Despite what you find on your Thanksgiving shopping list or table on the last Thursday in November, it is much different from the first Thanksgiving that took place nearly 400 years ago. From the decoration and atmosphere to the menu and the people, there are many differences – and just as many similarities – between Thanksgiving then and now. Take the time to discover how your family and friends celebrate this holiday compared to what it was like between the Pilgrims and Indians.

The Decoration

It goes without saying that there was likely no decoration during the first Thanksgiving, especially compared to today’s holiday décor. While there may have been a cornucopia of sorts on the table in 1626, it was like for a purpose, such as holding fresh vegetables for eating. Today, however, you will find plastic cornucopias decorating not only Thanksgiving tables, but kitchens, living rooms, and even outdoor fall displays.

In addition, many homeowners or Thanksgiving hosts will decorate their dining room and kitchens to the hills for this one day. From long table runners featuring the bright colors of fall – red, yellow, orange, green, and brown – to several smaller items in amongst the buffet of food that is often spread across granite countertops or granite islands.

No matter what your decorating ideas are this Thanksgiving, think less is more, remembering what it was like nearly 400 years ago. After all, most of your guests are looking at the food more than the décor, although setting food atop a granite countertop can make it appear even more delicious and luxurious.

The Atmosphere

In many cases, Thanksgiving dinner will be served indoors, as opposed to the outdoor feast that was held by the Pilgrims and Indians. While the moms, daughters, aunts, nieces, and grandmas gather in the kitchen to begin preparing all the delicious dishes, the dads, sons, uncles, nephews, and grandfathers can often be found in the family room, den, or man cave huddled around the television to watch the ‘big game.’

It is also different when it comes to the kids. At the original Thanksgiving, it is possible that younger children and teenagers were helping get the event going. Whether they were gathering wood for the fire where food would be cooked, or they were preparing the bird for the feast, they were not playing games and watching television. It is much different in today’s society, where the kids are often sent to a playroom, where they can watch DVDs, play video games, and stay out of the kitchen.

Consider making a change this holiday season and inviting the men and kids into the kitchen to help prepare the meal. After all, it is likely that one of the things you are most thankful for is your family, so there is no reason not to spend the day together.

The Menu

While many believe that the first Thanksgiving featured a feast with a turkey at the center and all of the delicious side dishes known and loved today, this is not exactly true. It is true that birds were eaten – not saying that a turkey was not present – but it is more likely that wild geese and ducks were on a platter. In addition, by the time the feast took place, the flour for the year had been used up, so there were no fresh baked breads, pies, or cookies, all of which are common on a Thanksgiving table today.

Furthermore, pumpkins, as well as other vegetables were part of the dinner, but not in the ways that most have grown accustomed to. There were no mashed potatoes – butter and milk were not readily available. There was no pumpkin pie – for various reasons. There was no green bean casserole with French fried onions. Consider cutting back on some of the more indulgent foods, especially if you want a more ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving feast.

The People

It is safe to assume that you will not be sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal on the fourth Thursday in November with Pilgrims and Indians. However, it is possible that some of your ancestors were part of the Thanksgiving feast, which brings your celebration that much closer to what took place all those years ago.

For most, however, a gathering of close – or extended – family takes place. For others, it is a gathering of friends, or a combination of friends and family. No matter who the guests at your Thanksgiving table are, it is likely that they are people who care about you, as you care about them, those that are there for you, and those that you are there for.

Thanksgiving – then or now – is a day to celebrate all that is good in your life, and most importantly – thinking about all that you are thankful for – and encouraging yourself and those around you to keep those reasons at the forefront of your attention more often than one day a year.

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