Thanksgiving History and Tradition

Thanksgiving Recipes and Traditions

Thanksgiving: Recipes, Traditions and More

If you enjoy celebrating the fourth Thursday in November, give thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale: In 1863, she wrote to President Lincoln advocating the declaration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Today, the Internet offers a cornucopia of information. Use our Thanksgiving Web Guide to find Thanksgiving traditions recipes and other Thanksgiving resources. You'll also find links to the menu from the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving, learn ways to keep your guests entertained while you're doing the dishes, uncover the mystery of turkey brining and much more.

Thanksgiving History and Tradition

You may take Thanksgiving for granted as a day to watch football, spend quality time with your family, or eat, but 150 years ago, it wasn't even a national holiday. The day we celebrate to honor the Pilgrims' first feast in 1621 wasn't made official until President Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Below, you'll find a collection of sites elucidating the history of Thanksgiving and spotlighting some of its modern traditions.

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  • As a country, we tend to romanticize that first dinner the Pilgrims had with the Native Americans. However, for many Native Americans, the settling of America is hardly cause for celebration. In 1970, many began observing a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving. The Pilgrim Hall Museum (a valuable Thanksgiving resource that will appear again in the guide) devotes a page to recounting the history and current discussion of this tradition.
  • If you're in or around the New York area for the holiday, consider heading to Central Park in Manhattan the night before Thanksgiving to watch the balloons being inflated for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The crowds are smaller than at the parade, and you still get to sleep late on Thanksgiving. For more parade details, check the Macy's site, listed below.

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Host Thanksgiving

When you offer to host Thanksgiving, you're guaranteed to avoid the holiday traffic, but you are saddled (or privileged!) with numerous other responsibilities. What's the easiest way to get out invites? Will you have a kids' table? Is there a way to make sure nobody bickers at the table? These questions, and more, are answered by the sites recommended below.

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  • Calm your fears by reading about, and laughing at, some Thanksgiving fiascos experienced by professional foodies at the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • For more specific ideas on what to cook, explore the "Where can I get advice about turkey?" and "What else should I serve?" sections of this guide.

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Turkey recipes and tips

Although Ben Franklin made a strong case in favor of the wild turkey as the national bird, the bald eagle won out, and the turkey has only the month of November in which to shine. However, as anyone who's cooked a turkey before knows, it requires a fair bit of attention during that time. If you have questions about choosing, cooking, or carving a turkey, or are curious to know how many turkey feathers compose Big Bird's costume, you'll find answers at the sites we recommend below.

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  • If you've never cooked a turkey before, or are trying a more complicated new recipe, consider doing a trial run (with a smaller bird) a week or two before the big day.
  • Although we've designated some sites in this section as good sources for recipes, most of the sites with advice about cooking turkeys have recipes, too.
  • Many of the sites below have turkey calculators to help you figure out how big a bird you'll need, but each varies slightly. For example, the Butterball calculator asks to distinguish between adults and children, and FoodNetwork.com asks how many servings per person you want. Choose a calculator depending on your preference, or crunch numbers on a few different sites and then make your own guesstimate.
  • If you're a vegetarian, don't skip this section without investigating Tofurky. Or if you prefer, make side dishes your main meal with help from the "What else should I serve?" section of this guide.
  • If, on the other hand, you're a devout carnivore and would prefer to eat three birds instead of just one, consider preparing a turducken. Preparation and construction are vital, so be sure to check not only recipes but also sites that teach you how to debone your poultry. Yes, we've included both in this section.

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Thanksgiving Side Dishes and Desserts

Just because the Pilgrims didn't really eat sweet potatoes at the first Thanksgiving doesn't mean you should suffer without them. In fact, the side dishes and desserts are as crucial to the Thanksgiving meal as the turkey. Whether you'd like a fresh recipe for a traditional garnish or are looking to incorporate a new side or dessert, you'll find bright ideas for your Not-Just-Turkey Day at the sites we've collected here.

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  • If you're experimenting with new dishes, consider trying them out privately first before you debut them for a big Thanksgiving crowd.

  • Don't discount recipes on the backs of boxes and labels of cans. After all, if the pumpkin puree company isn't an expert on turning its product into pie, who is?
  • You'll find more recipe sites in the findingDulcinea Recipes Web Guide, and plenty of advice on preparation and execution in the findingDulcinea Cooking Web Guide.
  • Vegetarians abstaining from turkey can eat most of the vegetable-based dishes suggested in this section, but we've also included a site specifically for vegetarian dishes.

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Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Although it seems to celebrate overeating, Thanksgiving doesn't have to mean adding "new pants" to your Christmas wish list. The sites we've collected for this section can give you a clear picture of what's on the table and how much of it you can eat without adding year-round stuffing.

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  • You'll discover on the sites below that most people exceed their recommended daily calorie intake at the Thanksgiving meal, but that doesn't mean you should starve yourself for the rest of the day. Eating healthful snacks during the day makes you less likely to overeat later.

  • The following Web sites offer advice on monitoring calories during the meal itself, but remember to be wary of the junk food you eat on the couch while watching football or other Thanksgiving programming.
  • If you're on a well-known diet such as Weight Watchers(tm), Atkins(tm), or South Beach(tm), check the official site of the diet for tips and adjustments you can make so you won't slip up on Thanksgiving.
  • For more thorough advice on healthful eating, try out the findingDulcinea Nutrition Web Guide.

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