Looking for the Best Alternative “Ideas Thanksgiving”?

If you’re looking for imaginative and historically meaningful Thanksgiving ideas for your family, classroom, or community, then you’re in the right place here with us at IdeasThanksgiving.com!

We are the Franzwa family of Lebanon, Oregon, and America’s Thanksgiving time travel pioneers. Here you will find living history resources for quickly getting started with period English, Native Wampanoag, and French pirate (yes, pirate!) ideas for the Thanksgiving holiday. From period craft and decorating how-to’s, to table setting tips, games, costumes, food, music, and more. We have so much material to offer you that you can literally WOW your family, friends, or classroom with something new and magical for years to come!

All of the great ideas shared on these pages are taken from (or are complimentary to) our how-to guide, The American Patriot’s Treasury of Historical Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas, which you can view in its entirety at our Lulu.com/TeachFromTheHeart storefront. Every year we’ll add more to this site, so please come back to share and pick up more ideas.

Do enjoy your visit – And thanks for telling others about this unique new approach to Thanksgiving!

Most of the Franzwa Family, and some extended family, 2008

The Franzwa Family (most of us) and Extended Family, 2008 :-)

The American Patriot’s Treasury of Historical Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas
See It Here! $9.99
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Special for 2010

Special for 2010!

Get our most popular historical resources in digital format for just $16 through our sister site www.3SunThanksgiving.com!

Come learn how America can restore Thanksgiving reality and the spirit of brotherhood as we work together to end poverty among our poorest segment of American society – some of our American Indian reservations.

Together we can even save a few mustang horses in the process!

See the 5-Minute overview video on our 3 Sun Thanksgiving website for more details.





Why Go Historical for Thanksgiving?

Interpretation of a 1621 Wampanoag place setting

Interpretation of a 1621 Wampanoag place setting

Here are three good reasons to make the switch to historical Thanksgiving observances:

#1 – It’s more fun. Sunday best dinners are nice for adults, but a three day picnic is tons more fun for young and old alike. Abe Lincoln was the one who called for the holiday to be a sit-down dinner event, but in reality the 1621 feast was an outdoor gathering with games and amusements. If you don’t want to change your formal dinner traditions, you might consider adding a more historically authentic community or family picnic in the fall.

#2 – It’s smart. It is THE BEST opportunity parents have all year to instill a love of history learning in their children. Creating living history elements together as a family is an exciting way to learn because it feels more like play than school. Our experience has been that even with our reluctant learners it opened their curiosity where they were otherwise convinced all history was boring and irrelevant. For the kids with naturally inquisitive natures we got messages like, “I have always wanted to do this!” What a wonderful thing to hear!

#3 – It’s culturally enriching. Adding Old English and Native historical elements to Thanksgiving remembrances can have a positive cultural impact over time as it prompts us to look more honestly at our past. Like our family, you’ll be amazed at the cultural awakening that can happen by incorporating this holiday hobby, and even more amazed as your eyes are opened to all the historical twists and turns that have shaped the traditional observance. Both fascinating and socially empowering!

History reenacting is one of the fasting growing hobbies in the United States, and Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for Americans to discover Time Traveling for fun!

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Will Historical “Ideas Thanksgiving” Cost Much?

Is it economical to time travel backwards for Thanksgiving? My experience is that outside of possibly changing the table service, it is no more or less costly than traditional Thanksgiving ideas are.

For example, historical decorating Ideas Thanksgiving may actually cost less than traditional decorating ideas because you can harvest many of the supplies from nature. Same with historical craft Ideas Thanksgiving.

Historical table setting changes for Thanksgiving can be done a little at a time each year, and there are a number of very inexpensive things you can do to start out making the table historically fun. For the larger ticket items, like pewter English mugs and spoons, we are working on forming buying co-ops so that together we can keep expenditures to a minimum.

If you choose to go all out like we have and make high quality period authentic woolen and leather costumes, yes, that’s a big expense. But it certainly isn’t a must-have. ‘Course, I feel absolutely beautiful in my period garments, and my husband said he feels like he was born in the wrong century when he wears his. To us they were worth the price.

So, my bottom line answer is that it doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can spend at any level you choose. I highly recommend taking it slow and not going overboard. I’d really hate to have you burn out right off the bat! There’s always next year, and it actually works out better to add new “stuff” each season. It keeps your family in anticipation.

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What About Football?

OK guys. I admit, it’s a little iffy competing with football on Thanksgiving. Typically it works out where we do historical stuff around “the” televised football game of the day.

Personally I wish we could watch old-world Lacrosse on Thanksgiving instead. It would give athletic opportunities to Native youth at risk, be historically interesting to watch (they played the sport over miles of natural terrain), and football could be loved on any of the other 364 days during the year.

What do you think? Come participate in the opinion poll found on our Cultural page. Who knows… maybe we’ll start something radical here!

What Would a Historical Thanksgiving Day Look Like?


You’re probably wondering what it would really be like to go historical for Thanksgiving. Will it fit in with your bunch? Will you have time to join in the fun? How does the day flow?

You can structure the day according to your tastes, but for demonstration purposes I will share here how our family time travels for the holiday.

For starters, I like to call for potluck on Thanksgiving anymore. It is authentic to 1621, and it allows me, as the hostess, to play more during the day. It also insures that traditional food favorites are included in the spread, along with my historical experiments.

If weather permits I have an outdoor fire in the early morning. (I don’t wear my costume for the morning fire because it’s too dangerous.) I like to burn colorful maize in the fire in remembrance of the many American Indian thanks-givings that were offered long before the “first” (English) thanks-giving happened in Plymouth. If I have anyone at home during those early hours I tell stories from early Plymouth history, sort of in the Native fashion of storytelling. Then we cook thin steaks on sticks for brunch to remind us of the five deer offered as gifts during the three day feast of 1621.

Next I get my cooking going indoors, help put on any costumes, and set up for indoor games (outdoor, too, if it is warm enough). This year as my guests arrive I will be giving all the gentlemen handmade clay pipes as a gift. I know they’ll love it. I can see them now huddled outside laughing, and puffing up a storm, just like pipe-use was described in period source documents.

Remembering how it went last year, we had so much fun trying to speak in period English slang (like the lower classes) during our card games that it made the first-time period card games less intense to learn (they’re a little tricky at first). I blessed my family with a $20 pot of quarters to divvy up and play for. One lucky winner took all, but we had to play several games because I was supposedly cheating (I kept winning, dang it!)

Then there was football for a little while…

Then we washed up English-style in a basin of rose water, and came to a table set with a leg iron centerpiece, wood and pewter dishes, salt dips, wooden spoons and no forks, and one surprise Wampanoag setting with a stone knife. The food was all modern traditional, but this year I have mature groundnuts which we have all been eager to try (I can’t wait!)

I could get bogged down with details here, but I do want to mention the English Ale. At age 43 I had never even tasted beer until Thanksgiving 2007 when I decided it was too historically accurate to omit. Yep, I served beer. Albeit, half mug-fulls. My family could not believe it when I actually drank my ale, too. In fact, it stopped the room! Oh, did we laugh!

(Yucky stuff, by the way, but worth the torture just once a year :-) )

Note: Ginger Ale is an alternative for kids, even though English children in 1621 drank beer as a staple right along with the adults.

I can’t seem to remember what we did after dinner last year, but this year I want to play the new pirate game found in The American Patriot’s Treasury of Historical Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas, Second Edition. It sounds like great fun.

So that’s a nutshell version of Thanksgiving Day at our house. Keep in mind we also do costumed Thanksgiving picnics as a family during the fall. This allows us to enjoy some of our favorite outdoor activities – such as stool-ball and Wampanoag clay pot cooking – when the weather is warm, and the ground is dry. Doing it this way we don’t feel like we miss out on anything historically fun!

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