18 Thanksgiving Ideas from Food, Decoration to Activities

Thanksgiving Day celebrations started way back in 1621. The three-day-long festivities marked the ending of the autumn harvest. The pilgrims and Native Americans held fêtes in which they had prepared big feasts and had meals together. The general idea was to thank God for all his blessings of the passing year.

The tradition of celebrating continues to date. The fourth Thursday of November was designated as Thanksgiving Day. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, declared it a federal holiday in 1863. It is a day of preparing traditional meals, family get-togethers and giving thanks.

In this article, we will discuss the traditional meals prepared for Thanksgiving Day. We will also cover appropriate decorations and how to celebrate the day.

Foods to Eat on Thanksgiving Day


roast turkey

Source: cottonbro

You can’t separate turkey from Thanksgiving. The two go hand in hand. The primary reason turkey is preferred is its size! Since Thanksgiving is all about family gatherings, you need to have enough meat to go around. It beats having to prepare five chickens! It is usually stuffed. The stuffing can be of choice and include grains, vegetables, fruits and even other meats. It is seasoned with herbs and roasted.

Unlike most of the Thanksgiving dishes, turkey is actually rather nutritious. Oven-roasted turkey provides vitamins and minerals like B-6, B-12, niacin, selenium and zinc. This is in addition to plenty of healthy protein. Getting rid of the skin will further reduce calories, but that is a personal choice.


Cooking meats release juices. Instead of wasting them, they are turned into a delicious gravy that goes well with potatoes. The gravy is cooked and thickened using various ingredients and is a standard item with the dinner. Needless to say, it will be high in fat content and not an ideal choice for the more health-conscious feasters.

Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce

Source: RODNAE

Cranberry sauce is as old as Thanksgiving itself. When pilgrims arrived in the new land, they learned many things from the natives. They learned that native American Indians gathered these berries during this time of the year. Nowadays, cranberry sauce is more commonly served straight from a can. However, it is actually easy to make at home. All that is needed is boiling cranberries with sugar and water until they pop. Then just mash them, cool and serve!

From a health, perspective cranberries are frequently said to be a miracle fruit. They are well known for their ability to treat urinary tract infections. However, the addition of sugar does tend to contain a lot of sugar. Making your own can control this to a degree.

Mashed Potatoes

mashed potato

Source: Jess Ho

This is another classic Thanksgiving dish that is made by mashing peeled, boiled, potatoes. They are then seasoned with butter, salt, pepper and garlic. Finally, they are mixed to the desired consistency using milk. A delicious treat indeed!

Potatoes have a bad reputation in terms of being a healthy food. They actually contain plenty of vitamin C, potassium, fibre, some protein and starchy carbohydrates. However, during preparation, the removal of skin takes away the fibre content. It also ups the calorie content when butter and milk are used.

Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes

Source: Kindel Media

This naturally sweet-flavoured root has a soft creamy texture. It is good for use as a side dish or can even be prepared as a main course. Sweet potatoes can be baked, used in casseroles or spiced up. You can even bake them with butter, brown sugar and topped with marshmallows.

Sweet potatoes, on their own they tend to be nutritious. They are full of high levels of beta-carotene, fibre, vitamins B-6, C and A. The best part is that they are full of slow-releasing carbohydrates. However, the add-ons tend to increase calorie content and make them not so healthy a food.

Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie

Source: Karolina Grabowska

Nothing says autumn is here more than the appearance of this bright orange vegetable. The pumpkin symbolizes harvest time. Pumpkin pie is usually made when pumpkins are in season. Consumed by themselves, they are very nutritious. They are full of carotenoids, fibre, potassium and vitamins C and B.

The pumpkin pie is made with a single shell. The filling is of beautiful orange to light brown colour. It is spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Thanksgiving Decorations

Thanksgiving decorations are typically composed of natural elements. It has to do with earthy tones and bringing the natural elements inside. Centrepieces, fall-themed wreaths, and orange, rust, and yellow colours all combine to provide a warm, welcoming atmosphere.


cornucopia basket

Source: ETSY Annettesbridal

The cornucopia makes a great decoration for a mantel, the dining table or a corner table. The hallow basket is shaped like a horn-filled and with a variety of seasonal harvests. It is a very traditional decoration associated with Thanksgiving that symbolizes abundance.

Pumpkins, Squash & Corn

carve beautiful pumpkin lantern with pumpkin carving kit

Source: Amazon Elmchee

Pumpkins, corn and a variety of gourds are all harvested at this time of the year. It is common to use them in welcoming the season. Carved pumpkins with lighted candles and different sized gourds make for excellent outdoor decorations. Whether you strategically pile them in a basket outdoors or place them along a mantel indoors, they look great.

Inflatable Turkey Outdoor Decoration

inflatable turkey outdoor decoration

Source: Amazon OurWarm

If you are holding a Thanksgiving party, this cool inflatable turkey is definitely the best investment. As it can attract the attention of your little guests and neighbours. The LED lights inside the turkey brighten up your Thanksgiving night.


Thanksgiving wreath

Source: Amazon Tiny Land

Seasonal wreaths over a fireplace or on the front door are a great way to welcome the holiday. You can make your own using items that are easily available at this time. For example, you can incorporate pine cones, acorns, corn or different coloured leaves to create your wreath.

Candles & Lanterns

pumpkin shaped candle

Source: Amazon Home Lights

There is nothing that sets the mood like the warm glow of a candle or lantern. Whether you choose battery-operated, solar, or regular candles, they look fantastic. The best part, you can use them in different places around the house. Lanterns are great for lighting paths outdoors. Candles can be used to perk up corners or as centrepieces on tables indoors. Scented candles even keep the house smelling great. The choices and variety are endless.

Pumpkin String Lights

pumpkin string lights

Source: Amazon BOHON

As the days around Thanksgiving are getting dark earlier, the string light can add some fun and colourful light to the space. These little pumpkin lights are small but adorable fall decorations for the fireplace, wreath, or Thanksgiving party.

Table Cloth & Runner

thanksgiving table runner

Source: Amazon Camlinbo

A rustic burlap table runner or a tablecloth displaying holiday foods, dress up your table to reflect the season. Table linen is one of the easiest ways to welcome Thanksgiving. There is an endless variety to select from.

Things to do on Thanksgiving Day

A typical Thanksgiving Day revolves around family and food. However, there are many other things you can do to keep the family entertained.

Watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

This is absolutely the most renowned holiday tradition in the United States. Large crowds descend on Manhattan and line the street to enjoy this parade. It is known for oversized inflated balloons that drift between tall skyscrapers. Additionally, it includes marching bands, decorated floats and live musical performances.

Break a Wishbone

Thanksgiving party wishbone

Source: ETSY Boost3DPrinting

Yes, this is actually done! The Y-shaped bone found inside the turkey has many superstitions associated with it. If you have many guests, you can draw names to pick the two people who will get to break the bone. The selected people grab the legs of the bone and pull while making a wish. The wish of the person with the larger piece of the bone will come true. Their following year will also be full of good luck. For added fun, the winner can have the first serving of dessert!

Enjoy a Football Game on T.V

Watching a football game is an all-time favourite activity in American households. Numerous college football games are being played throughout the day. It is always fun to pick your favourite teams and watch with family members and loads of snacks. If you are looking to burn some calories, then organize your very own game in the backyard. You can even invite neighbours to participate.

Make a Gratitude Tree

thankful tree

Source: ETSY BabyWhatKnots

This is a great activity for everyone especially, for families with small children. It allows you to do crafts with your children while teaching them about gratitude. You can collect twigs from your backyard and assemble them to resemble a miniature tree. You can display it on a corner table anywhere in the house. Next, cut out leaf shapes using different coloured construction paper. Place some pens and the leaf cutouts under the faux tree. All the guests can then be given a leaf cutout to write what they have to be thankful for. The display will last throughout the holidays!

Give Back

Thanksgiving is a great time to give back to those who are less privileged. Hold a food drive and ask all your family members and friends to donate. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, have all the guests bring something to donate. Non-perishable foods make great gifts. All items collected can then be given to soup kitchens or even free kitchens run by different churches.

Thanksgiving Day is all about family and friends, being grateful and conveying gratitude. It is a time to appreciate everything you have and celebrate with loved ones. This holiday is about everything good, minus the materialistic motivations of gift-giving. Have a great holiday!

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