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Burnt Turkeys & Family Memories: 23 Funny Holiday Disaster Stories

Family holidays tend to be a time when everything that could go wrong, does. They make for great memories — and very funny stories.

Holidays, of course, serve more purposes than just gluttony and presents. They establish rituals, reaffirm relationships, and help us develop senses of cultural and personal identity. They also tend to be lightning rods for Murphy’s Law, which states that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Christmas and Thanksgiving, in particular, have their fair share of family disaster stories. The dog humps the turkey. The Christmas roast falls down the stairs. Grandma’s wig gets singed by a holiday candle. On any other days, those types of stories might seem strange and off-putting. But, when they happen at Thanksgiving and Christmas, they become the fabric of your family history. “Remember when Uncle Steve almost set the house on fire with his special stuffing?” you’ll say, years down the road. Talking about the holiday screw ups become part of the tradition. In the moment, they might not be so much fun. We asked 23 parents for their best holiday disaster stories so you’ll feel better if the turkey goes up in flames. 

The Dog Ate The Turkey

“I’m sure this one has happened a million times to a million different families, but my story has a bit of a twist. So, long-story-short, our dog was able to hop on the kitchen table and eat most of the turkey before we served it. The twist is that he got almost instant diarrhea all over my mother-in-law’s Michael Kors purse. I’m not her biggest fan, so I’ll admit I chuckled to myself a bit. But the cleanup was just humbling. And, of course, she’s yet to let us forget it.” – Travis, 35, Ohio

A Pair of Flat Tires

“About a week before Thanksgiving, we had some repairs done on our siding and our roof. We finished dinner and everything, and everyone was about to head out. As we were saying goodbye, we noticed that two of the cars in our driveway had flat tires. After a close inspection, we found a roofing nail in each of them. They must’ve been left over from the repair job. My brother and I had to spend about an hour in the snow changing tires before anyone could leave.” – Eddie, 34, Michigan 

My Uncle Ran Over the Turkey

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“We usually roast the turkey in an electric pan in the garage. It gives us a little more room to maneuver around in the kitchen and prepare the rest of the meal. Speaking of maneuvering, my uncle decided he was going to try and squeeze some extra cars in the driveway, and was adamant that he could somehow make them fit. While trying to back up near our house, he overestimated his clearance and reversed right into the turkey. Not only did he ruin it, but he destroyed my dad’s electric roaster. I’m not sure which was the bigger crime.” – J.C., 33, North Carolina

Our Neighbors Called the Cops

“I come from a pretty loud family. We’re Italian. So, when we get together, the decibels are off the charts. I don’t even remember what we were doing, to be honest. We might have been playing a game, or watching football, or even just talking over dinner. But, we got loud. Really loud. Loud enough that our neighbors called the cops and said there was some sort of fight-slash-disturbance going on at our house. Three squad cars showed up in our driveway, and we were all just like, ‘What the hell is this?’ They told us what had happened, and we just laughed. Really loudly, of course.” – Johnny, 32, New York

The Dishwasher Exploded With Suds

“My son, who was about 10 at the time, offered to help load the dishwasher after we had Christmas dinner. Awesome, right? I’m supervising, making sure he doesn’t hurt himself, and he asks to push the start button once everything is loaded. About 20 minutes later, one of our cousins comes rushing into the living room saying there are bubbles everywhere. Turns out my son loaded the dishwasher with Dawn detergent instead of dishwashing solution when I wasn’t looking. He might be a genius, because I didn’t let him near dirty dishes for a few weeks after that.” – Amanda, 36, Kentucky 

My Niece Sneezed on the Turkey

“I thought this was pretty funny, but no one else did. My wife brought out this beautiful, juicy, golden brown turkey and put it in the middle of the table. It was like that Norman Rockwell painting. Everyone was just marveling at how good it looked. And then, completely without warning, my niece just reared back and sneezed all over it. Like, full snot and everything. There was a moment of silence, and I guarantee everyone was thinking, ‘Do we pretend that didn’t just happen? The thing looks so good!’ In the end, no one could stomach the idea of eating it. Such a waste. But a great story.” – Aaron, 29, Chicago

We Showed Up at the Wrong House

“My family rotates hosting duties when it comes to Christmas and Thanksgiving. Usually, we just alternate – one person will host Thanksgiving, another will host Christmas, and the next year they’ll just switch. Two years ago, for whatever reason, everyone’s wires got crossed and half of the family ended up at the wrong house. We got a phone call from my uncle wondering where we were, and why most of the family was so late. See, he thought he and my aunt were hosting when, in fact, my wife and I had agreed to host. It was a mess. But, once we figured it out, we ended up with twice the food, and a funny story.” – William, 41, New York

The Hot Water Heater Exploded

“This one was just last year. We were all sitting around after Thanksgiving dinner, when we heard this crash then a splash from the basement. It was such a weird set of sounds that everyone was almost afraid to even acknowledge it. I thought a pipe had burst. My wife and I rushed down to find the bottom of our hot water tank had completely rusted through and just burst open, all over the basement floor. We spent the rest of the night with mops and buckets doing damage control on very full stomachs.” – Ted, 40, California

The Christmas Roasts Fell Down the Stairs

“For Christmas, my dad always gets two really expensive roasts. I think it was about five years ago, the day before our whole family came over, and he took them out to start defrosting. He set up two plates on top of the stove, which is right across from the steps that lead down to the basement. He put the first one out – and keep in mind, these are, like, 14 or 15 lb roasts – then he got the second one out and went to put it on the plate. It was icy from being frozen, and slipped right out of his hands, knocked the other one off the oven, and then both of them bounced right down the basement stairs and into a curio cabinet, which caused it to fall over and shatter. It was like watching a game of Mouse Trap.” – Amy, 30, Indiana 

A Mouse Shit All Over the Roasting Pan

“All of our turkey roasting stuff is in the basement. We never look at it until the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas, because that’s the only time we ever use it. So, just like always, my husband brought everything up one year to start prepping Christmas dinner. I opened the roasting pan, and it was filled with mouse poop. Like, a solid layer of little mice turds just caked to the bottom of the pan. We scrambled and found another pan that was barely big enough to hold the turkey, so it cooked totally uneven and tasted like…well, like shit.” – Madison, 32, South Carolina

My Aunt Brought Tofurky

“We always split up the cooking between family members. So someone will bring the stuffing, someone will bring the mashed potatoes, and so on. One year, my aunt volunteered to bring the turkey. We thought that was weird. She was going to cook a whole turkey, then lug it across town to dinner? But we said okay. She surprised us, alright, by bringing a tofurkey instead of a real bird. She was on this health kick, and thought it would be ‘fun to try’. It wasn’t. It was garbage.” – Jake, 37, Texas

My Mom Used Salt, Not Sugar, In Her Pies

“My mom had recipes for pies that were given to her by her great aunt. She’d been making them for holiday dinners for years, and they were always delicious. We all sat down to dessert, ready to dig in, as she brought them out. Everyone took their first bite, and looked at each other across the table like something wasn’t right. We came to find out later that my mom accidentally used salt instead of sugar for the recipe! I guess she got the containers mixed up, which ruined the pies that year.” – Patrick, 28, Ohio

Our Son Tried to Recruit Us For a Pyramid Scheme

“After Christmas dinner one year, our son said he needed to talk to my husband and I. We didn’t know what to expect, but we hoped it wasn’t anything bad or serious. He sat us down and pulled out these brochures for diet pills. He told us how he and his friends were going to get rich selling them. He also told us our friends would love them, and that we could make a lot of money selling them, too. It was very surreal, and of course we declined. The interaction didn’t exactly ruin the evening, but there was definitely a strange vibe for the rest of the night.” – Eric, 46, Minnesota

Grandma Ate Cat Food

“One year we asked our young daughter to help garnish the desert cookies and cake. We keep a container of cat treats on the counter in the kitchen which, at the time, had a holiday-themed label on it. So, it’s understandable she thought those were part of the decorations. Before we finally noticed, she had sprinkled bits of cat kibble onto about six cookies, and my mother had stolen one off the baking rack. She bit into it, and gagged immediately. It reminded me of Aunt Bethany’s JELL-O from Christmas Vacation.” – Genni, 33, Virginia 

The Turkey Was Too Fat For Our Oven

“I live in a small apartment in the city, and wanted to have a Friendsgiving celebration for all of my friends who couldn’t get home for the holidays. I bought a turkey online, and had it delivered to my place the day before. I woke up and got ready to put it in the oven, and it wouldn’t fit. I have a small convection oven, and the turkey just wouldn’t slide in, no matter which way I tried to put it. My friends all thought it was hilarious, but I had to end up throwing it out and eating the $60 I paid. Or, not eating the $60 I paid, as it were.” – Corrine, 31, New York

My Husband Dropped His Phone in Turkey Juice

“As we were prepping dinner, my husband leaned over the roasting pan to grab something. His phone was in his shirt pocket, and it slid right out, bounced off of a cutting board, and landed right in the pan…which was full of ‘juice’ from the turkey. His glasses fell off of his head, too, and landed in the same place. We were able to salvage the glasses, but the phone was toast. He was pretty pissed.” – Emily, 35, South Carolina

My Aunt Caught Her Hair on Fire With a Christmas Candle

“We have one of those Christmas decorations that’s a setup of four candles that, when lit, causes these small hanging angels to spin in a circle. It used to be my parents’, and I loved it so much that they gave it to me and my husband one year. Everyone was over for dinner, and my aunt tried to light it to show some of the younger kids. She leaned in to get one of the far-away candles, and her hair caught the flame and lit on fire. She didn’t notice right away, and her hair got singed pretty good. Luckily, no one was hurt.” – Sarah, 37, Maryland  

My Brother Bled All Over the Turkey

“My brother and I are a year apart; I’m older, he’s younger. We’re both admittedly kind of idiots. Christmas dinner was at my parents’ house one year when we were younger – both in college, I think – and we decided to have a mock sword fight with a few knives in the kitchen. Total accident, but I ended up slicing his finger open pretty good, and he bled all over the turkey, the mashed potatoes, and the salad. If my mom wasn’t a nurse, I think we could’ve just wiped everything down. But she refused to let anyone eat it, and my brother and I had to go out and buy Chinese food for everyone.” – Matt, 37, Tennessee

My Mom Used Paint Instead of Ham Glaze

“This is random, but I paint and customize shoes as kind of a side hustle. Sometimes, it helps to keep the paint in the refrigerator for consistency and stuff. I forgot to mention this to my mom when she came over to help us with Christmas dinner, and she grabbed an unmarked jar of brown paint thinking it was part of the glaze for the ham. We noticed the smell almost immediately, but it was too late. Luckily, we were able to run to the store and get another one, but she felt pretty bad. She bought me a mini fridge for my paints the next year.” – Alex, 29, California 

The Thermometer Almost Exploded

“So, my husband didn’t realize all thermometers are not created equal. There’s a big difference between a cooking thermometer and a fever thermometer. It was an honest mistake, but I don’t think he’s ever felt more dumb than when he tried to use our bathroom thermometer to test the meat temperature one Christmas. He said the turkey was at 110 degrees, which I thought was weird, because it had been cooking for a while. But, that’s just the max temperature of those types of thermometers. I looked over to see him standing there, without a clue, and the thermometer starting to overheat in the oven. We didn’t tell anyone, and surgically removed the section of turkey where he stuck it. No one got sick, so it’s a happy ending.” – Callie, 35, Oregon

I Cooked A Spoon Inside the Turkey

“It was my first year preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving. I was a rookie, and thought you had to scoop out the insides like a pumpkin. It didn’t seem that hard – all the organs and stuff came out relatively easily. We cooked it, then went to carve, and the electric knife started grating against something that was obviously not turkey. Sure enough, I left a spoon inside trying to clean it out. Everyone was pretty grossed out, but I was just glad the spoon didn’t explode or something while it was in the oven. Can that happen?” – Marty, 33, Florida

We Accidentally Thawed the Turkey in Bathwater

“When our son was young, we used to bathe him in the kitchen sink sometimes. One of those times was on Thanksgiving morning, before all of our guests came over. We had a small turkey, so we were going to thaw it for a few hours in cold water…in the sink. This one is both our faults. I didn’t drain the sink after our son’s bath, and my husband didn’t notice the fact that it was mildly soapy bath water. So, he just dropped the turkey right in. If it was just for a few minutes, I think we could’ve gotten away with it. But that thing was in there for a good hour before we realized what had happened.” – Erin, 40, Georgia 

My Dad’s Watch Went into the Garbage Disposal

“To this day, we’re not sure how it happened – the timing, I mean – but my wife turned on our garbage disposal at the exact minute my dad’s watch fell off his wrist and down the drain. Like, if it had fallen off and down the chute, we would’ve been able to get it out, no problem. But it was like the universe wanted that watch destroyed. Like it was predetermined or something. My dad took it in stride, but my wife was pretty upset.” – Adam, 36, California 

I Clogged My In-Laws’ Toilet

“At the time, they were my girlfriend’s parents, which made it even more embarrassing. But, yeah, there’s not much to the story except that I had to take a monster dump, and their toilet wasn’t equipped to handle it. It overflowed, ruined some towels, smelled awful…the whole nine yards. We laugh about it now. I mean, I married her. But I’m still paranoid they hate me for it.” – Garrett, 32, Arizona 

They Fried Turkey in Peanut Oil and Gave Me an Allergic Reaction

“It was my first Thanksgiving at my then-boyfriend’s parents’ house, and it was also my first time experiencing a turkey being deep-fried. His dad was so excited to show me, and I was definitely open to trying it out. All went well, it tasted great, and we were just sitting around when all of a sudden I started feeling my throat closing up and my skin getting itchy. I was having an allergic reaction. I spoke up, and it turned out the turkey had been fried in peanut oil, which I’m very allergic to. Obviously, I survived, but I had to do the Epi Pen and go to the hospital. It was a very memorably Turkey Day.” – Chloe, 27, Indiana