6 Hilarious Thanksgiving Day Disasters & How We Recovered

These stories are funny now, but there was definitely some drama when they happened on Thanksgiving Day.

Published October 26, 2023


While we're all shooting for that picture perfect golden turkey and that sparkling Thanksgiving table, the truth is, reality sometimes falls a little short. From food failures to awkward social mishaps, these are a few of the Thanksgiving disasters we've experienced over the years. Turns out, those cringe-worthy moments end up being some of the best (and funniest) Thanksgiving memories ever.

The Infamous Garbage Cheese Ball


One of our writers had an incredible disaster story that shows just how much her family loves her grandma. Apparently, her grandma was famous for making a delicious cheese ball every year, and everyone always looked forward to digging into its cheesy goodness. One year, when they eagerly helped themselves, they had a nasty surprise.

"It tasted like actual garbage," she shared. "None of us had the heart to tell her, and since we look forward to it every year, we had to pretend to like it. She sent us home with all the leftovers that immediately went in the trash."

Turns out, the "garbage cheese ball," as it was forever known in the family, was probably made with cream cheese that had spoiled.

The Alcoholic "Poison" Punch


A couple of years ago, my family had a little Thanksgiving drama around a mix-up of the punch. We had one (very) alcoholic punch for the adults and another totally kid-friendly punch for the under-21 among us. I was pulling the turkey out the oven, and my mom was helping by refilling everyone's cups for dinner.

We sat down to eat, and my 8-year-old suddenly shrieked and threw down his punch cup in tears. My mom had accidentally served him the alcoholic grown-up punch, and he thought possibly he was going to die. Once we calmed him down and assured him that a sip of alcohol was not fatal to children, we all had a good laugh about it.

Lesson learned: Make the kids' and adults' punches different colors.

The Frozen Turkey Disaster


If you've ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner, you might have had some bad dreams about the turkey still being frozen when it was time to eat (those suckers take a long time to thaw, after all). Well, one of our editors had that happen in real life, but this Thanksgiving disaster story has a happy ending.

"We had some decent steaks in the freezer, so we ended up grilling steaks for Thanksgiving," she says. "What's funny is that I think a lot of people were happier to have the steak."

Quick Tip

The thing that turns any disaster into a steak dinner is resilience and problem solving. Those last-minute substitutions and meals pulled from the freezer totally save the day and transform the chaos into a funny story.

The Case of Mistaken Identity


It's always nice to have some help when you're trying to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table. It's a big meal, and sending someone else out to do the shopping can leave you free to prep side dishes. One of our editors sent her husband to the store with a hand-written shopping list and ended up with a whole different species of bird for her main course that year.

Seeing "foil" in her handwriting, he thought it was the French word "foie" (as in "foie gras," a French delicacy of fatty duck or goose liver). Instead of a turkey, he showed up with a duck (the French word for duck is canard). The family feasted on a much smaller bird that year, but it's a great story that they'd have never had with a regular turkey.

"Now I only text him shopping lists and have assured him I always ask for the things I need in English," she says.

The Pumpkin Cheesecake Explosion


We all have those specialty items that everyone asks us to make for Thanksgiving dinner, and our editorial director had a bit of a turkey day disaster happen one year when she went to take her famous pumpkin cheesecake out of the oven. This labor-intensive dessert turned into a pumpkin explosion when the bottom of her cheesecake pan fell off as she was taking it out of the oven.

"I was so mad," she says. "That sucker is layered and takes forever to make."

She rallied, though, and ended up sourcing her Thanksgiving dessert from an unlikely spot: the convenience store. Turns out nothing else was open, so they had Jell-O and Oreos for the sweet ending to their holiday meal.

The Garage Floor Turkey


It's never easy when you have to transport food from one house to another, and one of our editors remembers her mom having to bring an entire turkey dinner to her grandma's house. Her parents were loading the food into the back of the car, and her mom put the turkey in a box and handed it to her dad to load. As she did, she reminded him not to drop it, and he walked out the door with an exasperated, "Oh, Brenda."

When our editor came out a moment later, she discovered her dad on his hands and knees, scraping the turkey off the floor of the garage.

"We ate turkey with a little extra gravel that year," she says. "It's a story my family tells every year at Thanksgiving, and we always laugh about it."

Thanksgiving Day Disasters Transformed Into Hilarious Stories


Whether it's a turkey with a side of gravel or a kid panicking about a sip of alcoholic punch, Thanksgiving disasters might not be funny the moment they happen, but they sure can be hilarious stories in the years to come. Here's hoping if something goes wrong with your holiday this year, you end up laughing about it as a family in the future.

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6 Hilarious Thanksgiving Day Disasters & How We Recovered