Planning Your Thanksgiving Holiday Party
Mmm...Thanksgiving. It's delicious! A favorite holiday for many. You can eat shamelessly and without guilt. Of course, it's also a time to give thanks and to help those who may not be as fortunate. Here are a few tips to make your holiday party extra special.
A Little History...
There's a lot of conjecture as to just what happened at that first Thanksgiving. Today's idyllic renderings show pilgrims and indians sitting at a big table eating turkey together as best friends.
The first recognized day of thanks enjoyed by the pilgrims occured in 1621. It was a 3-day celebration of the harvest, and was attended by 90 Wampanoag indians and 52 pilgrim men. It wasn't called Thanksgiving, but rather an "English Harvest Celebration." A recovered letter written by a pilgrim who attended the event attests to a harmonious gathering, with both sides bringing food (the Wampanoag brought the venison). Nobody brought any turkey!
The first nationally recognized Thanksgiving didn't occur until 1777. But it wasn't the holiday we know and love today until 1863, when it was given the name "Thanksgiving" and scheduled to occur on the last Thursday of November. Eventually, contemporary themes and practices, like turkey and football, were incorporated into the holiday. That combined with the autumn season, including harvest time, brilliantly colored leaves and lots of pumpkin pie, gives us a lot to work with while planning our Thanksgiving Fest!
For an invitation worthy of your mother's scrapbook, you'll definitely want to check out our Custom Thanksgiving Greeting Cards. Or, if you're the creative type, here are a few ideas for creating your own invitations: For an early-American feel, write your invitations on parchment paper. Emulate the old English style of writing by using F's in place of S's, and end lots of words with an extra "e," as in "olde" and "shoppe." Include cornsilk or a leaf from our Fall Leaf Assortment and utilize Fall colors like oranges, browns, and burgundies.
Also include an interesting fact or two about the holiday people may not have realized. Let people know how formal or informal a dinner event it will be, so they'll know what to wear. And if you're making it a football party this year, let everyone know they should wear the team colors. If your party is pot luck style, give invitees a food category and ask them to RSVP with the dish they plan on bringing—this will be important to prevent 8 different varieties of ambrosia salad from being served!
Thanksgiving exudes a sense of earthy comfort and warmth. Fall colors including browns, oranges, and deep reds abound, as do harvest-themed objects such as pumpkins, gourds, colorful indian corn cobs, etc. Here are some other options to decorate your home.
Tableware. Since Thanksgiving is centered around the meal, you may want to focus your decorating energy on the table. Depending on how elegant or casual an event you'll have, you can go either with your finest china or with our earthy colorful disposables, such as our Thanksgiving Harvest collection. Or, consider mixing and matching our solid color sets in Vanilla, Burgundy, and Chocolate Brown. Makes clean up easy for large groups!
The Centerpiece. For centerpieces, you have many options: For a ready-made solution, check out our 12" Honeycomb Turkey Centerpiece. For DIY, cluster small pumpkins, gourds, indian corn, and pine cones together on a base of Fall leaves to capture the harvest feel. Or, consider a gift basket with fruits, cheeses, and wine as a centerpiece that you can award to someone by placing a winning Fall leaf under a dinner plate. Whoever finds the leaf wins the basket! Flowers arrangements in Fall colors are also fabulous—think about sunflowers, which offer a suprising and great Fall look and don't forget a cornupcopia, also called the "Horn of Plenty", a symbol of giving and sharing. Cornucopias make excellent centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table and are easy to make as well. Fill with pomegranates, gourds, miniature pumpkins, small apples, peppers, dried ears of Indian corn or any with "waxy" surfaces to last longer.
Place Settings. Place cards, like our Place Cards With Fall Leaves, add a fun and elegant touch. Or, create your own fun place "cards" using small pumpkins with your guests' names written on them in black or silver marker.
Etc. Indoor. We offer a great variety of Thanksgiving Scene Setters Rolls and Characters that will transform your room inexpensively. Check out our other ready-made decorations, like our Thanksgiving Fringed Banner, Heritage Cutout, and Autumn Leaf Wavy Danglers. To create Fall warmth and comfort, use fabrics like blankets, throw pillows, and rugs strategically. Straw baskets, cornucopias, and wooden bowls filled with green apples, fall vegetables, and Fall leaves gathered from your own yard or a local park are inexpensive and easy. Orange, brown, or burgundy ribbons can also be used strategically to decorate fixtures, fruit baskets, etc. Clear bowls or vases filled with cranberries, cinnamon sticks, and acorns add interest. Maple branches and their beautiful leaves work well in corners or in centerpieces.
Outdoor. The great outdoors lends itself well to your Thanksgiving decorating: you can scatter hay near the entrance to your party, and even stack full bales of hay for a harvest feel. Decorate your porch with large pumpkins, gourds, indian corn, and autumn leaves. Go the extra mile with our 5-Foot Scarecrow, or for an activity, have the kids build their own scarecrow. Construct a simple wood frame with a few wood boards and provide some old clothes, hats, straw, and a burlap bag for the head. Top him off with our Pilgrim Hat!
Venison and wild fowl were served at the first Harvest Celebration; wild choices by today's standards. If you're looking to recreate a truly authentic early celebration but don't have a hunter in the family, don't worry - squash, walnuts, and artichokes were also served back then. Today's Thanksgiving standards are pretty well-known to just about everyone, but there are always a few wild cards you can throw in to surprise your guests without veering too noticeably from a traditional meal.
Sides: Of course, there are plenty of potato varieties to choose from. Some ideas are: mashed with buttermilk and dill, garlic and rosemary roasted, and Au Gratin. Or substitute traditional potato dishes with yams or sweet potato casserole. For a bread option, cornbread provides authentic flavor, but rye dinner rolls and buttermilk biscuits work well, too. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without stuffing, and there are plenty of variations to choose from, including peppered, cornbread, chestnut and even apricot. Other side ideas: green bean casserole, grilled Portobello mushrooms, butternut squash, and wild rice.
Soups: Although not common at many Thanksgiving meals, a good soup adds to the element of warmth. Think about a cream of asparagus, sweet corn chowder, or pumpkin bisque.
Main Courses: Let's see...um, oh yeah! Turkey! There are many tips about making a great turkey, and we'll let you determine the best on your own. But, if you've got access to an outdoor fryer, consider deep-frying your turkey this year. It's all the rage and cooks your turkey quicker and juicier. (Follow strict safety guidlines.) Don't forget the gravy and cranberry sauce! Other main courses (yes, there are some) include spiral-sliced ham and prime rib.
Desserts. Pie choices: Be sure to lots of pumpkin pie with freshly whipped cream. Or try concocting a pumpkin cheesecake, or how about a pumpkin mouse? For an easy delicious mouse, just use the pumpkin pie recipe right off the canned pumpkin and leave out the crust and cook in a souffle dish. Perhaps nothing is as American as apple pie, although sweet potato and pecan are close seconds. Other dessert choices: chocolate torte, pralines, plum pudding, and frosted gingerbread men.
For a special autumn feel, try a spiced wine or mead, warmed in a double boiler on the stove. Pear cider will provide festive fizz. Also, beer is fundamental, especially if you're having a football-oriented party. Don't forget some festive non-alcoholic choices for kids and designated drivers alike, like sparkling apple cider (hot or cold) and non-alcoholic champagne. Lastly, have some sodas and juices available, and tea and coffee for the drive home.
Entertainment & Activities
Kid Fun. Keep them busy. Have them trace the outline of their hands onto brown construction paper, cut them out with blunt-nosed scissors, and decorate to create their own turkeys. Have crayons, yarn, glitter, macaroni, googly eyes, and glue available. Or, have them make and decorate their own placemats. They can also make necklaces with large, tubular pasta, colored beads, etc., just like the indians used to make. They'll love decorating their own sugar cookies with frostings and sprinkles. Have them play "Pin the Tail on the Turkey", or provide a turkey shaped pinata filled with candy in fall colors.
Adult Fun. Ask everyone to bring food or clothing items to be donated to a local shelter or the Salvation Army. This is a nice thing to do and will drive the idea of thankfulness home for everyone. More adult fun: trivia, charades, and 20 Questions, all themed on Thanksgiving. For the truly industrious: set up a touch football game in the yard or at a nearby park. Speaking of...
For Football Fanatics
Some folks are just crazy about football. And these people tend to have, oh, about 12,000 friends who are equally as excited about football. If you happen to fall into this category, treat yourself to the best excuse all year for a football party! Center your invitations around it—cut football-shaped invitations from brown construction paper. Have your guests come dressed to support their team instead of getting dressed up in nice clothes (they might thank you). Provide hats, pom-poms, and maybe those giant foam hands that are available at the stadium. You can even think about providing face paint so people really get into the spirit - you'll have your own little football indian tribe instead of pilgrims! And check out our Football Shape Mylar Balloon for decor. Create a football paraphenalia centerpiece and make sure there are plenty of those little foil-wrapped chocolate footballs available. Play football trivia games and set up a touch football game. Go team!
Print out our Party Checklist.