Unlike many other holidays, Thanksgiving arrives in what seems like a matter of minutes, and although it leaves just as quickly, a feeling of contentment and inner peace remains. Warm, fall colors grace our Thanksgiving table as warm, delicious foods grace our bellies.
Special decorations adorn the table, which is itself covered in the finest tablecloth—gold on gold, autumn-colored leaves, rustic-colored plaid, or off-white Quaker lace. A family of pumpkins takes the center stage in a delightful array as they sit and watch the festivities.
The festivities begin early in the morning as we wait and watch for the arrival of Santa Claus in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and they end late in the day as we fall asleep on the sofa pretending to watch television along with everyone else.
We tell stories about the time when our brother tried so hard to grab the wishbone that he fell head first into the bowl of mashed potatoes. Nonetheless, no one went hungry simply because this is one meal where you can find more food on the dinner menu than in the refrigerator itself.
This is a day not just of stuffing a turkey, but of stuffing yourself. It is a day of trying to gauge just how much food you can pile onto your plate and then trying to find a way to sneak what you can't eat onto your sibling's plate without being noticed.
It is a day of trying to forget how hard you fought over the turkey's tail until you finally realized what it was and just where it sat on the turkey.
No matter how many Thanksgiving dinners we sit through, we always look forward to this time of camaraderie, treasured memories, and sumptuous food. The home is full of aromatic smells tempting us even before it's time to give thanks for all that we have to be grateful for on this day.
As we glance at the table settings to find our places, we can't help but be reminded of those who are no longer with us and those who are yet to join us in this world.
There are no long weeks of agonizing over what mom or dad has hidden in the closet for Christmas morning to endure. There are no endless sessions writing out cards to greet relatives that we only meet with pen and paper.
There are no endless waits in line at overcrowded and overly warm stores just to purchase gifts that will most likely be returned the following month.
Perfect Thanksgiving Table Decorations
Instead, there's simply the decorating of the perfect Thanksgiving table by selecting a theme and sticking with it. Set out tableware in hues of muted gold, glowing orange, earthy brown, warm russet, and natural red to grace the table in a medley of dazzling fall grandeur.
The salt and pepper shakers have a commanding presence in the lifelike image of pilgrims, Indians, pumpkins, or turkeys. The glassware is crystal clear, allowing the other colors to reflect from its brightness. The best silverware graces the table with its elegant appearance.
We add freshly washed napkins to match this year's selection of a tablecloth, complete with cute napkin rings in the likeness of turkeys, pumpkins, or pilgrims. The napkins are intricately folded to resemble turkeys or to form a creative pouch for our silverware setting.
Napkins with a busy pattern add a touch of pizzazz to an elegant yet simply designed tablecloth, whereas solidly colored napkins tone down an already busy table.
Perhaps personalized placemats are used to identify seating arrangements or simply to show a sign of affection. Again, warm colors continue the theme of autumn. Additionally, matching placemats and napkins can add a unique look to the table décor.
With a solid-colored tablecloth, so many more options exist for decorating the remainder of the table. A patterned tablecloth that employs a lighter version of a color on a darker version of a color presents a nice appearance while maintaining some neutrality.
Place cards can be used if desired and provide an excellent way to add a little zest to the table. Design your own either on the computer or by hand. Store-bought varieties are very attractive and are available in a wide variety of designs.
The Thanksgiving dinner table centerpiece is typically the eye-catcher of the day—after the turkey, of course. A bevy of candles in different sizes and in fall colors makes an attractive centerpiece.
A crystal bowl of fresh fruit or a platter draped in grapes and filled with colorful baby pumpkins and gourds is also an excellent choice.
DIY Treat Stands
Cupcakes? Pies? Candies and small edibles? These things have a way of taking over counter space and making it impossible to get to the rest of the food. Make your own treat stands this year, and everything on the menu will be easier to get to.
Find some affordable plates at a discount or second hand store. Look for something lightweight and nonmetallic—plastic plates are ideal. Go to a dollar store to find glass candle holders. With these materials and good craft glue, you can create an amazing treat display.
Apply glue to the underside of the smallest plate at the very center and to the top of the first candle holder. Bring them together. Repeat the process to stack the plates and candle holders and create a simple stand.
Make single tiers or multi-tiered designs. With multi-tiered designs, it’s possible to stack treats upward, and that saves on counter and table space.
Elevating food is a great way to display it. The food is prettier and easier to access. But big cake and treat stands can be space consuming, too. Make your own small stands using saucers and wine glasses.
Run glue around the bottom of the glass, and press the bottom of the saucer against this glue line. These small stands are perfect for butter and condiments, but they’re also a fun way to display cupcakes and Thanksgiving décor around serving areas.
Turn, Turn, Turn
Here’s the problem with Thanksgiving food: plates are round. If you’ve got a buffet table or a counter against a wall, guests have only 180-degree access to food that’s placed on something with 360 degrees of angles. The solution? Build plates that spin.
You’re going to need wooden blocks, long bolts, nuts, and washers. This is a very easy DIY, though you will need to assemble many small materials to pull it off. Cut two circles out of 1/2-inch plywood using a jigsaw. Stack them together and drill a long bolt through the center.
Place two washers on the screw. Add nuts to hold them in place; you’ll want one washer at the top, so it is flush against the wooden circles, but not tight. The circles should still have room to spin; this is important. The other nut will be at the bottom, where you’ll place the bolt down inside the wooden block. You want at least 1 inch of separation between the two nuts.
When you glue your serving tray to the top of the circles, your dish will spin. This allows guests to access the food from all angles.
Thanksgiving food is a thing to be enjoyed, but you’re not going to enjoy seeing your guests reach and strain. Find ways to stack it, to make it more accessible, and make it look pretty on the table. The better you are at displaying the food, the better they will be at eating it. You just won Thanksgiving.
Pumpkins: Not Just for Halloween
There is perhaps no other fruit as emblematic of the fall season as the pumpkin. With its striking orange color, it will brighten up any space. You'll find pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns outside just about any house you pass in October.
Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween, though. You can use them for most of the fall season and then use them for some wonderful fall recipes, including that Thanksgiving staple, pumpkin pie.
If you buy a bunch of pumpkins and gourds, you can make a lot of creative arrangements with them. Look around for unusual spots in which your pumpkins would stand out from their surroundings.Cascade them in a line down your front steps, or place them on top of fence posts to really spread out the color. You can even place some pumpkins or gourds over your front door or use them to line the walkway leading up to it.
For the indoors, mini pumpkins lined up on the mantle of your fireplace are a nice seasonal touch, especially when you place some leaves in between each one. You can place all gourds, pumpkins, or apples in separate containers, sprinkling the leaves and acorns about as desired, or you can mix them all together.
An autumn-toned piece of cloth will look nice under a basket and allow you to spread extra fruits around the base. Furthermore, it keeps the surface clean of residue. Place candles around the sides or in the center of your display.
To make candle holders out of small gourds and mini pumpkins, cut off the top and scoop out enough of its insides to make room for a small candle or tea light. Note that the gourds will only last a few days once you cut into them. Thus, it's not a long-lasting decoration, but it's still a clever idea for adding some ambience to your home if you're having company for dinner.
A similar trick is to hollow out the inside of a large gourd or small squash to make a soup bowl. Make sure to use a uniformly-shaped gourd or squash with a flat bottom.
Thanksgiving sneaks up before you know it. As the holiday requires a lot of preparation, it's essential to create a plan for hosting the big day in your home. With the many tasks needed to get ready, this list will help you throw a marvelous gathering that your guests will remember for years to come.
Setting up Guest Rooms
Guest rooms can be prepared early since they stay clean and aren’t used frequently. Prepare these spaces a week or two ahead of time.
Make the beds with clean sheets and extra blankets. At this time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, and you want your guests to be warm and cozy.
Clear a little space in the guest room closet for guests to hang items such as jackets, dresses, or sweaters. Even if you don't plan on having guests spend the night, this space might need to be used unexpectedly. Best to be prepared.
Dust any furniture, including dressers, nightstands, desks, and tables. Then it's time to vacuum the area.
Preparing the Bar
Drinks can be purchased and stored several weeks ahead of time. A wide drink selection can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday since drinks are consumed all day long. Have a wide variety of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for everyone to enjoy.
Depending on the number of people you are expecting, you may want to use plastic cups. Make sure to provide some markers so guests can write their names on the cups. Provide mugs for hot beverages, as well as cream and sugar.
Shop for essential groceries at least a week ahead of time to avoid the chance of the store running out of what you need (not to mention avoiding the crowds). By doing this, you also leave yourself a few days to discover what you may have forgotten. However, purchase fruits and vegetables 3-5 days before Thanksgiving to ensure that they are ripe and don’t spoil before the holiday.
After completing the previous tasks, cleaning can begin and be completed through the day before Thanksgiving. Be careful not to start cleaning too far ahead of time, as floors, bathrooms, and common areas get dirty quickly, and you may have to clean again before the holiday.
A week before Thanksgiving, you should dust furniture, chandeliers, lamps, knick-knacks, pictures, and ceiling fans. Make sure to also straighten common areas and store items not in use, such as books, tools, and technology.
Then a day or two before the holiday, you should wipe down or vacuum chairs, couches, and furniture, and then wash any dusty dishes that will be used for the holiday, such as special china in cabinets, gravy boats, drink pitchers, or serving trays that have been stored for extensive amounts of time.
The last cleaning you should do is the bathrooms, including mirrors, toilets, counters, and floors. Make sure to also vacuum, sweep, and mop all floors, entrances, and porches.
Begin decorating several days before the holiday. After cleaning, hang up decorations, set up extra tables and chairs, and set out festive items on tables if you so desire.
Some menu items can be prepared ahead of time, starting the day before Thanksgiving. Prepare items that can be stored in the fridge until baking or serving time.
Setting the Table
Set the table(s) a day or two before Thanksgiving. This way, all eating utensils, plates, glasses, and tablecloths will be clean and ready to go, leaving you time to concentrate on cooking.
After everyone has eaten and had their fill, load all plates and silverware into the dishwasher or start an assembly line with a dishwasher, rinser, and dryer. Store leftover food in Tupperware or other reusable containers in the fridge. Wipe down all counters and table surfaces, then continue the festivities.
By taking the abovementioned advice, you will have the best Thanksgiving table and also be the best host possible.
Hannah Madans Welk is a writer at the Los Angeles Business Journal where she covers real estate. Prior to joining the Business Journal, Welk was an Associate Editor of doityourself.com, where she still contributes as a freelance writer, in addition to reporting for other publications. Welk has also held roles as a business writer at the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Register. In 2014, Welk graduated from the University of Southern California magna cum laude, with university and departmental honors. She received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Print and Digital Journalism and East Asian Languages and Cultures, and worked as deputy editor at the university news site Neon Tommy.