Thanksgiving: Exploring the Holiday as a Whole

From the history to the holiday table, we share everything we know about Thanksgiving

A complete guide to everything you ever wanted to know about the holiday.

Here at The Daily Meal, our thoughts turned to turkey and all its trimmings as far back as early January. To us, Thanksgiving is the mecca of all food holidays, a wonderful blend of honorable traditions and awe-inspiring dishes that is meant to be shared with the ones we love.

With Thanksgiving finally here, we thought it was time to give you the holy grail of Thanksgiving guides. While we do have plenty of tips from top experts to help you improve your dishes, we're here to help you take care of more than just the bird. We’ve strived to be your guide throughout the season to help you achieve the most perfect holiday you could ever imagine. 

The best part about having followed us as we made our way to the big day is that no matter what your concern is, we have had you covered. If you’re worried about what to serve on the side, we can give you everything from time-tested stuffing recipes to creative ideas for butternut squash. From easy table setups to elaborate, unique centerpieces, we know just what to suggest to help you wow your guests. And even if you’d rather experience the magic of the holiday by having someone else cook for you, we can help with that, too.

In this guide we will take you from start to finish to help you make the most out of our favorite food-centric holiday. Follow us from our first Thanksgiving coverage to our final bite of our leftover sandwich to help you survive and prosper this Thanksgiving.

First, Some History (How to Sound Smart at the Dinner Table)
There is no doubt that Thanksgiving is part of the very fabric of our nation, and there are even Thanksgiving traditions all around the world. But to really get a grasp of what this holiday means, we have to examine our traditions in action. The Daily Meal has done this in several ways: We’ve examined some of the White House traditions to better understand how our founding fathers celebrated this truly patriotic holiday, and we’ve shared what Thanksgiving was like for those who defend our freedoms through a detailed history of our military’s Thanksgivings. While we look forward to showing you how to have a truly successful holiday, we hope you take a moment to truly understand some of the history behind this delicious day. 

Now that you understand some of the importance behind this great holiday it is time to start celebrating. For some of you, Thanksgiving is synonymous with travel, whether you head back to your family table or take off on a trip around the world. There are plenty of ways to bring your favorite parts of the world to your home table, but if you are looking for a guide to escape, we have everything you need to know. From identifying the best spots to celebrate Thanksgiving to how to celebrate this holiday abroad, we’ve got a guide for you to follow so you can have a holiday you are truly thankful for

Celebrating Thanksgiving at Restaurants
If you know that you aren’t quite up for a huge holiday trip, but definitely aren’t ready to hunker down in the kitchen for hours, we can still help. The fact is, sometimes treating yourself and your family to a night out can be better than hosting this epic holiday at home. And if you are wondering where to go and what to do, don’t stress — we’ve got a guide for that, too. From exploring the culinary prowess of fine restaurants across the country to retreating to the comforts of a familiar chain restaurant, we can tell you where to dine for a Thanksgiving as good as mom’s.

General Tips
Choosing to celebrate the holiday at home? Don't fret — we have an unbelievable amount of tips and tricks to help you survive the holiday. There are lots of questions that arise when planning a feast of these proportions, from where you start to how to serve the actual meal. We successfully address all of these concerns, beginning with the basics like how to manage a holiday budget.We can help you have an easy and elegant holiday that will impress and please every guest in attendance. We can even show you have to upgrade your holiday to help you surpass your Thanksgivings past. And if you don’t want to take our word for it, we won't be offended. We have compiled tips from some of the most prominent names in food, from Emeril Lagasse’s tips and traditions to  Geoffrey Zakarian’s three tips for a successful holiday to Anne Burrell’s perfect Thanksgiving bite. No matter what your woes are, we can help you create the best Thanksgiving experience your guests have ever seen.

Setting the Scene
The first step to a successful holiday is setting the tone of your table. You first have to decide what kind of ambiance you want. Are you looking for a classic experience or a slightly untraditional one? To perfectly set the table to your style, we’ve come up with a few ideas to help you make the holiday your own no matter what vibe you choose. To capture a look that perfectly suits your home and guests, we rounded up a few suggestions to get you started. Selecting table linens and holiday dishware will allow you to lay down the foundation work of a fabulous table spread. Once your gear is in order, it is up to you to arrange and set the table appropriately. Once this is done, you’ll finish the look off with an inspiring centerpiece that guests will marvel at as they taste your masterfully served feast.

Special Diet
With your table set, it is finally time to plan out your menu. But pulling off a perfect Thanksgiving feast is not as simple as stuffing a turkey and letting it roast for a few hours. You have to not only think about your turkey’s trimmings, but your guests' palates as well. With the many dietary restrictions out there, you may have to prepare a menu you wouldn't cook on a regular day. After all, what if cousin Frank’s kid is allergic to something, or aunt Martha’s on a strict gluten-free diet? But if you aren’t quite sure what a Paleo diet menu entails or how to host a perfectly vegetarian celebration, don’t stress, we can help you get inspired. Heck, we can even show you how to make this typically gluttonous holiday a healthier one with a few simple guidelines.

Thanksgiving Alternatives
If tradition doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday with your own flare. Perhaps you aren’t a fan of turkey — that shouldn’t stop you from having a great feast! Just simply use some of the alternatives we thought up. If you’d like to give your holiday a little ethnic flare, you can try cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner enhanced by a few unique multicultural touches.And even if you wanted to throw a quirky Thanksgiving dinner menu à la a fast-food joint, we have all of the suggestions for you to do it. While this holiday surely is one with a great history, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own — even if that simply means adding bacon to everything. It's your holiday and you can eat what you like.


With a menu in mind, you are almost ready to begin cooking your decadent meal. However, you won’t get very far without the proper equipment! If you are cooking a turkey, you have to first decide upon your method (don’t worry, we’ll show you a few of them!). Once that is chosen, you can figure out what type of tools you need. For instance, roasting a turkey will not be successful if you don’t have the appropriate-sized roasting pan, and know the difference between some of the styles out there. For those attempting to deep-fry, you absolutely need a quality fryer to attain that crispy skin and tender inside. And to make sure everything is coming along smoothly, you need a few assistant tools like a meat thermometer, so you know exactly where dinner stands throughout the cooking process. These seemingly simple investments can make a huge difference in the success of your dinner, so be sure to stock up before the big day arrives!