Teaching History Through Thanksgiving

Teaching History Through Thanksgiving

We have started a tradition in our family since we’ve had children. It’s a brand new one and each year I look forward to it with anticipation. As unfortunately, our extended family traditions have died out we felt the need to replace them with ones our children will remember as they grow up and become parents themselves.  So, what are we doing?

First off, the 2 weeks leading up to Thanksgiving we stop whatever history we are currently working on and focus on the discovery and colonialization of the Americas. We have an awesome video series from Drive Thru History that we watch as part of this!  We also read specific stories, listen to audiobooks and watch a series from Jace Townsend on cooking from that time period.  And we always watch “The Mouse and the Mayflower”! 

Teaching History Through Thanksgiving

So, what’s so special about Thanksgiving? 

Well, for one thing, it seems to me to be more family-focused and less commercialized!  Ok, that may be just in our family but we don’t do the black Friday shopping or even mention Christmas presents on Thanksgiving!  We focus on our heritage, our family, our faith and God’s blessings on us through the year.

Anyway, back to our tradition!  Then the 2-3 days leading up to our Thanksgiving celebration we start to cook 🦃🍰🥐 and cook.  Yum! It’s making me hungry thinking of the slow-roasted turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and rolls.  I take special care with each dish and everything is homemade. Also, each person is responsible for making or helping make a dish!

We usually try to make one dish at least from a recipe from the 17th century so it would be like the Pilgrims ate at the first Thanksgiving!  James Townsend has a wonderful video series just on holiday cooking!

On the morning of Thanksgiving as I’m finishing up my husband takes our sons on an annual Thanksgiving Day 🦆 hunt. They look so forward to this part too!  While they are gone I set the table with our festive cloth tablecloth, nice dishes, etc. Then I put on music from that time era and when they get home we all dress up in our church clothes for our dinner!

The History of Thanksgiving

We’re not quite ready to eat though!  My husband reads the Thanksgiving story aloud to us and then we tell what we’ve been learning!  Now its time to pray and tell what we’re thankful for and then it’s time to eat!

We do try to enjoy a leisurely meal. Of course, with 4 young children, it’s not perfect and there are spills, mishaps, and grouchiness (surely not!) but we are persevering and each year it gets funnier and easier and becomes a wonderful tradition!

Oh, yeah, we learn A LOT through all this, but shhhh don’t tell my kids, they think we’re just having fun!

How do you incorporate history during Thanksgiving?

Jenny Underwood
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