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Thanksgiving Centerpieces

It's the time of the year when traditions take center stage. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, it can add to the warmth of the holiday to recall past years spent with family and friends as well as the customs our forebears observed. There are a great variety of Thanksgiving celebrations across the country; many elements are similar throughout the United States, but many observances are unique to specific regions and even individual families.

One way to evoke memories of Thanksgiving traditions is to decorate your home especially for Thanksgiving. Holiday decorations can create new memories and even become lasting traditions. A touch that seems small, such as placing a cornucopia of flowers and fruits on your dining room sideboard, can be something that becomes a treasured memory and anticipated treat each year for your family and friends. Since the early days of Thanksgiving, there have been images and decorations that have shaped our customs.

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING TRADITION
As we all know, the first American Thanksgiving was a celebration of a plentiful harvest. The history of Thanksgiving goes back even further than that, though, to harvest festivals celebrated by cultures all around the world since ancient times. The abundant harvest of food that was once being celebrated is still central to our Thanksgiving observances. The cornucopias, or "horns of plenty," that grace today's Thanksgiving tables in fact date back to the 5th century B.C. as symbols of abundance, food, and fertility. While our current Thanksgiving customs may not be a direct expression of our ancestors' celebrations, many of our traditions do reflect past practices and have continued to evolve through the years.

HISTORIC AMERICAN THANKSGIVING DECORATIONS
Thanksgiving was first established as an American holiday by President Lincoln in 1863. At that point, and for many years thereafter, the turkey feast itself was considered decoration enough for most holiday tables. If ornamental accessories were added to a family's table or sideboard, they often consisted of autumn fruits and vegetables that represented the bounty of the family's own garden.

MANUFACTURED THANKSGIVING DECORATIONS
As the 20th century began, manufacturers started to create items designed to be placed on Thanksgiving tables around the United States. Silver turkeys and cornucopias were some of the earliest decorations, though their expense kept them on relatively few tables. Candy containers in the form of turkeys and other fowl became common in the first decades of the 1900s.

In the 1920s, decorations designed for Thanksgiving took on new popularity as they began to be featured prominently as purchase options in catalogs. Kewpie dolls, costumed appropriately with a variety of Thanksgiving accoutrements, became fashionable as decorations for the family table. Elaborate centerpieces and themed place card holders could also be seen on many holiday tables during the 1920s.

Napkins and other paper decorations printed with images of turkeys, Pilgrims, Native Americans, and other familiar icons first appeared in the 1940s. Holiday candles in the shape of traditional Thanksgiving symbols also became a part of decorating many American homes during the 1940s and 50s.

Today, Thanksgiving decorations are available in every shape, size, and material. Themes still center on fall harvest crops, turkeys, and cornucopias. The rich, warm colors of the autumn season characterize Thanksgiving decorations, gifts, and flower arrangements. Many holiday items also commemorate that first American harvest celebration with images of Pilgrims and Native Americans.

CREATING YOUR OWN THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS
The rich history of Thanksgiving decorations can serve as inspiration as you decorate your own home for the holiday. There are certainly no rules when it comes to setting a festive mood, and there are many ways to put new twists on tradition. White pumpkins and gourds, for instance, combine a typical Thanksgiving element with an unexpected and strikingly modern color scheme. Filling a cornucopia with anything you wish, from traditional fall-colored fruits and flowers to modern candies and bite-sized snacks, can be a great way to decorate for the holiday and express your creativity.

Whether you follow time-honored practices or create your own ways of decorating, your unique touches will make your Thanksgiving feast an affair to remember. In the end, the most cherished decorations are those that become part of your own family's unique memories and traditions.



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