Traditional Thanksgiving Ideas

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Dreaming of a holiday that looks like it stepped out from a Norman Rockwell painting? Try these traditional Thanksgiving ideas.

Crisp linens. Sparkling crystal glasses. Giant helpings of casserole, stuffing and pie. And, of course, a golden turkey at the heart of it all. There’s just no beating a classic Thanksgiving dinner.

At my house, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner brings together family, sometimes from all corners of the country. And you better believe we break out the same traditions year after year: Dad will carve the turkey, Mom will make her special cranberry sauce (mmm…to hear those fresh cranberries popping on the stovetop!) and no matter the age, us “kids” will snack away on crispy fried onions before they make it to their place on the green bean casserole. Though we celebrate each year, these traditions never feel tired.

Whether you’ve been hosting the holiday for decades or are just starting this year, we’ve wrangled the best ideas for your traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Find more ideas in our Thanksgiving hosting handbook.

Image of two traditional Thanksgiving dishes: turkey and green bean casserole

For a truly traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu, you’ve got to have the classics:

Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Let’s face it, no matter how good Aunt Lydia’s cornbread is, the star of the show will always be the turkey. Every cook has their favorite way to prepare it: deep-fried, on the grill, or in the oven. However, for our traditional Thanksgiving feast, we found a turkey recipe is an absolute classic. Kim Forni shared her family’s best turkey recipe that roasts up crispy and golden on the outside and juicy on the inside. The secret? Brine the turkey in maple and sage the night before for an unbelievably juicy bird.

From our family to yours, we’ve compiled some of our most treasured traditional Thanksgiving menu items that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Get all of our best traditional Thanksgiving menu recipes right here.

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Traditional Thanksgiving Decoration Ideas

Image of traditional Thanksgiving decoration ideas.

Such a special occasion deserves special decor. And yes, you can be traditional without being stuffy. First, find a tablecloth you love, then work your color scheme from there. For the base of our traditional Thanksgiving look, we went with a deep plum tablecloth. Though it’s probably not the color Grandma would have chosen, plum is an underused seasonal color that deserves its place in the spotlight. Dark and bold colors like this can really make white plates and all those rich, golden dishes (like our favorite corn pudding casserole) shine. Get the look with all of our favorite table settings.

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Table Decoration

To fill in the table, go ahead and use the holiday as an excuse to break out that crystal stemware that’s been sitting in the cabinet. Or wipe the dust off a family heirloom to serve as the centerpiece. To get our look, add a few glass and metallic items. Then, balance out these hard textures with softer items like flower bunches and tall taper candles.

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How to Give Thanks: Gratitude Garland

With all the meal prep, decorating and family running around the house, it’s easy to forget what the holiday is all about. Try this feel-good Thanksgiving activity at your table this year to reflect on the things that you and your family are grateful for:

  • Before friends and family arrive, string a length of twine or ribbon in an obvious spot, such as on a mantel or at the top of a doorway.
  • Set out paper leaves, permanent markers, and clothespins.
  • Throughout the day, invite each person to write down what they’re thankful for on a leaf and string it to the twine

Want More Ideas? Find Your Thanksgiving Style.

Transform your table this holiday by planning your Thanksgiving feast around one of our fun (and delicious!) themes. Take our quiz to find the perfect menu, stunning tablescape decorations and more—all based off of your personality.


Nicole Doster
Nicole is the Content Director of TMB's Strategy and Performance team. She oversees the brand's shopping and trend editorial teams and assists with content planning across Taste of Home, Family Handyman, Reader's Digest, The Healthy and Birds & Blooms. With over seven years of experience writing and editing in the food and home space, she enjoys sharing cooking tips, recipe picks and product recommendations that make life a little easier. When she's not hunched over her laptop, she's either practicing latte art or fixating on her latest DIY home renovation.