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Thanksgiving 2021 Guide

November 4, 2021 (Last updated: November 7, 2021)


Thanksgiving illustration

Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving 2021 should be much more traditional than last year’s scaled-down or non-existent gatherings. This year, as we navigate what our holiday might look like, it’s a great time to reflect on the challenges of 2020 and 2021 and to give thanks for all that we do have and our hope for a brighter future. Hopefully we can enjoy a mostly normal Thanksgiving with friends and family.

This guide discusses the best carefully-reviewed websites for everything you need to celebrate and host a festive and bountiful Thanksgiving this year, from top delicious recipes to creative crafts for the kids to decor guaranteed to set a cozy autumn mood.

 

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Thanksgiving Dinner, Traditions & Symbols

Whether or not you feel comfortable with a large family gathering this year for Thanksgiving, here are some festive Thanksgiving traditions for Thanksgiving Day that should get you in the holiday mood.

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving illustrationQuite different from the original 1621 Thanksgiving feast that likely included items like eel, seal, swans, and lobster, today’s Thanksgiving dinner usually includes traditional foods like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Whether you intend to have a larger gathering this year or just an intimate dinner with immediate family or a couple of friends, eating the classic Thanksgiving dishes is a perfect way to celebrate the holiday. Below are some of the most popular foods for Thanksgiving that have become Thanksgiving symbols.

 

Turkey

Today nearly 90 percent of Americans eat turkey for Thanksgiving. The bird is so closely tied to the holiday that it’s commonly referred to as “Turkey Day.” The turkey commemorates the first Thanksgiving dinner, in which the Pilgrims are said to have hunted and served wildfowl.

 

Corn

Without corn, it’s possible that the 1621 Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t have even taken place. In November 1621, after the Pilgrims harvested their first successful corn crop, their Governor William Bradford declared a celebratory feast and invited some of the young colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag. Corn remains a key staple in American agriculture and is something for us to give thanks for today.

 

Pumpkin

This autumn-harvested fruit is one of the oldest domesticated crops native to North America. It may have starred on the menu at the first Thanksgiving, but it wouldn’t have been served sweet with lots of sugar as we’ve grown familiar with as the Pilgrims sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621.

 

Cranberry

Native Americans in the Northeast used cranberries as a food source, to dye fabric, and as medicine. Because of the importance of cranberries in the 1600s, it’s believed that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag would have eaten them at the first Thanksgiving, likely as pemmican, a dish of crushed cranberries and dried meat.

Today’s traditional cranberry sauce, made with sugar, didn’t become popular until the 19th century. By the Civil War, cranberry sauce was so commonly served as an American dish that General Ulysses Grant ordered that cranberries be served to his soldiers during their Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving Mill

 

Traditions

Volunteering

Across the United States, generous volunteers come together over Thanksgiving to host food drives and serve free dinners for those less fortunate. If you prefer to give back in a more socially distanced way, there are plenty of excellent non-profits looking for financial support on GivingTuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

 

Thanksgiving Parades

Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a beloved Thanksgiving tradition for families across the United States, whether you visit in person in New York or watch it on television while prepping dinner.

Last year’s parade did not feature a live audience, but this year fully vaccinated and masked onlookers will line the streets of New York to enjoy the giant balloons, elaborate floats hosting celebrities, and marching bands from around the country.

 

Turkey Pardon

Since the mid-1900s, the United States president has “pardoned” a turkey or two each year from slaughter, so they can live out their years peacefully on a farm. Every year, you can watch this ceremony on television.

 

Football

The tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1876, shortly after the game was invented. Today, millions of people around the country watch the three NFL AcornThanksgiving games, two that always feature the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Thanksgiving Ideas & Inspiration

For an inspiring variety of delicious Thanksgiving dinner recipes, fun fall craft ideas, and more to make this year’s Thanksgiving Day even more special, check out our Thanksgiving overview, and the highlighted top idea and inspiration websites below:

 

Elle Decor

If you’re looking for the best ways to add fall flair to your home, check out Elle Decor for scented candles that smell just like fall, Thanksgiving tablescape ideas, and home decorating ideas, like hanging a collection of framed and preserved fall leaves as a gallery wall.

 

Country Living

Country Living is an excellent source for Thanksgiving ideas, from dinner recipes to cocktails, table settings to crafts, and everything in between. For those looking for non-traditional ideas, they also feature blog posts like best Thanksgiving movies to watch, stores that are open Thanksgiving Day, and the best take-out options for people who prefer not to cook.

 

Martha Stewart

Check out an abundant array of Martha Stewart-approved Thanksgiving tutorials and recipes that will make for a memorable and joyous meal with friends and family. The website includes ideas ranging from Thanksgiving decorations like fall centerpieces and place cards, creative kids' crafts, and the entire Thanksgiving menu, from the first appetizer to dessert.

 

House Beautiful

AutumnMore than just decor ideas, House Beautiful is an excellent source for inspiring Thanksgiving table ideas, recipes, cocktails, and more.

 

AmazonStores like Target, Walmart, and Amazon all have a wide variety of Thanksgiving decorations to usher the fall harvest into your home. Amazon is also great for picking up a quick gift. Ad

 

Thanksgiving Decorations

Set the autumn mood with decorations of fall foliage, warm colors, and common holiday symbols like the turkey or cornucopia. Below are our top picks for Thanksgiving decorations for 2021.

For more Thanksgiving home decor, be sure to visit our easy Home Decor Stores overview.

 

Pottery Barn

For candles in autumn colors, decorative gourds and pumpkins in ceramic and woven fibers, seasonal table runners, fall foliage wreaths, and earthy autumn vases, check out Pottery Barn’s Thanksgiving decor.

 

Williams Sonoma

William Sonoma’s beautiful fall wreaths, table runners, centerpieces, tapered candles in rich fall colors, napkin rings, and candle holders will have you thinking of fall harvests and crisp autumn air.

 

Etsy

For creative, hand-made decorations and decor featuring vintage Thanksgiving illustrations, check out Etsy for hand-crafted banners, decorative signs, and more.

 

 

enlightenedLooking to do something together as a family while digesting Thanksgiving dinner? Check out Target’s wide range of family board games suitable for all ages.

 

Thanksgiving Food and Recipes

Thanksgiving recipesPrepare a fabulous feast of turkey, sweet potato, stuffing, pecan pie, and more with our hand-picked selection of websites providing the widest range of delicious recipes to make your Thanksgiving feast even more delicious this year.

For more recipe ideas, check out our easy overview of the best websites for Thanksgiving Recipes.

 

Seriouseats

Award-winning food and drink website Serious Eats rigorously tests and includes cultural and historical stories for their recipes. Check out their website for recipes for Thanksgiving dinner staples arranged by category, like best turkey recipes and stuffing recipes, and for useful tips like how to keep gravy warm without hogging a burner.

 

The Smitten Kitchen

The Smitten Kitchen is a fourteen-year-old food website by New York Times bestselling cookbook author Deb Perelman. “Celebrating triumphant but unfussy cooking,” her website is full of tried and true delicious Thanksgiving recipes with unpretentious ingredients.

 

Southern Living

For Southern-style Thanksgiving recipes, including classics like pecan pies and cornbread dressing, check out Southern Living’s Thanksgiving recipes and crowd-pleasing staff picks.

 

David Lebovitz

For mouthwatering desserts, visit renowned pastry chef David Lebovitz’s blog. His recipes include seasonal sweets like maple pumpkin flan or German apple almond cake, as well as cocktails and some savory recipes.

 

enlightenedLooking for an inspiring quote to share on your social media or Thanksgiving card this year? Check out BrainyQuote for funny, clever, and touching Thanksgiving-related quotes.

 

Thanksgiving eCards & Greeting Cards

Hoping to send out Thanksgiving cards to family and friends this year? Whether you send out traditional greeting cards, personalized photo cards, or eCards, this guide will help find the right card to celebrate life’s harvest and express your gratitude to those you love.

 

eCards

Sending an eCard is an easy and quick way to share your appreciation for those you care about this Thanksgiving. For more top eCard websites, check out our eCards overview.

jacquie lawson

Jacquie Lawson features a lovely selection of animated illustrated eCards celebrating Thanksgiving and the bountiful harvest of the autumn season.

 

Traditional Greeting Cards

papersource

Selling cards individually or in card sets, Papersource offers a wide variety of humorous, timeless, and cute illustrated designs guaranteed to help you express your gratitude for your friends and family this year. 

 

Personal Thanksgiving Photo Cards

shutterfly

Shutterfly offers over 30 pre-designed card templates for fall greetings to send to your family and friends. With options for changing the text and adding your own favorite photographs, you’re sure to create the perfect card.

 

Thanksgiving Invitations

punchbowl

Send invites for your Thanksgiving dinner via text or email easily with Punchbowl. They have a huge selection of themes and designs. Since all RSVPs are collected online, it’s incredibly easy for you to keep track of the guest list. Although the website is not free, they currently offer a 7-day free trial and a basic plan for $4 per month.

 

eBay ThanksgivingIt's definitely a good idea to check out eBay to get a head start on your holiday preparations. Also check out their Black Friday page for savings on popular gifts and electronics. Ad

 

Thanksgiving Tableware & Dinnerware

Thanksgiving traditionally revolves around the dinner table. Create your dream table aesthetic this year with dinnerware from our curated list of stores providing quality, festive Thanksgiving tableware. For even more dinnerware options, be sure to check out our Dinnerware guide.

 

williams-sonoma.com

Whether you’re looking for a timeless, all-white dinnerware set for hosting this year’s Thanksgiving dinner or for vintage-style dinnerware that features plump turkeys, pheasants, and pumpkins, Williams Sonoma has a wide array of plates, platters, and dinnerware sets to perfect your Thanksgiving table.

 

pfaltzgraff

With over 200 years of history, Pfaltzgraff sells quality products like dinnerware and ceramics for the home. If you’re looking for reasonably priced dinnerware sets that celebrate the warmth and bounty of the harvest season, check out Pfaltzgraff’s autumn designs like Plymouth and Autumn Berry

 

Replacements

With over 500 suppliers around the United States constantly searching estate sales and antique stores, Replacements sells both vintage dinnerware and newly manufactured china in traditional autumn designs like turkeys and pumpkins. They also have a bountiful selection of vegetable bowls, soup tureens, casserole dishes, turkey platters, sterling servers, and cake stands.

 

Crate & Barrel

For a trendy Thanksgiving dinner table, check out Crate & Barrel’s three curated collections Modern and White, Festive and Warm, and Textured and Elegant, which features a trim of embossed white along the edges. Simple and clean, their collections include everything needed to set the Thanksgiving table, including silverware, dinnerware, napkins, platters, and wine glasses.

 

Wedgwood

Founded 260 years ago in England, Wedgwood is known for its quality and innovative designs. On the more expensive side, Wedgwood’s range of Thanksgiving fine bone china will be sure to impress your friends and family at dinner this year.

 

Take a look at Amazon for a wide variety of Thanksgiving decorations, cookware, and more to usher the fall harvest into your home. Amazon is also great for picking up a quick gift. Ad

 

Thanksgiving Cookware

Preparing a delicious Thanksgiving feast is so much easier when you have the right tools and cookware. The pans, casserole dishes, and kitchen gadgets from the following hand-selected online stores will help you make a memorable Thanksgiving dinner this year. For even more top websites, check out our overviews of the best online shopping sites for Cookware and the best Cookware Brands.

 

food52

Besides featuring thousands of community-submitted recipes reviewed by cooks in their test kitchens, Food52 sells an assortment of tested kitchen gadgets to help you elevate your Thanksgiving dinner game this year. Besides the essential turkey roasting pan, they sell instant-read thermometers, ricers for mashed potatoes, and stainless steel basters.

 

Le Creuset

Founded in 1925, French company Le Creuset is renowned for its durable, chip-resistant enameled cast iron cookware in bold, rich colors and a range of finishes. This is a great source for roasters, braisers, and Dutch ovens.

 

westelm

For boldly colored Le Creuset cast iron cookware that will add some vibrancy to your Thanksgiving table, check out West Elm’s selection of Thanksgiving cookware.

 

Thanksgiving Crafts Supplies

Thanksgiving and the autumn season is a beautiful time to get crafty. Whether you’d like to create a handmade wreath of rich fall foliage or are looking for a fun, quick activity for the kids, check out Kadaza’s Arts & Crafts guide.

 

michaels

Simple activities like the classic handprint turkey craft are children’s favorites, but sometimes it’s great to have some more craft ideas and kits up your sleeve. Michael’s has a huge range of children’s crafts including turkey mask kits, themed suncatchers, and more.

 

TipFor themed disposable plates, napkins, and party supplies like adorable turkey balloons, table cloths, and wall decorations, check out Party City’s large selection for all your party needs.

 

Thanksgiving Gifts

GiftsExpress your gratitude and give a thoughtful gift to someone special or your Thanksgiving dinner hosts this year. Target, eBay, Walmart, and Amazon are all wonderful options for picking up a quick gift. For our top choices for Thanksgiving gifts, check out our curated list below. For even more gift websites, visit our overview of the best websites to find Gifts.

 

Unique gifts

Make someone feel special and seen this year with a unique gift that reflects their individual interests, whether that’s gardening, snowboarding, or fine whiskey.

 

Uncommongoods

For unique gifts designed by innovative designers, check out Uncommon Goods for items like quirky socks, clever kitchen tools, one-of-a-kind jewelry, fun coffee table books, and other surprisingly delightful products.

 

Food gifts

Thanksgiving food basketAlthough Thanksgiving dinner might have them feeling a bit full, food (and wine) gifts are nearly always appreciated and a great option for clients and family who live far away. For even more food gift ideas, check out our Food Gifts overview

 

godiva

It’s hard to go wrong with a gift of chocolate! Known for their quality Belgian chocolates, Godiva sells boxes of delicious truffles, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered strawberries, and hot cocoa mixes in a variety of sizes and beautiful packaging.

 

harry and david

Check out Harry & David for gift baskets that are perfect for shipping to loved ones, colleagues, or clients or bringing as a hostess gift. Their baskets are filled with delicious treats like pears and fruit, baked goods, chocolates, cheeses, sweets, or wine.

If you’re hoping to bring a dish to Thanksgiving this year or are looking to cater a full dinner, Harry & David also sells and ships everything from the turkey and ham to the side dishes and pumpkin pie!

 

wine.com

Perfect for the wine lovers in your life, Wine.com offers food and wine baskets and expertly curated wine sets. Whether it’s a special bottle for a wine connoisseur or their “Tour of Italy Virtual Wine Tasting Set” for someone hoping to train their palette, Wine.com is an easy place to start for a hostess gift or gift for someone celebrating far away this year.

 

hickory farms

Known for their gourmet cheeses, sausages, and wine, Hickory Farms’ gift baskets and boxes are great for sending to friends and family far away or for expressing gratitude this year to your top clients.

 

Flowers

FlowersWarm-colored flowers in oranges, yellows, and reds make a lovely hostess gift or a gift for someone special this Thanksgiving. For our curated list of top websites for flowers and plants, visit our Flowers & Plants overview.

 

proflowers

Express your love and thankfulness for family and friends this year with a beautiful autumn bouquet in a cornucopia or a festive pumpkin-shaped vase from ProFlowers. Their most popular Thanksgiving flowers are sunflowers, orange roses, chrysanthemums, and Peruvian lilies.

 

Personalized Thanksgiving Gifts

Add a personalized touch to your hostess gift this year with a gift that includes the hostess’s name or special messages.

 

personalization mall

Personalization Mall offers a wide range of customizable products like cutting boards, baking dishes, wine bottles, candles, and table runners that are perfect as a gift for your Thanksgiving host or as an addition to your own Thanksgiving decor. Easily add names and custom messages and preview the results before purchasing with their product preview technology.

History

 

Meaning, History & Facts. A Holiday for Giving Thanks.

Nowadays it’s easy to see Thanksgiving as a holiday for coming together with family and friends and overindulging in rich foods like mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie smothered in vanilla ice cream. And really, who could blame you with such a deliciously bountiful feast set before you?

But the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States is one that’s intimately woven with struggle, loss, togetherness, and gratitude--themes that resonate with us more this year in a post-COVID world than they may have for decades.

In 1863, President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. It was his way of encouraging unity across the nation and expressing gratitude for the Union Army victory at Gettysburg, the most pivotal and bloody battle of the Civil War, resulting in an estimated 51,000 casualties.

The first Thanksgiving dinner between the Plymouth colonists in Massachusetts and the Wampanoag Indians also has a backdrop of loss and death. In September 1620, the small ship known as the Mayflower left England for the New World. Its passengers were seeking religious freedom and the shot at land ownership and possible prosperity. After an arduous two-month voyage across the Atlantic, they dropped anchor in Cape Cod, much further north than intended.  

During their first brutal winter, most of the passengers stayed aboard the Mayflower, suffering from exposure, scurvy, and disease. Sadly, only half of the original passengers survived by spring 1621.

Fortunately for the settlers, they were greeted ashore by Squanto, an English-speaking Pawtuxet tribal member. Squanto had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery in London, but had escaped later during an expedition in his homeland. Squanto helped the weakened settlers grow their first corn crop and learn to live off the land. He also helped them forge an alliance with the local Wampanoag tribe. This alliance that lasted 50 years is one of the only examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In fall 1621 after harvesting their first successful corn crop, the Plymouth colonists invited the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the first Thanksgiving dinner. Despite having gone through an incredibly challenging year full of loss, they chose to gather with those around them and to give thanks for all that they had.

 

 

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