How to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Two Parts:Preparing for the MealHaving an Amazing Thanksgiving

Celebrated annually in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November, the holiday of Thanksgiving was first observed in 1621 and continues to be an American tradition today. Thanksgiving means many things to different people but for most, the holiday of Thanksgiving is synonymous with festive meals, parades, football, family and friends, and, of course, turkey. For many, it's also about spending time together, catching up and enjoying one another's company. The Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder to give thanks for the good things, people and providential events in our lives. If you want to know how to celebrate Thanksgiving in style, just follow these steps.

Part 1
Preparing for the Meal

  1. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 1
    Select the menu in advance. The traditional menu of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, several types of vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash, cranberry sauce, different pies, and a bread is fairly standard for most families and groups of celebrators. Here are some things you'll need to do to get ready for that meal:
    • Write down a grocery list of items needed for the meal. Check the pantry to see what you don't have and prepare a list for the items you'll need. Then, visit the local farmers' market, butcher, the supermarket, and the bakery. It helps to divide the list into these different items to avoid confusion.
    • Shop for the Thanksgiving meal in advance. Pre-order the turkey and any other items that might sell out quickly before the holiday. If you can freeze items in advance, buy them early to help reduce the frustration of last-minute grocery shopping. Baked goods are best bought fresh on the day of if possible, but if not, you can bake them yourself at home.
    • You should also call your guests to confirm that they'll be coming. When you talk to them, see if they want to contribute anything to the meal. This will take some of the burden off of you.
  2. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 2
    Select your recipes. Knowing in advance what you'll cook ensures that you can shop for the ingredients and know the timing required for each item in the lead-up to Thanksgiving and on the day itself. For menu and recipe ideas, here are some suggestions to start with:
  3. Image titled 230610 3
    Prepare the food. Some things can be done prior to the day, such as baking cookies and pumpkin pie, while other things need to be made fresh on the day, such as roasting the turkey. Whenever you're cooking, don't be afraid to ask for help; it'll make your life and holiday much easier. You can also consider cooking two small turkeys instead of one to simplify the process. Here are some things you'll have to do to prepare the food for your holiday:
    • Defrost the turkey in plenty of time. Note that this may take several days depending on the size and weight of the turkey.
    • Bake the pumpkin pie or other favorite pies a day in advance. You'll be glad you did when focused on preparing the main course on Thanksgiving Day.
    • Roast the turkey and complete the meal preparations on Thanksgiving Day. Brush up on your turkey carving skills before the day.
    • Have family members or friends who've arrived early help cook or prepare certain dishes to ease the workload.

Part 2
Having an Amazing Thanksgiving

  1. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 4
    Make the table festive. Arrange the table decorations the day before Thanksgiving if you have a separate dining table available. If not, lay out the items somewhere readily accessible for quick deployment on the day. Get the kids to help set the table as part of their contribution to the preparations. Here are some other ways to make your table more festive:
  2. Image titled 230610 5
    Enjoy some traditional Thanksgiving holiday pursuits. You can do these things before, during, or after you eat your Thanksgiving meal. There are a few traditions associated with the Thanksgiving holiday that are enjoyed in many families, and here are a few things that you can do:
    • Gather around the TV and watch football. Spending hours watching football on Thanksgiving is a holiday favorite for many fans, and it's a great way to pass time before the meal. Alternatively, organize a backyard football game with family, friends, and neighbors for fun and a little exercise to make way for the meal.
    • Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV with the kids. Broadcast on television from New York City from NBC, CBS and AFN Television (if your family has active serving military personnel), the parade is extremely popular and viewed by millions at home. Take a break and attend a local Thanksgiving parade if time permits, or watch it on television. The best holiday parades outside of NY are in Philadelphia (the nation's oldest launched in 1918), Detroit, Dallas, Chicago and Plymouth.
  3. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 6
    Spend a little time reflecting on the meaning of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a chance for many families to spend time together after being apart for much of the year; it is a good time to reflect on the love that you have for one another, as well as sharing your thoughts about what you feel grateful for. Think of your family's own ways to express your gratitude on this day and in the year to follow, or be guided by some of the following suggestions:
    • Play the A to Z family gratitude game. Have everyone sit together so that they can hear and see one another. Going around the group of family and friends, have each person say what they're grateful for, according the whichever letter of the alphabet the player is up to. For example, player one says "I am grateful for Aunty Lorna", player two says "I am grateful for my brothers", and player three says "I am grateful for caring moms", etc. Keep going around the group until you've exhausted the alphabet. This can be videotaped as a lovely memento.
    • You can also create a new Thanksgiving tradition.
    • This can be the perfect day to start a gratitude journal that you aim to keep until next Thanksgiving, expressing your gratitude for small things and other people throughout the year ahead.
  4. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 7
    Consider helping the less fortunate for Thanksgiving. Volunteer time before or during Thanksgiving to help prepare meals at a homeless shelter, donate extra cans and packaged goods to a soup kitchen, start a food or clothing drive, make a donation. This can be an essential part of teaching your children about gratitude in action.
  5. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 8
    Find activities to do after the meal. Everyone's likely to feel a little drowsy and well fed after the meal. It's a great opportunity to settle down to some relaxing activities. Ideas to help inspire you include:
    • Go for a walk as a family. Don't forget to take your dog for his usual walk too, especially if he's been getting snacks he'd normally not have.
    • Entertain guests. Play charades, tell stories, share photos around, catch up on news, etc.
    • Catch up on your reading. There is always something you've got on hold that you'd like to read; take this opportunity to do so.
    • Watch a movie. Check out the TV guide for any suitable movies, or pull out your favorite DVDs.
    • Play a board game. If the kids are still hyper, suggest that they make a board game and then play it!
  6. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 9
    Take a long nap after the meal if you're feeling sleepy. If you plan on participating in Black Friday the following day from the earliest of hours, you'll be thankful you got the extra sleep. And even if you don't plan on going anywhere -- it's okay to doze off on the couch for a little while. It'll make you feel better and will give you the energy you need to face the rest of the day.
  7. Image titled Celebrate Thanksgiving Step 10
    Spend a little time making use of the Thanksgiving leftovers the next day. Though your guests can take away some of your food, it's likely that you'll be left with a ton of extra food. The next day, once you've recovered your energy, you can make some of the following delicious meals from your leftovers:


  • It is okay to buy some prepared food items to help round out the meal. Not everyone has the time or inclination to prepare everything from scratch.
  • Know that the traditional dinner of turkey does not define what Thanksgiving really is. You could have a Thanksgiving dinner with ham instead of turkey, and it wouldn't change the meaning at all!
  • Don't get caught up being upset, just because everything wasn't perfect. Enjoy the people you are with and have a good time.
  • When trying a new Thanksgiving recipe, prepare the dish in advance and sample how it tastes. This way, you'll know if a particular dish needs more salt, less sugar, etc.
  • Choose simple Thanksgiving recipes if this is your first time preparing the Thanksgiving holiday meal. You'll be less frustrated having to remake something simple than a more complicated recipe.
  • If hosting guests, ensure that all health and dietary needs are met for the meal. Take into consideration guests with certain food allergies or vegans, and accommodate then appropriately.
  • Clean the house several days in advance. That way, you can enjoy the holiday and focus on spending time with family instead of cleaning.


  • Do not let your kids get too close to the oven while the turkey is baking so that they do not get burned or injured.
  • It's never too early to begin defrosting the turkey. Don't be left still trying to thaw the turkey on Thanksgiving morning.
  • Due to the nature of Thanksgiving, it is only celebrated in the United States.

Things You'll Need

  • Planning list (manual or computer created)
  • Food ingredients (be sure to purchase or order in advance)
  • Table ornaments and settings
  • Good dinnerware and cutlery
  • Candles or other decorative lighting
  • Clean and pressed linen for table and napkins, etc.
  • TV room tidied and readied for football, if watching
  • Games and other activities prepared
  • Gratitude items as relevant
  • Roster of helpers if relevant
  • Outline of things to do for the day – pin up somewhere obvious to all people helping out
  • Dishwasher and people prepared to load it
  • Storage containers and fridge or freezer space for leftovers
  • The Turkey

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Thanksgiving