Meaningful Thanksgiving Celebrations, Frugally
I love holidays! Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. Many years ago the kids and I recreated an authentic Thanksgiving meal. The following year, we made American Indian costumes to wear while we ate a traditional meal. All of our research and ideas came from the internet, free of charge! With a little bit of creativity you can go Thanksgiving CRAZY without going “spend crazy.”
From recipes to crafts to decorations to lesson plans to movies to costumes.. there is an abundance of free and frugal Thanksgiving holiday ideas to help you save money, learn about Thanksgiving, practice thankfulness, study history and cook up a great Thanksgiving day celebration. I’ve gathered a cornucopia of links and resources over the past five years and finally decided to put them all in one place, plus a few more that I’ve found while putting this all together. Enjoy!
Thanksgiving History and Other Information
Think you already know everything there is to know about Thanksgiving? Maybe not! Start here:
Thanksgiving on Wikipedia – generic information about our Thanksgiving holiday.
The First Thanksgiving at History Channel – A look at what the first Thanksgiving was probably like for the pilgrims.
Thanksgiving History & Other Information at GoNewEngland.About.Com – Did the pilgrims eat popcorn? Hmmm…
Take a virtual field trip! The First Thanksgiving at Scholastic.com – thirty minute online field trip to meet a Pilgrim and a Wampanoag—straight from Plimoth Plantation.
Create Your Own Historical Thanksgiving Celebration
Downloadable, Mayflower Dinner PDF (through Doorposts) ~ Create a historical Mayflower dinner in your own home!
From my research, here’s a handy list to help you plan your own original menu!
The Pilgrims’ Menu
Foods That May Have Been on the Menu
- Seafood: Cod, Eel, Clams, Lobster
- Wild Fowl: Wild Turkey, Goose, Duck, Crane, Swan, Partridge, Eagles
- Meat: Venison, Seal
- Grain: Wheat Flour, Indian Corn
- Vegetables: Pumpkin, Peas, Beans, Onions, Lettuce, Radishes, Carrots
- Fruit: Plums, Grapes
- Nuts: Walnuts, Chestnuts, Acorns
- Herbs and Seasonings: Olive Oil, Liverwort, Leeks, Dried Currants, Parsnips
What Was Not on the Menu
Surprisingly, the following foods, all considered staples of the modern Thanksgiving meal, didn’t appear on the pilgrims’s first feast table:
- Ham: There is no evidence that the colonists had butchered a pig by this time, though they had brought pigs with them from England.
- Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes: These were not common.
- Corn on the Cob: Corn was kept dried out at this time of year.
- Cranberry Sauce: The colonists had cranberries but no sugar at this time.
- Pumpkin Pie: It’s not a recipe that exists at this point, though the pilgrims had recipes for stewed pumpkin.
- Chicken/Eggs: We know that the colonists brought hens with them from England, but it’s unknown how many they had left at this point or whether the hens were still laying.
- Milk: No cows had been aboard the Mayflower, though it’s possible that the colonists used goat milk to make cheese.
Thanksgiving Unit Studies & Lessons
- LessonPlansPage.com – in addition to crafts you can find Thanksgiving themed language arts, math and social studies lessons grades K-12.
- Thanksgiving centered lesson plans at A to Z Teacher Stuff. Levels K-5.
- Pilgrim Unit, 7 Lessons, Grades 3-8 or browse all Lessons plans, Pre-K-12 at TeacherVision.com
- Thanksgiving Lesson Plans & Worksheets at LessonPlanet.com, Levels K-12
25 Days of Thanksgiving for only $1.99
A low-cost selection of Thanksgiving Lapbook printables at Knowledge Box Central
Thanksgiving Printables and Other Activities
Websites chock full of Thanksgiving resources:
Make the Most of Your Pumpkins
- Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins: Crafts, recipes and more! A Classic Housewife in a Modern World
Pumpkins, a symbol of harvest and a Thanksgiving staple, are useful for baking, decorating and so much more! For pumpkin related crafts & recipes, check out this blog post I wrote for Fall 2009.
Thanksgiving Crafts and Projects
- Indian Chief Headdress & Paper Sack Vest
- Paper Lunch Sack Turkeys
- Paper Cornucopia Craft
- Paper Pilgrim Bonnet
- Paper Pilgrim Boy’s Hat
- TeePees & Houses
- Thanksgiving Banner
- Woven Fall Placemat
- Fall Leaf Spiral Mobile
- Paper Bag Scarecrow
- Paper Plate Scarecrow
- Pilgrim Paper Finger Puppets
- Coffee Filter Thanksgiving Bouquet
- Thankful Pumpkin Craft
- Thanksgiving Coloring Pages
A variety of Thanksgiving menus and recipes can be found at Parents.com
Fun Thanksgiving Snacks & Recipes
- Baked Cornucopia Bread Centerpiece
- Handprint Turkey Cookies
- Harvest Blessing Snack Mix
- Holiday Cranberry Punch
- Popcorn Ball Turkey
- Pretzel Tailed Turkey Treats
- Thanksgiving Recipes for Kids
A long list of creative Thanksgiving themed snacks for little hands!
**Click Here for a FREE eCookbook from Mr. Food, “Thanksgiving Feasts” **
- “Mr. Food Thanksgiving Feasts” free eCookbook | mrfood.com
It’s time to talk turkey! Yep, with Thanksgiving around the corner, we’re all hustling to get ready for one of our biggest meals of the year. Check out my latest free eCookbook, “Mr. Food Thanksgiving Feasts…”
Good Books for Thanksgiving and Harvest
|Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving
This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of the Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian, but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a 12-year old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims land in a strange new world.
Amazon Price: $4.15
List Price: $9.99
|Thanksgiving (A FamilyLife Book): A Time to Remember (Family Life Books)
A holiday for celebrating faith, family, and freedom, Thanksgiving Day is both distinctly Christian and exclusively American. Barbara Rainey has created an excellent resource for enabling you and your family to remember the past, recognize God’s hand in our history, and express thankfulness to Him for His goodness today.
Amazon Price: $14.50
List Price: $21.99
|Thanksgiving, What Makes It Special?
Unfolding the history of a blessed tradition, this delightful picture book explores the role God played in our country’s earliest history and how His blessings endure today. From hungry Pilgrims and generous Native Americans to the ample feast of a modern-day family’s Thanksgiving, author Harold Myra helps children — and parents — learn how to enjoy this holiday to its very fullest.
Amazon Price: $10.00
List Price: $7.99
|Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration
Explains the Thanksgiving story and traditions on how they remind us that every day is a good day to thank God .
Amazon Price: $1.99
List Price: $7.99
|The First Thanksgiving Feast
Recreates in accurate detail one of the most popular events in American history, with photographs taken at Plimoth Plantation, the living museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Amazon Price: $1.99
List Price: $6.95
All About Thanksgiving Thankful Trees
- Thankful Fall Tree, Thanksgiving Crafts
Free standing thankful tree craft with paper and craft foam.
- Thanksgiving Craft: Thankful Tree | Paper Crafts Ideas for Kids | FamilyFun
Let your family put their gratitude on display with a classic tree of thanks.
- How to make a Thankful Tree | eHow.com
How to make a Thankful Tree. Want to start a new Thanksgiving tradition. A Thankful Tree is a beautiful and cheap way to count your blessings, literally. This project quick and easy and it is a wonderful way to connect with…
- Make a Thankful Tree
- How to Make a Thankful Tree for Thanksgiving | eHow.com
How to Make a Thankful Tree for Thanksgiving. When gathering with friends and family during the Thanksgiving season, be sure to take the time to give thanks and show how grateful you are for everything you have. Here is a fun way to do it…
Quotes About Gratitude
- Gratitude Quotes, Sayings about Thankfulness, Quotations about Appreciation
Quotations about gratitude, from The Quote Garden.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” ~Epictetus
Thanksgiving Movies and Music
|Thanksgiving: A Windham Hill Collection
Amazon Price: $6.97
List Price: $8.99
|William Bradford- The First Thanksgiving DVD
Amazon Price: $11.49
List Price: $12.95
|Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower
Amazon Price: $9.99
List Price: $24.95
Thanksgiving Downloadables at Currclick.com (All or Mostly Free!)
- Thanksgiving Cursive Copybook
- Thanksgiving Notebooking Pages (With Recipes & Label Cards)
- Gratitude Notebooking Pages
- Thanksgiving – A Creative Writing & History Elective
- Thanksgiving Notebooking Pages
Bible Verses About Thankfulness
- What Does the Bible Say About Being Thankful?
A variety of bible verses on Thankfulness.
Christ-Centered Thanksgiving Celebrations
Related Scriptures:• Psalm 69:30; Psalm 100:4; 1Tim. 4:4; Col. 2:6-7; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 106:1; 1Thess. 5:16-18
1. Plan a Pilgrim scavenger hunt. Give each participant a basket and a list of items the Pilgrims might have been familiar with. Then hide these objects throughout the house or the yard for your kids to find: dried corn, small pumpkins, pinecones, a toy boat, small Native American figures.
2. Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place, teaches a great lesson in thankfulness. Share Corrie’s story with your kids, pointing out her struggle to be “thankful in all things.” She even thanked God for fleas in her barracks. She later learned that the fleas kept the guards away and allowed Corrie and others to study the Bible undisturbed.
3. Make a Blessing Basket – Place a pretty fall basket containing a pencil and pad of paper in an easy-to-reach location. Throughout the month, encourage family members to jot down ways God has blessed them. Younger children can draw or cut out pictures from magazines. Read these together and give God thanks each day or set aside some time on Thanks giving Day.
4. As a hospitality tradition, invite a few guests for Thanksgiving dinner who have no family and no where to go on Thanksgiving…widows, single adults, college students far from home, etc…
5. Make scripture place cards next to each persons’ place setting at the table. Have a scripture on there about thankfulness to help turn hearts and minds to Christ instead rather than only their food during the dinner.
These ideas have been taking from the Holiday Celebrations page at The Classic Housewife.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
Resources for Learning About and Practicing Thankfulness & Gratitude
13 Ways to Encourage Thankfulness This Thanksgiving – From ChristianityToday.com: “This year, take advantage of the Thanksgiving season and use it as a chance to nurture a sense of real gratitude in your family. The Bible tells us to “give thanks to the Lord for he is good” (Ps. 107:1) and to “enter his gates with thanksgiving” (Ps. 100:4)…”
Thanksgiving, In the Bible – BibleStudyGuide.Org
I hope you find these resources truly helpful, I really do! Get creative and remember to be thankful for your blessings…. Have fun!