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Bring tradition back to Thanksgiving

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

How to pay tribute to the Pilgrims

Make the history of this beloved holiday -- traditional foods and Pilgrim attire -- part of the way your family celebrates Thanksgiving.

kids-dressed-as-pilgrimsThe Pilgrims, along with their Native Indian neighbors, gathered on this memorable day in 1621 to offer thanks for their blessings. They had endured a brutal trip on the Mayflower, extreme weather conditions and much sickness and death. When their dying crops were revived by rain, the Pilgrims spent three days giving thanks. Bring that thankful spirit to your Thanksgiving table.

Thanksgiving history and traditions >>

The traditional family feast

We enjoy roasted turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie every November, but the first Thanksgiving meal was quite different.

Just four women assumed the task of cooking for 150 people. General Bradford sent men on a "fowling" expedition for turkey, quail and swan. The women stewed and boiled the poultry alongside fish, lobster and even seal. The Wampanoag's Chief Massasoit arrived with 90 dinner guests and five deer. There were no ovens, so this venison was roasted on a spit over an open fire.

The Pilgrims didn't have potatoes or butter. Cranberries were available but sugar was not, so there was no cranberry sauce at the table. The Pilgrims enjoyed pumpkin pudding or stew but not pumpkin pie.

So for a truly truly authentic Thanksgiving meal, serve roasted venison, stewed fish, corn bread, dried fruit, boiled vegetables and water.

Budget-friendly Thanksgiving dinner for a big family >>

Pilgrim costumes

Not every family will want venison over roasted turkey. If yours prefers modern Thanksgiving foods, then pay tribute bring the spirit of the first Thanksgiving to the table by dressing the part.

The Pilgrims wore more than just basic black with white trim. Many were clothiers and cloth makers by trade, with tailors, hatters, wool combers and shoemakers among them. The hard-working commoners enjoyed a wide array of beautiful fabrics, brilliant colors and ornate embroidery.

While fabrics and colors varied, the basic garments did not. To dress for the day, a woman put on underpants, stockings, petticoat, chemise, bolster, bodice, skirt, apron, cap, outer gown and shoes! A man wore underpants, stockings, blousy shirt, knee-length breeches, waistcoat, doublet, hat and boots.

So moms, don your aprons and let each family member come to the table as someone from that first Thanksgiving: Miles Standish, a Pilgrim child or one of the friendly Wampanoag tribe members.

More ways to honor the Pilgrims

Family activities for Thanksgiving morning
9 Thanksgiving traditions for families
Teaching kids to be thankful

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