Ask any school child where the custom for our American Thanksgiving celebration began, and the answer will be "from the Pilgrims of Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts." It is an established fact that in 1621, a group of 90 Wampanoag Native Americans joined with this fledgling British colony to celebrate the goodness of God in allowing them their first successful harvest. For three days that fall, food and sport were the main attractions. Grateful hearts and songs were raised by the New World settlers.
While Florida, Maine, Texas and Virginia have all laid claim to earlier Thanksgiving services, our familiar images of that first celebration are drawn from the Pilgrim experience as it was immortalized in a letter sent to England by Edward Winslow. In any case, in 1941, Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday in November as a day to celebrate our many blessings.
For most Americans, Thanksgiving is also a celebration of the wonderful, warm colors and aromas of autumn. Brown is the dominant color. Think of golden brown turkeys roasting in ovens across the nation and browned breads slathered with melting butter. Brown, especially rich chocolate, is also a popular decorating color. While grays are currently gaining in appeal, browns can be very inviting as a neutral, calming backdrop to the other warm colors in the fall palette.
Perhaps the second most popular Thanksgiving color is orange. Pumpkins are the obvious favorites. In fact, Native Americans may have been the inventors of the first pumpkin pies. Certainly, this cheery vegetable was a staple in New England diets. Moist carrot cakes and sweet potato casseroles echo the theme. Adding some brilliant fall foliage or dried flower arrangements with cheery orange coloring adds a bit of excitement to your Thanksgiving decorating scheme.
Corn was another important food at that first celebration. In addition to the traditional yellow varieties, this vegetable can also be grown with white, blue, orange, red and brown kernels. Corn pudding, corn bread, peach dishes and yellow squash always bring buttery-yellow color to the Thanksgiving table.
The other traditional color is represented by the red foods. Think of plump cranberries and winter-red apples. For the settlers, cranberries had medicinal value and were a means for adding sweetness to meats. Combining the berries with maple sugar and cooking them on the stove produced the fragrant, familiar compote that we know today as cranberry chutney or cranberry sauce.
When it's time to plan your holiday decorations, keep the colors of your Thanksgiving entrees in mind. Put the pastels and purples away. Consider neutral whites or creams for your tablecloth and dinnerware for a more formal setting, or choose autumnal shades to enhance the warm, festive ambiance. Colored, scented candles, dried-flower arrangements, rusty red and dusty green pillows on the sofa, an orange throw and a simple piece of wall art in coordinating colors can transform your home and set the mood for this special occasion.
Thanksgiving is a time to pause and consider all the blessings in your life. Like the Pilgrims, enjoy an abundance of colorful foods, and play some sports. Invite friends and loved ones, and make it a day to remember.