13 Cringeworthy Stories of When Thanksgiving Went So, So Wrong

Wendy Robinson | Nov 22, 2016 Food & Party
13 Cringeworthy Stories of When Thanksgiving Went So, So Wrong
Image: iStock.com/cookelma


In theory, Thanksgiving should be the easiest holiday, right? One doesn't need to shop for hours for presents, one doesn't have to decorate if she doesn't want to, and there is a clear expectation that one should eat a lot of pie. But sometimes the combination of food + family can equal major drama. We don't always know how it starts, but somehow or other, somebody always ends up in a fight. Not exactly a reason to be thankful, right?

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Every family probably has at least one story of a Thanksgiving that went all wrong, so let's be honest about how stressful Turkey Day can really be. From drunken aunts to pushy mother-in-laws and sliced-off fingers, we've collected some of the most unforgettable Thanksgiving disasters we've ever heard. Consider this a dose of perspective as folks look ahead to their own upcoming Turkey Day.

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And hopefully these stories will make us all feel thankful for the small moments of drama we're bound to have this year. Remember, it could always be worse. (And by the way, the names have been withheld so that we don't cause anymore unnecessary Thanksgiving drama. These people already have enough on their plates.)

  • Honest Kid Question

    iStock.com/gordana jovanovic

    "I have a train wreck of an ex-aunt who has been horrible to her three children and my uncle. I haven't seen her forever but she's notorious in our family.

    One year, we were going around the table saying what we were thankful for and one of her kids (probably age 7 at the time) said 'I'm thankful for everything.'  

    In response, our littlest cousin (probably age 3 at the time) said 'Even your mom? And diseases?'

  • Pot Pie and Whiskey


    "When I was 22, my dad got super drunk at Thanksgiving and announce to everyone that he and my mom were getting a divorce. This was news to my mom, as was the fact that my dad was having an affair -- with my mom's cousin, no less.

    It got very Jerry Springer, very quickly. Plates were thrown, people were crying, all the little kids were hiding in the closet.

    The next year I stay home for Thanksgiving and had a pot pie and whiskey for dinner." 

  • Cultural Misappropriation

    iStock.com/Jodi Jacobson

    "My family isn't Jewish, but I'm married to a Jewish man and am raising my kids in the Jewish tradition. Last year we went to Thanksgiving with my side of the family for the first time since we had kids.

    My redneck cousin seemed really surprised to see us there. I figured out why when she loudly asked me if 'the Jews celebrate Thanksgiving?'

    My drunken aunt then chimed in with 'I think they do but you know they don't do Christmas because their people killed Jesus!'


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  • Bumbling Brother-in-Law

    iStock.com/ KathyDewar

    "So, I spent hours making two pies and an amazing butternut squash gratin and my husband dropped the squash pan upside down in the driveway as he was carrying it into my sister's house. 
    My brother-in-law went out to help clean up and knocked the two pies out of my husband's arms with the broom handle.

    This was the same Thanksgiving the same brother-in-law was vacuuming for the big day, and, with the hose attachment vacuuming cobwebs out of the ceiling corners, [he] knocked an heirloom turkey platter off the wall in the dining room. This turkey platter has been passed down to the first born daughter in my grandma's Irish clan for the last 150 years."

  • Baby on Board


    "This isn't super funny, but when my daughter was 6 weeks old I wore her in the carrier during Thanksgiving dinner and suddenly my mom started legit choking.

    I immediately sprung up and gave her the Heimlich Maneuver (thank God for all those nanny CPR/first aid trainings!) with my daughter still in the carrier. It wasn't until her airway was clear and my daughter started crying that I realized I didn't take her out of the carrier before springing to action.

    Questionable baby wearing at its finest!"

  • Clean Hands, Dirty Mouth


    "One year, as my family was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, my uncle Bud (who was a clone of the Pope) said to his 3-year-old grandson, 'Did you wash your hands?'

    This was just about the same time grace was being said. The little one just looks at him and says, 'F*ck you!'

    That was greeted by dead silence. To this day, we still chuckle about that moment -- talk about awkward!" 

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  • Something in the Water


    "Four years ago, my sister-in-law and I were both pregnant at Thanksgiving, and due in February and March respectively.

    That whole night, my 20-something cousin was crabby and complaining of bad cramps. Later that night, my mom called to say our cousin ended up at the hospital AND GAVE BIRTH TO A FULL-TERM BABY BOY. She allegedly had no clue she was pregnant."

  • Pushy Mother-in-Law


    "When our daughter was 5 months old and not yet started on solids, my mother-in-law INSISTED that she needed to feed her the Thanksgiving meal. It was so uncomfortable.

    I told her no the first time and thought that would shut it down but she kept going! 'Oh come on, she'll love it. It's about time she had REAL food...'" 

  • Aunt's Pie Problem


    "My aunt has a three-season porch that is like a second fridge in the colder months. The pies were out there staying cold and my cousins 4-year-old son stepped in it.

    Because it was covered in plastic wrap, he didn't get messy and nobody knew until it was time for pie. She didn't tell us that it was foot pie until after she served it."

  • No Relaxing With Boyfriend


    "Several years ago, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I decided to make ourselves leisurely Thanksgiving dinner and spend it together with no other guests.

    I realized I had forgotten some item (can't remember what it was) and went out to my car to drive to the store.

    When I got to my car and opened it, I realized the entire interior was covered in mustard yellow colored dust. Turns out someone had emptied an entire chemical fire extinguisher into my car. Isn't it Halloween when you're supposed to be pranked?!

    It was a nightmare to clean. I used a shop vac and then took it to be detailed. Until I sold that car, mustard yellow powder would come out of the vents. Yuck."

  • Peanut Butter, Side of Sadness


    "My sister passed away the night before Thanksgiving. No one was in the mood to cook so we ordered a premade dinner from the local grocery store. It was gross, disgusting, completely inedible.

    We had no food because no one had thought to go to the grocery store for actual food before it closed. I think we ate refried beans from a can and spoons of peanut butter for dinner."

  • Grandma's Turkey


    "For about the past 10 years, it's been a running joke about how terrible and dry the turkey is at my husband's grandparents' house. 

    We learned a few years ago that they actually make it a few days before, and then reheat it all in the MICROWAVE!

    The story is even better knowing that my husband's grandma grew up on a turkey farm, so should know how to make a good turkey."

  • Father-in-Law Fingers


    "About five or six years ago, my father-in-law was puttering in the garage making shims and sliced the tip of his finger in two via table saw.

    So, Thanksgiving morning we got to go to the ER. I had to take him because my mother-in-law was cooking and my sister-in-law and husband are both squeamish about blood/medical stuff.

    True bonding experience. He was outlawed from using power tools on holidays from then on."


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