Thanksgiving Dining

Thanksgiving Dining Etiquette Rules:
Whether you are dining this Thanksgiving with family or friends or strangers, keep in mind a few basic rules to be respectful and to be invited back again.
Always be well groomed and adhere to the host/hostess Dress Code if requested.
Arrive at least 10 minutes early unless otherwise specified. But Never arrive late!
It is proper to bring a small hostess gift, one that the hostess is not obliged to use that very evening. Gifts such as flowers, candy, wine, or dessert, are not good hostess gifts, as the hostess will feel that it must put it out immediately. 
If this is a sit down dinner, wait until the host indicates where you should sit. Usually guests wait for the host or hostess to sit down before taking their seats. If the host/hostess asks you to sit, then do so.
 A prayer or 'blessing' may be customary in some households. The dinner guests may join in or be respectfully silent. Most prayers are made by the host before the meal is eaten.
Passing dishes or food:
Pass food from the left to the right. Do not stretch across the table, crossing other guests, to reach food or condiments.
If another diner asks for the salt or pepper, pass both together, even if a table mate asks for only one of them. This is so dinner guests won't have to search for orphaned shakers.
Set any passed item, whether it's the salt and pepper shakers, a bread basket, or a butter plate, directly on the table instead of passing hand-to-hand.
Butter, spreads, or dips should be transferred from the serving dish to your plate before spreading or eating.
Never intercept a pass. Snagging a roll out of the breadbasket or taking a shake of salt when it is en route to someone else is a no-no.
Always use serving utensils to serve yourself, not your personal silverware.

Eating:
DO NOT Talk with food in your mouth! This is very rude and distasteful to watch! Wait until you have swallowed the food in your mouth. Chew with your mouth closed. Loud eating noises such as slurping and burping are very impolite. 
Always taste your food before seasoning it. Usually the hostess has gone to a lot of work making sure the food served is delicious to her standards. It is very rude to add salt and pepper before tasting the food.
Don't blow on your food to cool it off. If it is too hot to eat, take the hint and wait until it cools.
Cut only enough food for the next mouthful (cut no more than two bites of food at a time). Eat in small bites and slowly.
Do eat a little of everything on your plate. If you do not like the food and feel unable to give a compliment, just keep silent. It is acceptable to leave some food on your plate if you are full and have eaten enough. If the food served is not to your liking, it is polite to at least attempt to eat a small amount of it. It is never acceptable to ask a person why they have not eaten all the food. Don't make an issue if you don't like something or can't eat it - keep silence.
Even if you have dietary restrictions, it is inappropriate to request food other than that which is being served by the host at a private function. If you have serious dietary restrictions or allergies, let your host know in advance of the dinner.
Do not "play with" your food or utensils. Never wave or point silverware. Do not hold food on the fork or spoon while talking, nor wave your silverware in the air or point with it.
Try to pace your eating so that you don’t finish before others are halfway through. If you are a slow eater, try to speed up a bit on this occasion so you don’t hold everyone up. Never continue to eat long after others have stopped.
Once used, your utensils, including the handles, must not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate or in the bowl.
Guests should do their best to mingle and make light conversation with everyone. Do not talk excessively loud. Give others equal opportunities for conversation. Talk about cheerful, pleasant things at the table.
Do not blow your nose at the dinner table. Excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room. If you cough, cover your mouth with your napkin to stop the spread of germs and muffle the noise. If your cough becomes unmanageable, excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room.
Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent or vibrate mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse. It is impolite to answer a phone during dinner. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside of the restaurant.
Be Present! It is Thanksgiving a day for gratitude love and giving. The best gift you can give is your attention to others.

Resources: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Menu/DiningEtiquetteGuide.htm
photo credit: edenpictures via photopin cc