Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

The Winter BazaarWe've hosted a few Thanksgiving dinners here and I really enjoy entertaining friends and family but I'm always looking for fun ways to spruce up the dinner and make it a little more memorable, meaningful or entertaining.

The MayflowerHere are a couple things I've done that have been successful:

One year I researched some of my family history. As it happens, my father's family has thick roots on the Mayflower with many direct lines coming across on that famous ship so I read up on our ancestors that were listed as passengers and then made folded 2 x 4 inch place cards with each guest's name on the front and the name of a corresponding Mayflower ancestor along with a short biography on the inside.

I matched husband and wife ancestors with husband and wife guests. For example, Francis and and Sarah Eaton would have been matched with my brother in law and my sister. The biography would have included any details about their life or history and where details were sketchy (as with many of the women) I painted a general picture of life for someone who would have been in their position. There may not have been details about the woman's individual history but there is plenty of information about what women did on the voyage in terms of cooking, cleaning, giving birth, etc.

You may not have such an easy family history to research, or one that relates so beautifully to Thanksgiving, but you could do this with your own ancestors. If there isn't much known about them, assign ancestors to the guests anyway and use it as dinner conversation. "What did you remember about Grandma Nelson?" and that kind of thing. It's a wonderful way to bring family closer together.

Another thing I did that wasn't nearly so beautifully historic and family-promoting was that I told each guest to come prepared to tell a joke. At first they thought I was a little batty but all agreed to it and it was a great part of the meal to stop and say, "Okay, tell us your joke." You'll never believe what Uncle Joe thinks is funny or how Grandma can't tell a joke without reading it off of her paper. I still remember Carinne's joke about "Why did the chicken cross the road?" and chuckle to myself about it.

Any ideas that you've had for spicing up the Thanksgiving dinner?



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29 comments:

lynnae @ from under the clutter said...

I love the family history idea! My family history is hard to trace, but my husband's family history is a bit easier.

I love the chicken joke too. I may use that one on Thanksgiving. I have a funny feeling my family would love it! :)

Cocoa said...

My husband's ancestry can be traced to the Mayflower as well! I bet you guys probably have a common ancestor. The only names I know for sure are (Gov.)Thomas Hinckley and Mary Richard.

Love the place card idea. I'll have to try that sometime.

Mommy Cracked said...

That is such a neat idea! My great aunt, God bless her, actually kept amazing records of our family all the way back to the days of King Edward I. Geneology is a cool thing.

Loralee Choate said...

Is it an inappropriate time to say that I wish I could travel back in time and undo my 10-year-old insistance that everyone in the family take 5 kernels of corn and name what they are thankful for?

Apparently, I was told a story in school (Which was printed so my mom read it)that the Pilgrim's only had 5 kernels of corn a piece to eat and so it was nice to use those to be thankful.

Cute, huh?

Fast forward 23 years, stubbornly traditional-laced parents, and eleventyhundred family members later and IT STOPS BEING FUN or even a remotely good idea.

Arg.

Amber said...

I love all your ideas to help start our own Thanksgiving traditions...especially the family history part. Thanks for the great inspiration!

Laane said...

What a nice idea.

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in The Netherlands

Stephanie said...

Those are great ideas!

I don't know how you'd have time to do the family history one! UGH! I'm in a 1/2 panic now about getting the house clean and the food all together.

April said...

I love checking out all the great ideas every week, so I thought I'd take a stab at it this week! Thanks for all the good ideas!

Amy W said...

I love all these ideas!!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

test

Mary@notbefore7 said...

OK, sorry bout the test, it kept giving me errors and I didn't want to type it all again....

Hope my post is OK. It is seasonal, but not Thanksgiving.

Love that you traced your ancestry. How great!

Rhen (yestheyareallmine) said...

That is such a wonderful idea!

Mrs Mecomber said...

I'm a direct descendant of George Soule, a fellow Compact signer (and Separatist). Nice to meet you!

I'd heard that about 13 million Americans could claim Mayflower ancestry.

Thanksgiving is our biggest holiday of the year. We give thanks to God, gifts to each other. Thanksgiving Day was the first proclaimed national holiday! It's also the least commercialized (as of yet). It's more a religious holiday.

jubilee said...

Tracing family history and the place cards are such great ideas. Especially since it seems more and more that people treat Thanksgiving as just a hiccup between Halloween and Christmas.

Babystepper said...

I read the chicken jokes, and quite a few of them were new to me. I'd forgotten about Derrida, thank you very much, but my Literary Criticism with Prof. Whatshisname scars have now been opened afresh.

Summer said...

That's a great idea! I have Mayflower ancestors too. Mine are Edward Fuller and Stephen and daughter, Constance Hopkins.

cheeky said...

I absolutely love the idea of family history. What a brilliant idea to do at Thanksgiving but really for any special occasion or gathering.

Alexandra said...

I'm sorry I missed the winter bazaar! Thanks for reminding me though. :) This year we are not having family, so we are getting together at my husband's work(fire station) for a turkey meal. Less work for me. ;)

Daisy said...

Very cool! Did any of your Pilgrim ancestors marry into the Tracy family? My ancestors came over after the Mayflower, but lived at Plymouth Rock.

Tammy said...

Oh wow...I can trace mine to the Mayflower, too, through my mom's side!
Cousin!!! :)
Actually, we're direct line to Gov. William Bradford, which I think is so exciting...especially, since I can get my eight yr old more interested in the surrounding history this way, since we home school!

I truly think this is a wonderful idea...I would never have thought of this! The only problem is that most everyone that comes to our home is related to my hubby- he's one of 12 kids- so on my side it's just my mom and I! But I still love it and am going to have to think of a way to incorporate it in our family! Thanks so much!

Jen @ JenuineJen said...

That is a really neat idea. I have not research my family history but my MIL has. I wonder how far back she has gone. I will have to find out.

crissybug said...

I forgot to put what I did in parenthesis. I don't know if you can change that, but my post is about making "Oreo Turkey's". Thanks again for hosting this. I think it is a great idea!

Sandy said...

Nice idea! If I had the time, I'd do it...but there's always next year.

Thanks for posting all of these ideas. I was just looking for a pumpkin pie recipe using real pumpkin, so the Mom is Teaching blog came in real handy.

Maddy said...

I'm a still a newbie at this malarky. However, last year we did cut out wings, legs/feet and turkey heads to poke in the pumpkins which were a great hit - doesn't really come up to 'spicing up' though.
Cheers

TX Poppet said...

Found your blog via WFMW. Glad I did.

john said...

It's Thanksgiving... it's time to indulge in mouth watering Turkey roasts and Pumpkin pies. Send a yummy Thanksgiving Dinner ecard to your friends/family/dear ones and enjoy the delicious dinner delicacies this festive season with all your loved ones here Thanksgiving Dinner

Kerith Collins said...

I wish my family came over on the mayflower...my hubbys came over in 1921...you can even see them signed in at Ellis Island. I love all these Thanksgiving fantastics.

Ann said...

What a nice idea! My kids have Ellis Island on their Dad's side and a lot of unknowns on mine-- except that I'm a Daugter of the American Revolution. Haven't really looked much harder than that.

Happy holidays!

Elan said...

Great post. Family History idea is very good, if its possible. Some people's family history is almost impossible to trace.

Happy Thanksgiving!