                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                          That's so sad. I can only offer condolences and hugs.

                                                                          1. We'll eat between 7 and 8. That's the early side of a normal dinner time for us.

                                                                            The only reason I can see eating early is to get the relatives out of the house and still have some of the night left to enjoy but it's just us today for a change so we're eating a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal at the time that works best for us.

                                                                            1. I've always thought it such an artificial idea that "Thanksgiving Dinner" be around 1-2 p.m.

                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                Why is what time you choose to eat a meal an "artificial idea"? I'm truly puzzled...

                                                                                We have always worked around the family's schedule. I can go early or late. We ate our meal today at noon, at a restaurant.

                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                  It is not artificial for us. We like to eat early enough so we are ready for turkey sandwiches in the evening ;-)

                                                                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                    magiesmom, kengk - the notion that it is a "midday meal" *does* appear to be a more common time than not, at least in the USA. Certainly many others have it at other times, and as the subthread above witn TerreT's and cacruden's observations illustrate it can be different in Canada. If your personal circumstance/family tradition says that you have your Thanksgiving meal at 7 pm - more power to you...but from what one can gather the majority of TG meals occur around the midday to 2 pm time frame in the US. *That* is what I was referring to as an "artificial idea", as something that got sort-of thought of as a "common time" to have the TG meal. If YOUR personal circumstance is that you do NOT have the meal until 8 pm - that does not negate what seems to be a "general notion" that the TG meal is conducted in that noon-2 pm or so timeframe. If you have it at 2 pm so you have sandwiches in the evening that may be a specific reason for you but there is no reason why you could not have your turkey TG meal at 7 pm then have your sandwiches at 9 am the next day, except that that is probably what you have become accustomed to.

                                                                                    Do you have other "big" or holiday meals in the noon (or 1 pm) to 2 pm time frame too? Do you have more normal big meals at dinner-time at 7-8 pm or do you also have them at noon-2 pm? Why?

                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                      My family has a 3 pm arrival time. That gives everyone time in the morning to prepare their dishes without waking in the middle of the night.

                                                                                      Apps, drinks, socializing means "dinner" is about 4:30-5:00. Desserts are around 6:30-7:00. Driving time between family members range from 30 mins to 2 hrs, so departure times vary based on distance, age of family and Friday commitments.

                                                                                      1. re: gaffk

                                                                                        And when do your friends, colleagues, acquaintances etc have their meals? Are they all similar to yours, or is there a "pattern" or a preponderant time to when these other folks have their TG meals? Just wondering.

                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                          I don't know as I generally have T'giving with family and don't question coworkers or acquaintences. When I was in grad school in the Midwest, we all lived in the same apt complex and had T'giving around 4 or 5.

                                                                                      2. re: huiray

                                                                                        I think noontime Thanksgiving dinners are common because of the fact of early darkness. If some family attendees are elderly and not such great drivers anymore at night, it's a safety issue.

                                                                                        My FIL has bad night vision and I want him to be home before sunset. Made up a care package of leftovers and a turkey sandwich and he was on his way safe and sound.

                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                          The only other holiday meals we have are Passover, which is connected to sundown, and Hanukah. We usually have Hanukah at sundown also along with lighting the candles, which happens at sundown ( usually around 5 at that time of year). Though we always also have a lunchtime latkes meal when there are kids around.

                                                                                          And we usually have our big meal around 2pm on Sundays in cold seasons. I would have my main meal at that time everyday in the winter if work allowed it. I much orefer eating a large meal earlier.

                                                                                    2. I would prefer to eat all afternoon and I don't mind late meals but we have only Done it once. My fiance's family prefer to eat at 11 am. Last year I held them off until 12 and this year until 12:20z

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                                        oh wow, that's a long day of leftovers

                                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                          The 11 am folks only take 20 minutes to eat. Barely any talkin while eating. Then dessert right after and that is when the talkin starts. After the pie the men fold up the furniture and the women clean the kitchen. Then you sit and visit for an hour. Home by 3 pm at the latest.

                                                                                          My family has three courses with a little down time to get ready between each. Plus a long break before dessert. Since everyone spends the night for the most part, there were usually sandwiches and turkey soup later in the evening.

                                                                                        2. I eat at a time other Americans would consider late for every meal, every day. So it is not a surprise that we had our thanksgiving meal around 8pm. I showed up at my parents (the hosts) house around 2:00. We had drinks, watched football, had drinks, played football, had drinks, watched football and cooked. I've been to others' thanksgiving celebrations, where the "dinner" was served mid-afternoon, around 3pm or so, and I hated it. I couldn't imagine regularly eating "dinner" so early. Dinner occurs after 7pm, often significantly after, for myself and my family.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                            Growing up, Sunday dinners & holiday dinners were ALWAYS served between 2-3 p.m. Drinks & appetizers started around 12:30 p.m. (Apparently it wasn't the neighborhood norm, as none of our friends could understand why we had to stop playing & go inside to have "dinner" in the middle of the afternoon - lol!)

                                                                                            Then later on in the evening came leftovers &/or sandwiches, etc., for "supper".

                                                                                          2. That's Second Meal time. It involves leftovers. It makes a lot more sense to me now, especially after I married and inherited relatives 2 hours away that would come when they were done with church etc., to make them wait until 7-9 pm would really put a crimp in their travel if they needed to be back home that night.

                                                                                            1. Yes, it's amazing when people tell me they're done by like 2pm...I'm like "What do you do the rest of the day. And HOW do you prepare everything by 2pm?" Even if my family had everything prepped at 2pm, I'd feel so weird eating while it's still daylight out. haha. We eat around 8, 9pm in this house. So yes, I have a regular breakfast and probably a snack before dinner. And wine. Lol!

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                  Waaaait a second ! It's well past Thanksgiving! This IS a late dinner, even by my standards! haha. (As for regular dinner, I eat anywhere between 6 and midnight. Varying work schedule, you know :-P lol )