This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden. Hannah Madden is a writer, editor, and artist currently living in Portland, Oregon. In 2018, she graduated from Portland State University with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. Hannah enjoys writing articles about conservation, sustainability, and eco-friendly products. When she isn’t writing, you can find Hannah working on hand embroidery projects and listening to music.
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Thanksgiving is celebrated annually in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. For many, Thanksgiving is about spending time with family members and friends, and being thankful for the people and things in their life. It is typically celebrated by having a big meal with a turkey as the centerpiece. Watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, football, volunteering, and playing games are also ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Method 1Method 1 of 5:Planning Thanksgiving Day
- 1Invite family members and friends a month in advance. Make a list of family and friends that you would like to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Call them to let them know that you will be celebrating Thanksgiving at your house and that you would like them to come. Letting them know in advance will allow them to make plans if they need to travel.XResearch source
- Be aware that some people may decline because they already have plans for Thanksgiving.
- 2Choose a potluck-style Thanksgiving meal for easier prep. A potluck-style meal will help you shoulder the burden of cooking. If you choose to have this type of meal, ask your guests what they would like to contribute to the meal. Make a list of the dishes they will be bringing. Then provide the rest of the food.XResearch source
- The host will typically make the turkey for a potluck-style Thanksgiving meal.
- 3Buy the turkey two to three weeks in advance. This way you can ensure that you will have a turkey for the meal. Buy the turkey from your local grocery store or a turkey farm. Purchase a 12-pound (190-ounce) turkey to feed 10 to 15 people. Choose a 16-pound (260-ounce) turkey for 15 or more people. Place the turkey in the freezer once you get home.XResearch source
- A typical 12 to 16-pound (190 to 260-ounce) turkey costs $21 to $25.
- 4Make a grocery list. Make a list of all the ingredients you will need to prepare the meal. To beat the rush, buy dry ingredients one to two weeks in advance. Buy fresh ingredients five to seven days in advance.XResearch source
- For example, buy bread, canned pumpkin, chicken broth, butter, and the ham two weeks in advance. Buy cranberries, green beans, rolls, corn, sweet potatoes, and milk five to seven days in advance.
Method 2Method 2 of 5:Cooking the Meal
- 1Thaw your turkey in the fridge a few days before Thanksgiving. Thaw 12-pound (190-ounce) turkeys two days in advance. Thaw turkeys larger than 12 pounds three days in advance.XResearch source
- 2Make the cranberry sauce. Place 12 ounces (0.75 lb) of cranberries in pot. Add 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) of sugar and 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) of balsamic vinegar to the pot. Place the pot on the stove. Set the stove to medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, about eight minutes. Stir 1 teaspoon (4.9 ml) of nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, and pepper into the mixture.XResearch source
- Place the heat on low to simmer the sauce. Stir the sauce until a thick mixture forms. Add salt to taste.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Pour the cranberry sauce in a plastic container and let it cool, about ten minutes.
- Once the sauce has cooled, place it in the fridge. Serve cool.
- 3Make the mashed potatoes. Wash, peel, and chop 8 to 10 potatoes. In a large pot, bring four quarts of water to a boil, about 10 minutes. Place 1 teaspoon (4.9 ml) of salt in the water. Place the chopped potatoes in the water. Boil them until soft. Remove the pot from the heat and drain the water. Let the potatoes cool for three minutes. After three minutes, use a fork or a masher to mash the potatoes. Finish the potatoes by:
- Adding 2⁄3 cup (160 ml) of milk, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) butter, 1⁄4 teaspoon (1.2 ml) black pepper, and salt to taste. Mix the ingredients together until well combined.
- Place the mashed potatoes in a serving dish that you can reheat. Then place it in the fridge.
- Re-heat the mashed potatoes in a 350 °F (177 °C) oven one hour before the meal.
- 4Prepare a bread and celery stuffing. Preheat your oven to 350 °F (177 °C). Cut a stale loaf of white or wheat bread into 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) cubes. Place a large pot on the stove. Set the heat to medium. Melt 3⁄4 cup (180 ml) of butter in the pot. Add one chopped onion and four stalks of chopped celery to the pot. Cook the onion and celery until soft, about five to eight minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.XResearch source
- Stir in the cubes of bread until evenly coated.
- Stir 1 cup (240 ml) of chicken broth into the mixture. Mix the ingredients together until well combined.
- Place the ingredients in a greased casserole dish. Place the dish in the oven and cook the stuffing for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Re-heat the stuffing in a 350 °F (177 °C) oven one hour before the meal.
- 5Roast the turkey on Thanksgiving morning. Preheat your oven to 325 °F (163 °C). Place the turkey in a roasting pan. In a separate bowl combine 3⁄4 cup (180 ml) of olive oil, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons (9.9 ml) of dried basil, a 1 teaspoon (4.9 ml) of sage and salt, and 1⁄2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of black pepper. Baste the outside of the turkey with the mixture. Pour 2 cups (470 ml) of water into the bottom of the roasting pan.XResearch source
- Secure the roasting pan with a lid or two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan in the oven.
- Bake the turkey for three and a half hours, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh is 180 °F (82 °C).
- Once the turkey is done, remove it from the oven. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving.
- 7Bake a ham. Preheat your oven to 350 °F (177 °C). Place the ham cut side down in a baking pan. Cover the ham with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the ham in the oven. Make the glaze once you put the ham in the oven. Baste the ham with the glaze every 20 minutes. During the last five minutes, remove the foil to caramelize the glaze.XResearch source
- To make a glaze combine 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) of brown sugar and mango chutney, three cloves of minced garlic, 2 teaspoons (9.9 ml) of orange zest, 1⁄8 cup (30 ml) of orange juice, and 1⁄4 cup (59 ml) of dijon mustard to make a glaze. Mix the ingredients together until well combined.
- Bake a fully-cooked ham for 10 minutes per pound. Bake a partially cooked ham for 20 minutes per pound.
- 8Order fresh pies for Thanksgiving Day. Pumpkin, apple, pecan, and cherry pies are typical pies served as desserts on Thanksgiving. Pick up your pies one to two days before the big day. On Thanksgiving Day, warm the pies up per the instructions on the box.XResearch source
- Alternatively, make a pumpkin pie or a pecan pie from scratch.
- Thanksgiving-themed cookies and candies are also common desserts served on Thanksgiving.
- 9Ask for thanks before the meal. Before the meal is served, friends and family members typically take turns saying what they are thankful for. This is a time to reflect on all the things you are grateful for, including your family, job, coworkers, and other people and things.XResearch source
- You could also play the A to Z 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 to the letter of the alphabet. For example, the first person would say, "I am thankful for Aunt Sharon’s kindness."
Method 3Method 3 of 5:Decorating the Tables
- 1Cover the tables with tablecloths. Choose a thanksgiving-themed or fall-themed tablecloth. Set the table with the plates and silverware as well.XResearch source
- You can purchase thanksgiving-themed napkins from your local grocery store or crafts store as well.
- 2Decorate the table with a centerpiece. You can purchase thanksgiving-themed centerpieces from your local crafts store. You could also use a bouquet of autumn flowers, candles, or a cornucopia as a centerpiece.XResearch source
- 3Use foldout tables for extra seating. If you do not have enough room at your dining room table, then set up a separate table or two in your living room or den. Seat children at this table, or divide your guests up into groups and seat them at the other tables.XResearch source
- Alternatively, use a coffee table as a table for children. Place pillows around the table for the children to sit on.
Method 4Method 4 of 5:Entertaining Family and Friends
- 1Watch the Thanksgiving Day parade. The Thanksgiving Day parade starts at 9 a.m. Eastern Time in New York City. It lasts until 11 a.m. Local news stations like CBS, ABC, and NBC typically broadcast the parade. Watch the parade with your friends, children, and family members.XResearch source
- You can watch the parade on Verizon’s YouTube channel as well.
- 2Put on a football game. Watching football on Thanksgiving is a favorite American pastime. Games are typically played throughout the day on local TV channels such as ABC, NBC, and CBS.XResearch source
- Alternatively, organize a backyard football game with family, friends, and neighbors before the big meal.
- 3Volunteer at a local shelter. Because Thanksgiving is a day of giving and gratitude, many people choose to volunteer an hour or so of their time at local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or religious institutions. Contact a local shelter in your area to find out what time the festivities will take place.XResearch source
- If you don’t have time to volunteer, then donate clothes or canned goods to your local shelter.
- Invite your friends and family members to volunteer with you.
- 4Take a nap or a walk after the meal. Because the Thanksgiving meal is such a big meal, it may leave you and your guests feeling tired. It is ok and even customary to sit down and doze off on the couch for 30 minutes after the big meal. Others may choose to take a walk around the neighborhood instead.XResearch source
- 5Play games. Games like Monopoly, Life, Pictionary, and Clue are a great way to spend some quality time with friends and family members. Card and dice games like Yahtzee are also popular.XResearch source
Method 5Method 5 of 5:During COVID-19
- 1Ask your family members to stay COVID-conscious before they celebrate with you. If you’re hosting a gathering or attending one, ask all of the guests to social distance themselves from others, wear a mask, and wash their hands often for 14 days before the event. That way, there’s less of a chance that one of the guests will be COVID-19 positive.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
- Remind your guests that this is for the health and safety of everyone!
- 2Keep your celebration small. The larger the gathering, the higher the chance that COVID-19 could spread. If you’re going to celebrate in-person, there’s no magic number for how many people you can have, but try to keep it tiny.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
- The less germs introduced at your gathering, the better.
- 3Celebrate with the people who live close to you. People traveling from far away have a greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than those who live in your area. If you can, try to celebrate with people who live in your city or state to make sure you aren’t spreading the virus.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
- If you don’t have any family in the area, try hosting a "friendsgiving" with your close friends instead.
- 4Wear a mask and social distance as much as possible. Although it can be tough, try not to hug any of your loved ones when you greet them. Keep your mask on unless you’re eating, and try to stay at least 6 feet (1.8 m) away from other people.XTrustworthy SourceState of MassachusettsOfficial website for the State of MassachusettsGo to source
- You can also bring extra unused masks to give to other people if they didn’t bring one.
- 5Eat your meal in a well-ventilated room. Outdoor gatherings are better than indoor ones, but it might be a little chilly or rainy outside. If you are eating indoors, try to keep the windows and doors open to promote airflow as you celebrate.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
- If it’s raining out, consider setting up an awning or a canopy so you can still eat outside.
- 6Keep the gathering short. Longer gatherings have a higher chance of spreading COVID-19 than shorter ones. There’s no specific timeline you need to follow, but consider dispersing after the meal instead of hanging out together all day.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
- It can be tough to break up a gathering if you haven’t seen your loved ones in a while. Consider getting out of the house to continue hanging out if you don’t want to leave just yet.
- QuestionDo people give gifts for thanksgiving?Community AnswerTypically gifts are not exchanged at thanksgiving, but if you are eating at someone else's house, you may consider bringing a drink or dessert.
- QuestionWhat time do we eat?Community AnswerIt's really up to you, but I recommend between 5-7 p.m. It depends on the age of the people (a five-year-old shouldn't be eating sugary pumpkin pie later then 6:30) and the size of the meal.
- QuestionCan I have a Thanksgiving football watch party in my room?Community AnswerOf course! As long as you have enough room in there for your guests, it's perfectly fine to have a party in your room.
- QuestionWhen do we go to our relative's house on Thanksgiving?Community AnswerI'd say between the hours of 4 and 5 pm, but you can call your relative and ask what time they want you to be there.
- QuestionWhy is Thanksgiving important to the United States of America and Canada?Community AnswerIn theory, Thanksgiving is a time when families come together despite their differences and eat and celebrate gratitude. For many Americans and Canadians, it is a holiday that they are used to celebrating every November, and for that reason it is important to them.
- QuestionCan we host German visitors for American Thanksgiving?Community AnswerOf course! I'm sure your German visitors would be very interested in learning about American culture and traditions like Thanksgiving.
- QuestionCan I entertain visitors for Thanksgiving in my room?Community AnswerYes, you can. You could have a small party and play board games, card games, etc. You should decorate your room ahead of time!
- QuestionWhen was the first Thanksgiving celebrated?Community AnswerThe first Thanksgiving was in 1621 when the pilgrims who emigrated to the New World (America) had a bountiful harvest and wanted to celebrate with the Native Americans.
- QuestionIs there a Thanksgiving tree, like a Christmas tree?Community AnswerNo, but you can make or buy decorations featuring turkeys, gourds, and/or pilgrims. Of course, you could also just go ahead and put up your Christmas tree on Thanksgiving!
- QuestionCan European people have Thanksgiving?Community AnswerThanksgiving is only officially celebrated in the United States and Canada. You can celebrate it in Europe if you'd like to though.
- 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!
- It is okay to buy some prepared food items for the meal. Not everyone has the time or inclination to prepare everything from scratch.
- Choose simple Thanksgiving recipes if this is your first time preparing the Thanksgiving holiday meal.
- If you are hosting guests, ensure that all health and dietary needs are met for the meal. Take into consideration guests with certain food allergies or dietary restrictions. For example, provide a tofu turkey for your vegetarian guests.
- If you have little kids, make sure you can see them at all times. Be sure that they didn't wander into the kitchen, as that could be dangerous.
- You can bake the traditional pumpkin pie, or you can use cherry pie, French silk... Any kind will do!
About This Article
To celebrate Thanksgiving, start inviting family and friends 1 month in advance in case they need to make travel arrangements. On Thanksgiving morning, roast the turkey, and reheat or prepare side dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. While you cook, keep your guests entertained with activities such as board games or watching the Thanksgiving Day parade. Once the food is ready, have everyone take turns saying what they're thankful for before enjoying the Thanksgiving meal. To learn more, including how to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey, read on.
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- "I am a British teacher wanting my pupils to know about how the day is spent at home by ordinary families.Your article is perfect for us. Thank you very much. I am sure they will love the idea of being able to watch football together on a festival! We will do the alphabet of being grateful in groups too. Many thanks! "..." more