The Right Time to Eat Thanksgiving “Dinner” Isn’t at Dinnertime

published Nov 1, 2022
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Man carves the roasted turkey on platter during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Vegetables and trimmings around turkey.
Credit: fstop123 | Getty Images

I don’t have a lot of strong opinions when it comes to Thanksgiving: I don’t care if you eat turkey or tofu or order a pizza. I also don’t mind if you eat solo or invite everybody you know. The one thing I do have feelings about? I’m of the persuasion that there is an ideal time to sit down and eat your Thanksgiving dinner — and it isn’t at dinnertime.

If I had a choice and I was hosting, I’d rally everyone at the table at 1 or 2 p.m. — simply because I believe this timeframe makes the holiday both more convenient and enjoyable. Here’s my cobbled-together reasoning.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

Why You Should Eat Thanksgiving “Dinner” at Lunchtime

First, planning a Thanksgiving meal for the front end of the day means you’ll have more time in the day to enjoy it! If you eat the big meal at night, then you have to worry about finding something to eat for lunch (which might end up spoiling your appetite). But if you sit down for dinner midday, you can enjoy all those leftovers later on if you happen to get hungry. 

Another reason I’m a big fan of a 1 p.m. Turkey Day sit-down? I love fall pies. Eating in the afternoon allows more time between the main meal and dessert, which means you can truly savor and enjoy every bite of pie or whatever other baked good you’re eating (without feeling way too full to take another bite).

Most of all, I prefer Thanksgiving in the early afternoon because I’m not exactly the most patient human in the world, and I can’t wait to sit down with my favorite people and eat a delicious meal. I’m not vying for an 11 a.m. slot — I’m not trying to host a brunch! Planning the meal for your normal lunchtime (or a bit later) means you’ll have plenty of time to prepare your home and cook during the day (especially if you, like me, live in a home of early risers). 

While I have big thoughts about my own personal Thanksgiving day schedule, I’ll end with a big caveat: Everyone’s routines and values are different. Maybe your friends and family can’t gather until later in the day, or you work every Thanksgiving. Perhaps you like using the whole day to prepare, or your family has just always eaten at 5 p.m. sharp every year. That’s the great thing about Thanksgiving: You can do whatever feels best to you and, hopefully, you’ll be extra thankful for whatever that is.