This is a day for people in the US to give thanks for what they have and it takes place on the 4th Thursday in November (they also have it in Canada on the 2nd Monday in October and they have similar festivals all over the world). The celebration dates back to the mid 18th century, although the first Thanksgiving is said to have taken place in October 1621, when the Pilgrims played host to around 90 Native Americans. It is a time when families and friends get together for a meal, traditionally consisting of a roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Well, you have to get rid of that pumpkin somehow after Halloween!
What to Bring as a Gift
Thanksgiving is not traditionally a gift-bearing occasion, but if you are invited to a friend’s house you shouldn’t go empty-handed. Here are some ideas for things to take along
- An appetizer, side dish, or dessert. If you were invited to a potluck (see below), you'll probably be bringing one of these things anyway.
- Wine, whiskey, champagne, cider, or a nice, heartwarming punch.
- A flowering plant or table centrepiece (Not flowers, see below). ...
- A small gift for the avid cook.
Things to do – or not do
- Don't show up early. The hosts will have timed everything and you will have been told when to arrive. Getting there early means they have to break off to entertain you.
- Bring utensils. If you’ve made a dish that needs special utensils to serve up, bring them along.
- Don't hang around in the kitchen. This is a very stressful time for the host, with lots to do. Having you there telling them what an awful journey you had will not help. Save that for the small talk later.
- Eat a snack beforehand. You may have to wait a while for everyone else to arrive and for all the formalities to settle down.
- Most people like wine and everybody likes flowers. But here’s the thing about flowers. They have to be put into a vase and possibly trimmed first. Imagine turning up with a fine bouquet and the hostess is up to her elbows in flour or turkey baste and now she has to clean up, go find a vase and arrange it all into a nice display. If alcohol is off the menu then take a flowering plant. It’s already set in its own pot and nicely wrapped this would make a great gift. A poinsettia works well this time of year and will flower right through to Christmas and beyond.
Why not go for Potluck?
These days a lot of people like to share the cooking, and it can be more fun with a great variety of dishes. This takes a lot of the strain of cooking off the host, but it still needs to be organised.
Here are just a few tips on what you need to do, courtesy of Leslie Kelly at allrecipes.com
1. Create a sign-up sheet
You can set up a spreadsheet and share it on Dropbox or Google, or just email it. Ask everybody to grab something from one from these categories:
- Appetizers - hot or cold dips are great for letting people help themselves
- Side dishes - potatoes and vegetables, but don't forget the stuffing and cranberry sauce if you're having turkey. Why not try this lemon pepper green beans for a change.
- Main Course - you have to decide on this before choosing all the other dishes because this sets the mood. Traditional turkey or a honey glazed ham? Don't forget to cater for the veggies and vegans out there!
- Dessert - after all that, you will surely make room for a delicious tart or a pumpkin pie (yes, more pumpkin). This is a good opportunity to provide something fun for the kids.
- Drinks - for red wine lovers, Pino Noir goes well with Turkey and if you prefer white, look for a good Sauvignon Blanc or a Reisling. Beer can also work well but choose wisely to suit the menu and no Thanksgiving feast would be complete without a cocktail or three.
2. Develop a menu that is fun for everyone.
Include traditional dishes from other cultures. We have such diverse neighborhoods now, it is a shame not to include ethnic dishes on the menu.
Remember to check if anyone has any allergies or other specific dietary needs. Maybe they can provide food that suits them or other dishes tailored to make them more inclusive (like using gluten-free products or avoiding nuts).
Don’t forget the kids! TheSpruce.com has some great ideas to keep all the family involved in the festivities. Remind them as well what it is all about - giving thanks for what we have.
3. Figure out how much food you need
This is perhaps the most challenging aspect. You can cope with too much, but too little? Well, Subway should be open if nowhere else is.
Here is a useful guide I stole from .allrecipes.com
- Appetizers or snacks should consist of two to three bites per person
- 3 ounces of dip (about 1/3 cup) per person
- 1 cup of soup per person (less if it’s a thick soup, like chowder)
- 3 ounces of salad (about 1 cup) per person
- 6 ounces of meat or main entrée per person
- 5 ounces of starch (potato, pasta, or rice) per person
- One and a half pieces of dessert per person
4. Send out reminders
You don't want people to forget that they committed to bringing a certain dish (what a let-down that would be, not to mention embarrassing for the individual). Include in the reminder
- Plan how to transport hot dishes. You can find padded casserole carriers in houseware stores or online. A cooler works well for keeping dishes warm, too. Wrap the dish so it is solidly set into the container. Use plastic wrap and aluminum foil generously to ensure the dish is airtight.
- Check with your guests to see if they'll need oven room for reheating dishes.
- Provide cards so guests can label their dishes, especially if there are dietary concerns in your group.
- Provide serving utensils if anything special is required.
5. Create a holiday vibe
Light some candles, set the table, create a playlist. This is a time for giving thanks so let that be your theme.
6. Set a time for dinner to be served
Arrival time and sit down to eat time - make sure everybody knows you want them there for a drink before sitting down. This is gonna be a well-drilled exercise so no excuses.
7. Ask for cleanup help
That group activity after dinner helps battle that post-turkey tendency to crash on the couch and slip into a food coma. It's also a great way to make room for dessert. Remind everybody to grab the dishes and utensils they've brought to the party. Portion out the leftovers into disposable containers so you can share the bounty. Maybe one of those who didn't bring anything should be head pot-washer.
8. Go for a sweet finish
Why not finish by setting up a sweets table and let people help themselves? Assign one of those non-cookers to be in charge of coffee and tea or after-dinner drinks.
Ideas to keep the kids amused
Thanksgiving activities for kids aren't just for, well, kids. They're also an easy, stress-free way to give the grown-up guests some space and time to enjoy themselves during your delicious Thanksgiving feast. We found these ideas at CountryLiving.com. You can join in too if you want (we know you do).
- Turkey tail napkin rings
- Egg carton turkeys
- I'm so grateful coloring sheet
- Coloring Placemat
- Colored pumpkin seeds - each pumpkin has around 500 seeds, so when you’ve toasted some, planted others, why not use what’s left to create artwork?
Baby Knows Best wishes you all a great time this Thanksgiving. We hope you manage to get together with your loved ones but let us not forget those who can't come or might be alone.