By Chris Mah
Updated November 21, 2014
Credit: © ClassicStock / Alamy

Much like the first Thanksgiving, today’s holiday is a time for people from different walks of life to join together to share a meal and express gratitude. Also, like the first Thanksgiving, this tradition is usually followed by a period of violent conflict. Thanksgiving dinner always brings together an unusual cast of characters, and whether you’re seated at the adults’ table or the kids’ table, here are some of the ones to keep an eye on.

The Matriarch: Mom’s hosting again this year, which, depending on your family dynamic, either means a main course of blunt, inappropriate criticism about your ongoing job search, or multiple side dishes of passive aggressive, backhanded compliments about your new boyfriend.

The Prodigal Son: Your little brother Ricky has spent the last six years traveling around South America on a skateboard while shooting an indie documentary about the plight of quinoa farmers. Your only communication with him during that time has been Liking the photos of his dirty, bare feet that he posts regularly on Instagram. He’s home for Thanksgiving this year, can do no wrong and he badly needs a shave.

The Radical Uncle: The only thing more off-color than his sense of humor is the expired can of cranberry sauce that he brought to the family potluck. If he makes one more remark about the mid-term elections, you’re ready to hit him with the soup ladle. And did he just turn a compliment about dad’s cornbread stuffing into a diatribe against undocumented workers?

The Cute One: What would Thanksgiving dinner be without a toddler running around, adorably knocking things over? Little Phoebe is just learning how to talk, and is now repeating that cuss word you accidentally let slip. Good thing no one can understand her through that mouthful of pecan pie.

The New Significant Other: Your sister just started college and is convinced that she has found “the one” in Todd, a sophomore geology major and a brother at Theta Delta Chi. Todd seemed nice enough at first, but then he took the last turkey drumstick without asking and has been glued to the Lion’s game whole taking up your favorite seat on the sofa since dessert.

The Feisty Grandparent: Your nana is ninety-two years old, but she just elbowed your dad out of the kitchen and has been hurling that 18-pound Butterball turkey around like it’s a balloon. Not only did she win her age group at the local Turkey Trot this morning, but now she’s managed to drink everyone under the table. She and your Radical Uncle are having a heated debate about ObamaCare.

The Single Neighbor: Mom’s friend Dorothy from book club just separated from her husband, and Uncle Tony recently parted ways with Aunt Sally, and even though they have virtually nothing else in common, Mom invited Dorothy to dinner, sat them next to each other, and has been making comments all night about how much money Uncle Tony makes as a successful engineer.