The whole business with the relatives is too much for them -- too much togetherness for too long a period of time amidst the kind of tenderhooks that the holidays bring along with them.
Under these circumstances, the slightest disagreement or untoward look can mushroom into a huge imbroglio -- especially when there's already a history behind all of the characters, topics and relationships.
So, plan accordingly. If you're hosting the family this turkey day, here are ten tips for keeping peace:
1) Stick to the traditional menu that has something for everyone. Aunt Mary may not like your special cranberry sauce, so make sure you include the sweet potatoes that she does like.
2) Give the kids what they want. Set up a special table for them and don't force them to to rigidly act like miniature adults the whole time.
3) Weather permitting, open up some space outdoors so people can air themselves out. Too cold? Get that fire pit goin. Give people their own space.
4) Compromise on the football and sports events and try to forego any TV whatsoever during the meal.
5) Be traditional. Start the meal with a simple prayer -- non-denominational, if need be. It sets a nice tone. If you don't do this on Thanksgiving, when will you do it?
6) Play soft, pleasant music.
7) Compliment the family trouble-maker. Butter or baste him or her just as you would the turkey. It can be a wonderful form of sedation and/or diversion.
8) Keep known adversaries or potential adversaries at opposite ends of the table. Don't play favorites. Try to give them equal time.
9) Stress cool colors - a simple light blue tablecloth can work wonders.
10) If something goes wrong, don't announce it to the whole family. Remain unruffled. Keep calm, slurp another martini and carry on!