Hosting the Perfect Thanksgiving

Traditionally, Thanksgiving has always been a holiday devoted to giving thanks: for loved ones, for delicious and plentiful food at harvest time, and for survival after a long year in the New World! With this in mind, advises that we focus on the food and keep decor seasonal, simple and harvest based.

1. Decorate with leaves, branches & berries.

When decorating the table, use what you have found outside during the day! The raw and authentic shapes and colors in leaves, branches and berries (and flowers, sometimes, when down south) are stunning and simple reminders of this special time of year.

2. Eat early, while the sun is still up.

Skipping lunch on Thanksgiving day and having an early supper shifts the momentum of the day, making it a much more relaxed meal, and allows the food to settle long before bedtime.  For those that like to take a walk after the meal, start 30-60 min earlier!

3. Sit close, and have a long table.

Don't worry that everyone is sitting shoulder to shoulder. If you can get everyone at a long table and get them close to one another it will be intimate, cozy and great.

4. Get up and stretch between courses.

With a long meal like this you really have the luxury of taking your time and creating natural breaks between courses. This stimulates conversation and digestion. Start with drinks on the sofa, then sit at the table and then retire to the kitchen or living room again for or before dessert. Go for a walk before dessert even and let the kids run around. Don't rush it!

5. Passing: Many Sides, Little Dishes.

Thanksgiving is a meal of side dishes and there's a huge advantage to this. If you serve family style, have people bring their favorite dishes and then get some crazy passing going around your table you will have MORE fun. The complication and multiplicity of this type of collaborative meal is what Thanksgiving is all about, and the passing of dishes engenders new levels of communication and social bonding.

6. Enjoy dark colors.

Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving gives full license for diving into the deep colors of Autumn when decorating the table or the room. Dark colors are warm and cozy, so add to your leaves, branches and berries with dark napkins, tablecloths, flowers, candles, plates or dishes.

7. Read something aloud.

Of course you can say grace or give a toast, but reading something aloud is a nice way of bringing everyone together. Apartment Therapy recommends something that puts the meal in context and brings up the images associated with the real historical time in which it grew out of. There are many poems about Thanksgiving, including this one from The Writer's Almanac:

"Today is Thanksgiving Day. In the fall of 1621, the Plymouth colonists had barely survived the previous winter and had lost about half their population. The Wampanoag people and their chief, Massasoit, were friendly toward the Pilgrims and helped teach them how to live on different land with new food sources. A man known as Squanto, a Patuxet living with the Wampanoag tribe, knew English because he had been a slave in England. He taught the settlers how to plant corn, beans, and squash and how to catch eel and shellfish. The Pilgrims built seven houses, a meeting place, and storehouses full of food, so they invited the Wampanoag Indians to feast with them. Harvest festivals were nothing new; both the English and the Wampanoag had similar traditions in their culture.

At the first Thanksgiving, they didn't eat mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, and they probably didn't even eat turkey. The only two foods that are actually named in the primary accounts are wild fowl and venison. The meal was mostly meat and seafood, but probably included squash, cabbage, corn, and onions, and spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper.

Unlike our modern Thanksgiving, this event wasn't just one day. Many of the Wampanoag had to walk two days to get to the Plymouth settlement. There were about 50 English people and 90 Wampanoag, and since there wasn't enough room in the seven houses for the guests, they went ahead and built themselves temporary shelters. In between eating, they played games and sports, danced, and sang.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a national holiday on different dates, but on October 3, 1863, in the wake of victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln decided to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring the fourth Thursday in November national Thanksgiving Day. In 1941, Congress made it official."

8. Make Something: DIY Projects.

In keeping with the modest tone and family centered feeling of the holiday, making something for the table or the guests is a great idea. Anything is good, and you can simply carve out gourds to place votive candles in them or make place cards. Here is a list of a whole bunch of good DIY's.

9. Kid's Table.

If you're doing Thanksgiving with kids, give them their own table. While it can be nice to have everyone seated together, young and old alike always appreciate their own space to experience the meal at their own pace. Also, children appreciate being a little independent at Thanksgiving and helping one another instead of having their parents wait on them. A Kid's table is an opportunity to have some fun and even have your kids help you set it up. When they run off to play, you won't have to collapse your seating at the main table to get closer to one another.