Our national holiday stems from the feast held in the autumn of 1621. George Washington suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside for the feast. Later, Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday.
Like with most holidays, food is the main stay of the celebration. As we are told, the Pilgrims invited Chief Massasoit, Squanto and Samoset to bring their family to the celebration, but the Pilgrims had no idea how large Indian families can be. As the guests arrived and the feast began, the Pilgrims were not prepared to feed the ninety relatives who arrived. Understanding the obvious problem of the lack of food, Chief Massasoit had some of the Indians go get more food. The Indians supplied most of the food. They brought deer, wild turkey, fish, beans, squash, corn and berries. For three days the Wampanoag’s and the Pilgrims feasted together. A special friendship and peace developed between the two very different groups of people. There are many stories, myths and historical writings about the first Thanksgiving.
Regardless, some of our traditions are rooted in that beginning feast – sharing, growing friendships and relationships, taking time to enjoy being together to name a few. Then, as foods are selected for the modern day feast, many people still enjoy some of the same types foods that the Indians brought to the first feast. This year it might be interesting to bring more of the background into our celebration. In most homes roasted turkey is a definite on the menu. Then the sides are the specialties. Consider corn in one of the many forms offered in recent recipe books. Squash adds another touch from the Indian plantings in addition to beans. Finishing the feast with pumpkin and berries will incorporate many of the foods brought to that first Thanksgiving.
Fast forward to the dining table of this day. How can a centerpiece convey the idea of the first Thanksgiving? Keep it simple and keep it natural: gather baskets of different sizes from around the house and fill them with gourds, small pumpkins, nuts and Indian corn (the dried variety). Tuck small pots of mums in among the mounded display hiding the pots. Votives can be placed around the base of the basket or clustered baskets. Find a wooden tray, bowl or partitioned box to display some of Fall’s prettiest offerings! Shinny apples, plums, artichoke, and persimmons can be grouped in this container. Add three pillar candles in three different heights and sprinkle fresh cranberries over the fruits. Being certain that the candles are secure, add several deep red mums to finish the centerpiece. Mums will live for several hours or more without water. Make a wreath by beginning with florist foam in a round shape. Cut the stems from Cushion mums or Button mums. Using a long straight pin fasten the mums to the foam form. Continue until the mums completely cover the base. Place a glass hurricane in the center of the wreath. Put a tall pillar candle in the hurricane or fill with very small pumpkins. A long, low, flowing centerpiece down the center of the table, adds big impact. Start with an old fashioned chicken feeder filled with foam. Instead blocks of foam in flat saucers could be placed end to end down the center of the holiday table. Again, it is quick and easy to purchase your supplies while grocery shopping. Choose large football mums and a couple bunches of smaller blooms in complimentary colors. From the produce section, purchase heads of colorful kale and selections of persimmons, pomegranates, apples and artichokes. To give a natural look, select items in odd numbers. Beginning with kale, secure the leaves in the container. Next place the large mums and fill in with fruits and vegetables. Cluster smaller flowers to fill in any gaps. Smaller arrangements or a single small pumpkin can hold a place card at each person’s place.
Keeping in mind a natural approach to this Thanksgiving as was the first Thanksgiving, most importantly enjoy the people.