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Thanksgiving Party Vault

Welcome to the Thanksgiving Party Vault! We have lots of information here, and hope it helps you to plan the perfect get together for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving History

America's first Thanksgiving, in 1621, was a three-day celebration of feasting and recreation. The prior year was the Pilgrims' first winter at Plymouth, and it was so harsh almost half of the colonists perished.

By the second harvest, there was reason to rejoice. A peace treaty was signed with the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims' Native American neighbors. And Massasoit, their leader, shared his agricultural expertise, which resulted in a bumper crop. As was common in England, where the Pilgrims originated, they chose to commemorate their bounty with a harvest festival.

Most accounts of the actual event mention neither turkey nor pumpkin, our modern Thanksgiving staples. Indian corn was plentiful, however. Four valiant Pilgrim housewives supervised the feast that Massasoit and 90 of his people attended, bringing five deer as their contribution to the communal table.

Presumably, the Pilgrims followed the English custom of the day and served their neighbors buffet-style; dishes were placed on the table and guests helped themselves. There were no forks, only knives, spoons, and large napkins that were used to pick up hot foods and to tidy the face and fingers. Food could be eaten directly from the serving dish or you could share a trencher (wooden plate). No meal could begin without saying grace, since the Pilgrims believed that their good fortune was due to their relationship to God.

Similar New England harvest festivals evolved into an annual tradition, officially acknowledged in 1777, when the Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving. President Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, after 23 years of lobbying by Sarah Josepha Hale, an acclaimed author and editor.

The regional foods of New England, including turkey, cranberries and pumpkin, came to be identified with the holiday, as did the inspirational story of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe feasting and coexisting in peace.

These are the five most common activities Americans traditionally enjoy on Thanksgiving Day. How many does your family do?

1. Savoring the Bird According to the National Turkey Federation, 91 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. Dating back to New England harvest traditions, eating turkey is the enduring symbol of the holiday. In the South, some prefer their turkey deep-fried rather than roasted in the traditional Yankee fashion. No matter how the turkey is prepared, Americans will eat approximately 675 million pounds of turkey alone this holiday.

2. Reaching Out As Americans gather together to share the year's bounty, families also reach out to those less fortunate. Volunteering at soup kitchens is a time-honored way to express our thanks and give back to the community. For more information on how to volunteer, go to "Charities and Volunteering."

3. Taking Time Out -- For Football When everyone is full from the groaning Thanksgiving table, many folks settle in for football. Americans have been playing and watching football on Thanksgiving since the 1870s. One sarcastic reporter noted in 1893, "Thanksgiving...is a holiday granted by...the Nation to see a game of football."

4. Watching the Big Parade In addition to the big football games, Americans gather around to watch one of the biggest and most famous parades, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Whether you watch it on TV or go to New York City to see it in person, the day would not be complete without the balloons, the Rockettes, and Santa on his sleigh. Locals and visitors alike congregate the night before the parade to watch the floats as they're inflated and to stake out a place for great sight lines the next morning.

5. Making a Wish Who gets the wishbone in your family? Ever since the Etruscans, people have been pulling apart the forked bone from a turkey, chicken or other fowl and making a wish. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered England and the English brought it to America.

A national Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States as recommended by President George Washington.  On November 26, 1941 US President Franklin D Roosevelt signed a bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day in the United States. 

The image below, courtesy of the Western Waters Digital Library depicts in "sign language" (pictographs) how Thanksgiving day is celebrated by the American Indians.  Theodore Lambie, a young Sioux, created this picture for the readers of "Indians at Work:, which was published in 1937 as an official publication of the Indian Service.

American Indian Thanksgiving

Party Planning

Countdown: Planning is the secret to a successful party. Once everything is thought out, your party will run smoothly.

One Month Ahead:  Decide on the date, time, place, and number of guests for your party. Start by buying or making your invitations. 

Two Weeks Ahead: Phone, email or mail the invitations.  If you're mailing them, be sure to ask for an R.S.V.P. so you'll know exactly how many to expect. Make plans for the menu, activities, gifts (or prizes), and decorations. If you're planning to include any games, be sure to plan more than you'll have time for. This allows you to go on to another game if your guests aren't having fun.

One Week Ahead: Make or purchase the party favors, prizes, and decorations. The big day will be here before you know it.

 Two or Three Days Ahead: Double-check the final guest list and make a tentative schedule for what you'll be doing at the party.  Shop for the food.

The Day Before the Party:   Decorate for your party.  Start early, as this always takes longer than you expect.  Same with the food.  Anything you can do ahead now will make the day of the party much more fun for everyone!


Did you know?
  • We have a variety of beautiful candles, including Thanksgiving Tapers (both 10" and 12" in a variety of Fall colors)?
  • We have the Wilton Products for Thanksgiving?
  • We have Wreaths, and Oak Leaf Garlands, Autumn Sprigs with and without Pumpkins
  • We have sugared fruit
  • We have beautiful ceramic squash that looks just like the real thing!
  • We have trays,
  • We have cornucopia
  • We have pumpkin, honeysuckle and cranberry scented candles
  • We have decorative glass votive candle holders
  • Autumn cello bags
  • Lots of small goodies for kids
  • We have Thanksgiving finger puppets
  • We have decorating pumpkins
  • We have small scarecrows
  • We have plush pilgrim hats
  • We have dangling scarecrows
  • We have Thanksgiving bottle stops and appetizer knives
  • We have Thanksgiving salt and pepper shakers.
  • We have Fall lanterns in various sizes
  • We have Thanksgiving treat boxes
  • We have Autumn and Thanksgiving Baking Cups
  • We have pumpkin picks
  • We have snack servers
And that's just a sample of what we carry!  Be sure to come in to see it all! Here are some photos to whet your appetite!

Thanksgiving Recipes

Turkey - Lots of information to help you to bake the perfect turkey are listed below under "Turkey Hotline and Turkey Tips", so I won't repeat those here.  Here are some other turkey ideas such as glazes, stuffings, and garnishes. 

Turkey Glazes
Turkey Stuffings
Turkey Garnishes

Drinks and Cocktails

Cranberry Sugar

Place 1 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons Ocean Spray® Fresh Cranberries in a food processor. Process until smooth and sugar is evenly colored. Spoon sugar into a shallow dish. Dip rims of glasses or mugs in cranberry sugar 2 or 3 times or until rims are thickly coated with cranberry sugar. (No need to moisten rims first.)

Use this colorful sugar to rim the edges of cocktail glasses or cocoa mugs. Or serve a Cranberry Margarita in individual serving glasses dipped in Cranberry Sugar.

Cranberry Swizzle Sticks

Rinse fresh cranberries and pat dry. Spear several fresh cranberries on festive cocktail stirrers or wooden skewers. Place in glasses and fill with sparkling water or cocktails.

Cranberry Ice Cubes

Rinse fresh cranberries and drain well. Place 2-3 cranberries in the bottom of each ice cube tray compartment. If desired, add a fresh mint leaf to each cube. Add water to trays, filling to top. Freeze until solid. Unmold cubes and use in juice or cocktails. You can also add some color to your table by placing in individual water glasses at each place setting.

Side Dishes

Cranberry Herb Butter

Beat 1 cup softened butter, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cranberries, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 teaspoon dry basil and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder in a small mixing bowl with an electric mixer until well blended. Scoop butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Use wrap to shape butter into a log 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour or until firm. Slice butter into 1/4-inch rounds and arrange on serving plate. Serve with vegetables or potatoes.

This butter can also be made without the basil and garlic powder and served with baskets of holiday breads, dinner rolls, popovers or croissants.


Sugared Cranberries

Rinse fresh or frozen cranberries with cold water in a colander. Drain well and set aside.

Make an egg white wash by whisking one egg white and 1 Tablespoon of water in a small bowl.

Pour some granulated sugar on a plate or shallow bowl. Dip cranberries, one at a time, in egg wash, then roll in sugar. Place coated berries on sheet of waxed paper to dry. Continue to create the desired amount of berries.

Sugared cranberries arranged with mint leaves look spectacular on top of cakes, or place a few sugared cranberries on individual servings of cake, pies or tortes.

Cranberry Mint Confetti

Toss together equal parts finely chopped fresh cranberries and finely chopped mint. Add half as much grated orange peel. Sprinkle mixture like confetti around the edges of dessert plates.

Cranberry Chocolate Plate Art

Microwave 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a resealable food storage bag for 1 minute on high. Squeeze bag until chips are smooth. Add 3 tablespoons Ocean Spray® Jellied Cranberry Sauce and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Seal bag and gently squeeze until well combined. Clip one bottom corner of bag and drizzle dessert plates with chocolate mixture. Delight kids by spelling their names! Decorates about 12 dessert plates.

Thanksgiving Baking

Here are some traditional Thanksgiving pies for you to consider:
  • Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
  • Pecan Pie
  • Apple Pie


Celebrate Thanksgiving with a difference by serving these thanksgiving cupcakes.

I used pumpkins as the main attraction of these cupcakes, decorated with leaves sprinkles (from Craig's in the Wilton Section).

They look lovely and your guests can expect something different from you this year!


  • Cupcakes - any recipe
  • Buttercream icing in light brown
  • Leaves sprinkles
  • Marzipan Pumpkins

Decorating Method

1. Make drop flowers on the surface of the cupcakes using the light brown buttercream icing.

2. Sprinkle the leaves sprinkles all over.

3. Place one marzipan pumpkin in the middle of each cupcake.

Super easy to make, but very impressive to serve! 

Turkey Hotline and Turkey Tips

If you get stumped on Thanksgiving morning an need help with your turkey, oven temperature, etc, just call the Butterball Turkey Hotline at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. 

Since none of us likes to have a harried stressed-out day on Thanksgiving, do your turkey planning ahead at their website

Plates, Cups, Invitations, Etc.

We have many different goodies to help you set the perfect Thanksgiving table!  Here are a few:

Thanksgiving Fun for Kids

Here are some fun ways to keep the little ones busy while you're trying to cook and get ready for company.
Goodie Bags and Party Favors

We have LOTS of goodie bag ideas!  And, we're always adding more.