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<< Holidays & Special Coverage << Thanksgiving

Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Frugal Flair

  • Jonni McCoy Author, speaker and founder of Miserly Moms
  • 2011 2 Nov
Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Frugal Flair


This time of year it is easy to incorporate the colors and fruits of nature in our decorating. Indian corn, colored leaves, straw, etc., can all be used to make a home more festive. I change the theme of my front door wreath by sticking branches with colored fall leaves in it.

The first area that I focus on is my table centerpiece. This can be an arrangement of Indian corn, leaves, miniature squash, and candles. Or you can be more elaborate and make some crafts to complete the arrangement. Make candle holders from apples (must be made very close to dinnertime). Make placemats from different colored leaves, stamping, and magazine cutouts laminated to construction paper. Make miniature scarecrows from baby or doll clothes: fill them with straw and have them sit on miniature pumpkins.

Have the children make name cards for each guest, complete with hand-drawn decorations. Make a list of the guests’ names for them to work from. Then have them make napkin rings from toilet paper tubes: decorate them with paint, foil, stickers, etc.

Making Memories

As with Christmas, celebrating the holiday should be intertwined with understanding the reason for the day. Reading stories of the day’s history not only brings us together but also helps us appreciate it more. Read about a day in the life of a Pilgrim or study the different types of Native American lifestyles from the northeast as compared to the Native Americans who live in your region. Use the public library for books on the holiday. Some of my favorites are listed in the resource section at the end of this chapter.

Create a Thanksgiving tablecloth that you can use each year. Start with a light-colored cloth (can be muslin) and cut and hem it to fit your table. Each year have guests write on the cloth with colored fabric pens. They can simply sign their name or write a brief “thank-you” note. I found my grandmother’s tablecloth with this theme, and it is so special to see the names of past family members.

There are many more things we can do on Thanksgiving to learn what the Pilgrims did. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Place five candy corns on each person’s plate before they sit down. Explain that the kernels represent what each Pilgrim’s meal ration might have been during that first winter.
  • Have a paper turkey cut from construction paper on the wall. Have each family member write what he or she is thankful for on a feather (made from paper) and attach it to the turkey.
  • Make cornhusk dolls.
  • Make quills from feathers. Make ink from boiled walnut shells.
  • Make butter together: put heavy whipping cream in a jar with one marble; seal and take turns shaking until the whey separates from the butter. Then use it at dinner.
  • Have the children write a story from a Pilgrim’s perspective.
  • Listen to a radio drama of the story of Squanto (Focus on the Family has a great one).
  • Make an acrostic poem from the word Pilgrim or turkey (or any other Thanksgiving word).
  • Start a journal for Thanksgiving that will be added to each year. Have each person write what he or she is thankful for.
  • Have the younger children create a book of what Thanksgiving means to them: cut out magazine pictures and glue to construction paper; tie the pages together with yarn.
  • Have the older children write a pretend newspaper from the first Thanksgiving era complete with stories and “interviews.”

Games are a fun way to spend this day, especially if the games are old-fashioned ones.

  • Try a popcorn relay race using one large popcorn bowl and smaller bowls to carry the popcorn to the other end (tie small disposable plastic bowls to players’ feet with a rubber band threaded through a hole in the bottom of the bowl). See which team has the most popcorn in its last bowl after two minutes!
  • Make hoops with wire or pipe cleaners and use small sticks by which the hoop must be passed from person to person.
  • Play the “hot/cold” game with a hidden picture of a turkey, but instead of saying “warmer” or “colder” gobble loudly or softly.
  • Twenty questions is a great game to play: pick a topic related to Thanksgiving.
  • And never underestimate the fun of a coloring contest. Use preprinted sheets to color or have children draw pictures freehand. The Internet is a great place to find coloring sheets if you prefer them preprinted. Two Web sites that offer several pictures are and Do an Internet search using keywords like “Thanksgiving coloring pages.”


Excerpted from:
Frugal Families by Jonni McCoy, Copyright © 2003, Jonni McCoy. ISBN 0764226142. Published by Bethany House Publishers.
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.



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