Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of the year when families can come together and enjoy each other's company, but that's not always the way things go. Some families are so toxic that any gathering they have inevitably turns into a fight. Other families experience unexpected tragedies that tear them apart at the worst time of the year. Either way, Thanksgiving is a surprisingly easy holiday to ruin. We've scoured Reddit and compiled the best of the worst stories about this holiday of gratefulness. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I have three sisters, all much older, 9, 13 and 15 years older, so they were always far ahead of me in life. They all had families and children etc. well before me. I cannot have children, which they did not know.
We were at the Thanksgiving table and things were tense because they were nasty and I was just waiting for an insult. They started in on me about having children and I said my husband and I were in the process of adopting. My oldest sister said, 'That is not really having children.'
I punched her. I don't regret it."
"I was around 5-6 years old. Us kids were playing hide-n-seek and I hid way in the back of grandma's closet. While I was hiding back there, I found this beautiful deep red robe, I assumed it belonged to my grandfather who died just after I was born. I tried it on and it was huge on me, but the silk felt really smooth and cool, so I decided to go ask my grandma if I could have it to grow into.
Turns out granddad was a Grand Dragon in the Carolina KKK and it was his ceremonial robe. The family members who didn't know about this already were highly upset, the ones who knew were super embarrassed. There was a small riot when I walked into the kitchen wearing it. It was like time froze for a minute and then people were rushing at me from every direction to bumrush me out of the kitchen. It was probably hilarious if you weren't the one with three huge women rushing at you like NFL linebackers.
In the end, she wouldn't let me have it, so I asked her to will it to me when she died and she did but my idiot cousin stole it. I was going to donate it to a civil rights museum in South Carolina, but he wanted it to wear to klan meetings and when he found out that he couldn't he threw it away. As far as I know, he was the last family member that was active in that bull at all. He tried a couple of times to get me into it but I threatened violence if he ever talked to me about it again and he stopped.
While that was an awkward Thanksgiving, I haven't been to a family Thanksgiving in some time, I'm sort of estranged from the family now (as a group they are pretty toxic), but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the story still gets told, you know how families from The South are with family stories."
"My mom, grandmother, and I had just gotten back from eating at my aunt's house. My mom and I lived with my grandmother along with my uncle. I was the first in the house and heard my uncle in a screaming match with his ex-wife on the phone. I had horrible anxiety as a child so any loud noise or slightly raised voices made me have a panic attack, so I immediately ran to my mom. By this time, my uncle had unplugged his phone line and his ex was now non-stop calling my grandmother's phone line, making my grandmother anxious to the point of having chest pains.
My mom calmly took the phone and told her to not call anymore because she thinks her mother is having a heart attack and she was going to dial 911. My uncle's ex began to laugh, which set my mom off, so she called her a nasty name before hanging up. My uncle apparently heard this or had plugged his phone back in and gotten a call from the ex, because he asked my mom to go outside with him to talk. They went on the porch and he said, 'I'm glad you came out, I don't want your kid to see what I'm going to do to you.' Then he lifted his fist up.
Somehow my mom maintained control and simply told him if he hit her, he'd be spending the night in jail. My grandmother came outside with some of his clothes in a trash bag and told him to leave.
My family is a Jerry Springer episode. My mom's the youngest of nine.
Anyways, he didn't talk to my mom or grandmother for a few years after that but they eventually made up somehow. He then went on to be a raging pile of crap again a few months ago and now my mom is back to not talking to him.
Oh, and plot twist, he's now remarried- to the crazy ex-wife."
"The year was 2014. I had just graduated high school and my family was crumbling. My parents were not doing well in their marriage and my Mom had me drive separately (5 hours away) so that we would have a second car to leave early with if we needed it. Red Flag #1. Mom did NOT want to go, but she felt that she should be there since all of her kids were going.
Thanksgiving with my Dad's family was not a small gathering. I'm talking 90-130 people that rented out space in a church banquet hall to have this gathering. It was a typical West Virginia gathering. Everyone was drinking and talking about church stuff (I don't mind this, I'm just not religious myself) and Grandma was about to turn 90 the day after Thanksgiving, so everyone was all over her and she LOVES attention.
Mom and Dad started to argue quietly in the corner about how my narcissistic Grandma kept just interjecting herself into everything and you could just see the tension building between my parents. They were constantly making passive aggressive comments to each other and to the family members. It was all the drama in the room.
My Grandma was talking to me about how my siblings and I were doing, then decided that we needed to extend our stay so that we could go to church on Sunday with her because we obviously needed Jesus. My family has always been Atheists. She said we were raised poorly and badly behaved because we didn't have church in our lives (all of my siblings are I were between the ages of 14-18, all have good grades and were polite..etc). I told my Mom what she said to me and she blew a freaking lid. Red Flag #2.
She went to Dad and told him to tell off his mom, which he refused and said that she was just trying to help and she thinks Jesus is the answer.
She said, and I quote, 'THE ONLY PERSON WHO NEEDS JESUS IN THIS ROOM IS YOU, YOU LYING, CHEATING PIECE OF GARBAGE.'
Dead silent. The whole room just stopped talking and moving, and that's terrifying when there are that many freaking people.
Dad then blew up on Mom in front of everyone because she was embarrassing him. Grandma had to sit because she was so stunned. Mom decided to announce to everyone that Dad was cheating on her and she was gathering evidence for the divorce. She then decided to point at every single person she hated in the room and describe to them why she hated them. Some examples:
'Uncle Mike goes after young kids and everyone knows it, but nobody does anything about it.' He was known to be a little too friendly with the kids.
'Karen and Joe are first cousins and they're married. What the heck?!' This was true. They even had the same last name.
She turned to Grandma and said, 'You're the most bitter old witch of this entire bunch. I can only hope your pathetic self doesn't make it to 90.' Her 90th birthday was literally the next day.
There were more, but once she was done screaming at the family, she opened the door and yelled, 'I cannot wait to be rid of this crappy, West Virginia church crap!'
Needless to say, I went and got my Mom and then left with her and my siblings very shortly after that and I haven't seen that side of the family since. Parents are since divorced and my Mom is now happily remarried to a wonderful man. She later told me that my Dad was having an affair with his best friend's wife, who was also my brother's best friend's Mother! How low must you sink to destroy a child's relationship with his best friend from kindergarten! He was also stealing her jewelry and giving it to this woman. All of this played into her explosion. I was right, she had not wished to go to the family gathering but feared us kids would be accosted by everyone feeling bad for them as my Dad had told so many lies.
My dad... well... just desserts, karma or whatever else you might call it, has bounced from woman to woman and is in a lawsuit over money with one of them. One passed away from an illness and as he was crying at her hospital bedside (for onlookers) he was texting another woman he was cheating with...
And that's why that Thanksgivings lives on as one of the most treasured memories of my childhood."
"My niece was dating this crapstain of a person. He was a con-man and a liar. He was in his late 30's dating a girl in her early 20's. He already had three kids with one on the way. A real piece of work. He was teaching his sons to be misogynistic, woman-hating jerks. He denied his daughter was his even though she looked exactly like him in drag.
My sister and this guy got into an argument on Thanksgiving, with him basically calling her genetic trash, and they started yelling at each other. My brother (my niece's father) had the tryptophan haze going on and woke up to the yelling. He went to kick this jerk out permanently. In his rush, he knocked over our mother who had just had rotator cuff surgery. I fought my brother to stop him (not to save the jerk's life, but to preserve my brother's). The crapstain and my niece left. I told everyone, 'Get out of my way, I'm getting my coat.' I grabbed my sister and we left. The police were called but everyone had gone by the time they showed up.
This started a family fight that lasted almost 10 years. My niece started telling lies about my sister; my brother and sister stopped talking; then the jerk exposed himself to my nephew's daughter. My niece finally realized this guy was not worth the value of the raw materials he was made of and had him legally written out of the picture. She finally apologized for spreading lies. It was just last year with my dad almost dying that my brother and sister started talking again.
After 14 years, you know what my parents remember? Me saying the 'F' word in my brother's house. Way to keep your eye on the ball.
The jerk died in September. We can't figure out if someone did it to him or he did it himself, either way, the world is better off and this will be a happier Thanksgiving for his absence."
"I grew up in the Boston area with my extended family. My uncle, for reasons I did not know, moved to Ireland when I was very young.
One Thanksgiving, my grandparents (the uncle's parents) announced, 'We don't want to make anyone upset, but we are going to go to Ireland to visit [uncle].'
I (15 at the time) just laughed because why would that make anyone upset? But then I read the room and realized that everyone was FURIOUS. I distinctly remember my dad yelling 'We need mom and dad here, and they're going to go visit the guy who crapped on us all?!'
That was the day I found out that my uncle was a deadbeat who neglected his own children and then ran away to Ireland."
"My great-grandmother died at the table right as we were bowing our heads to pray on Thanksgiving. She had been slowly dwindling in health, so the whole family gathered together figuring it was her last Thanksgiving. Little did we know how right we were.
Her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and family she hasn't seen in years were all there, about 20 people in all. Once it was time for dinner, we gathered around the table with her pushed up in her recliner. Food was loaded on the table and we bowed our heads to pray (she was devoutly religious) before we dug in. As we raised our heads and opened our eyes, we found great-grandma slumped over, tongue lolling out, dead. As someone started compressions (she was a register home nurse) and another person called an ambulance, my youngest cousin dug into her meal completely unaffected by the dead body.
This was about 5-10 years ago now so the shock has worn off and there was no lasting trauma to anyone. I think my aunt put it best by saying that we fulfilled her last wish by having all of her family gathered together and she was able to go somewhat peacefully. In fact, looking back, it's all a bit humourous."
"My family celebrated Thanksgiving a few days early one year because my uncle, who we were close to, was moving out of the country and his flight was on Thanksgiving. So, it's the day of, and we're cooking like crazy in our tiny kitchen. We had a strange neighbor who often came by and pestered my mom. The morning of our Thanksgiving, she came by and asked for $20 and in return, she would spray paint our house number on the curb... for some reason.
Anyway, my mom let her just to get her out of our hair, so she spray painted the number and left. An hour later, we saw her stalking around our front yard with a black garbage bag. Our family was mildly freaking out, so my mother went out and asked her what's wrong. Well, she pointed to a raccoon sitting in our other neighbor's driveway. It was alive, but pretty obviously sick because it was just sitting there with flies buzzing around its head. The woman asked my mother if we had a kitchen knife she could borrow, she said she 'needs to put the poor thing out of its misery.' Her plan was to push the raccoon into the plastic bag with a stick, and then... stab it to death with OUR kitchen knife.
My mom politely declined and the woman started freaking out and crying and left. The raccoon sat in the driveway for hours and now it was ruining our Thanksgiving because it was directly across from our house and, frankly, incredibly depressing. My uncle, an admittedly bizarre person, decided he would fix this. He went down to the crazy lady, got the black trash bag from her and they both pushed the raccoon into the bag. She said, 'Do you have the knife?' Which, of course not, my uncle wasn't savage. No, he grabbed the thickest stick he could find and beat this senseless raccoon to death. All the while my 8-year-old self was sobbing and thoroughly traumatized. I didn't watch, but I could hear what was going on. That was an awful Thanksgiving."
"Holidays were spent at granddad's house.
One year we were inside watching some corny BET Thanksgiving movie when we heard a crash and screaming. We all look/go outside to see my two female cousins, who were sisters, fighting on the ground while this sleazy guy from the neighborhood was standing over them, laughing.
Turns out they were both dating him and they didn't know it until that day. The biggest tragedy was that the cause of the crash was the grill toppling over...we were smoking a ham on it. I was ticked."
"We found out that my mother-in-law's new boyfriend was anti-military when he initiated a shouting match with my dad, a retired career Marine, just after dinner. Most of us were standing around the kitchen chatting and they were peacefully playing ping pong on the back patio when a sudden hail of epithets and curse words made us all run to the window.
We were all stunned, except for my mother-in-law, who rushed out the back door and dragged the boyfriend through the house, still yelling, and out into the driveway. She told him he couldn't talk to her family that way, broke up with him right then and there on the pavement, and sent him home without any dessert.
I'll always remember that because it was the first time she called me 'family' that wasn't in the context of asking me to do her a favor. Meaning, it's the first time she called me family and I felt like she really meant it."
"When my husband was about fourteen, he went to Thanksgiving with his mom's side of the family. In West Virginia. They're exactly the bad stereotypes you've heard about people in West Virginia. His cousins had been getting increasingly creepy about him and his older siblings for years but this trip culminated in two female cousins about his age snuck up on him when they thought he was sleeping and tried dancing on him.
He slept in the back of his dad's van that night.
It was the last time the family saw those relatives."
"Last Thanksgiving was absolutely the worst. My extended family live in another state, so it was just me and my parents. My mom was mad at my stepdad for various reasons, so she stayed in her room all day. My stepdad and I awkwardly ate in silence while watching The Godfather. Then after dinner, he had a heart attack. He died in the hospital a few days later. My mom was crushed that he was gone and at how she treated him in their last few days together. That was last year. I'm not excited to see what this year brings."