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11 things you can do to have a Thanksgiving in the true spirit of the holiday.

This Thanksgiving, let your belly be full of love and gratitude ... and pie.

11 things you can do to have a Thanksgiving in the true spirit of the holiday.

The first time a bunch of immigrants and locals got together in the U.S. to eat some home-cooked fowl, it was 1621.

And, according to some historians, it was more like a big, loose, last-minute festival than a fancy sit-down dinner.


This "First Fun Thanksgiving" image via Mike Licht/Flickr (based on original by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris).

They probably didn't even eat turkey! Mostly, they were just really happy to have enough food to eat because life in the new world was rough.

This year, to have a holiday that celebrates this gorgeous season, honors the food and history of our land, and feels full of love (instead of just plain full), here are some ideas to keep in mind:

First, forget the hype and reconnect with the real.

1. Make your understanding of the holiday as rich and studied as the menu.

Why? Because this holiday has a pretty special history! The very first recorded "Pilgrims and Indians" feast, for example, is a happy story, but later meals have a sad and gruesome meaning.

And do you even know that first tribe's name? It's the Wampanoag! Here's a great great summary with some startling information in it and links to learn even more.

And while you're at it, you can teach your kids a real-er story about our country.

This version, for example, is kid-oriented, brain-stimulating, and will make for some cool dinner conversation with the whole family. And you can freak them out with the picture of eel pie.

2. Get your 1621 vibe on.

Think about what that first harvest festival was like. Nathaniel Philbrick points out that to all the pilgrims from Great Britain, where fall is kind of ho-hum, the New England trees turning color would have been shocking and awesome.

Hear his take on the history, in parts 1 and 2. What kind of autumnal appreciating can you do where you are?

3. Try an actual recipe from a Native American tribe.

Slow Food USA offers this neat interactive map and collection of recipes, many of them from Native tribes, organized by region.

Photos from SlowFood USA, used with permission.

When you serve your Wampanoag stewed pompion, add some dinnertime trivia, courtesy of Smithsonian: The first Thanksgiving couldn't have had pumpkin pie as we know it, because they didn't have butter or wheat to make pie crust.

Speaking of planning that menu...

4. Up your veggie-to-meat ratio!

Image by Rebecca Siegel/Flickr.

Whether you're having bacon on your Brussels sprouts or not, you can shop for food that's been raised in a way that cares for the earth. What we eat affects the climate, and raising animals can be tough on a planet! Green things up with gosh-I'm-so-thanksgivingful- for-the-bounty-of-the-earth gusto.

5. Make your turkey a marvel.

For example, you can use this search tool to find a grocery store near you that'll offer Certified Humane poultry. Or get Pilgrim-y and get a heritage turkey. (Again, makes for great table conversation.) Get the whole low-down on turkeys from this this guide.

6. Keep it local.

This is seriously the holiday to support farmers in the region where you live — it's a holiday all about their harvest! See if your grocery store has a "local" section, or find a nearby farmers market. Learn more about where our food's coming from and how to have a 100-Mile Thanksgiving from these rad stats and infographics.

That's a long trip for a little broccoli stalk! Infographic by Sustainable America, used with permission.

7. If it came outta the earth, put it back in!

In other words, compost your potato peels. You know what the Pilgrims always said? "Waste not, want not." Well I'm not sure they said it, but I bet they lived it. Bag up all your veggie trimmings and stems and leaves — and stuff that fell on the ground — as you go, stick it in your freezer, and then take it to a compost collection center near you. I used to promise myself I'd make soup stock with all that stuff, but I'm so tired of cooking after Thanksgiving that I prefer composting the food waste. It helps me feel like I'm respecting the food I'm making not to send any of it into a landfill.

8. Drink well! How about some apple cider from local apples? Or wine grown ecologically?

For guaranteed holiday cheer, my recipe is apple cider from the farmers market, heated on the stove with a cinnamon stick and spiked with bourbon. But if wine's your thing, check out the free guide you can get from Slow Wine.

Finally, make the day after Thanksgiving more wonderful, too.

9. Make better use of that Friday.

Celebrate Buy Nothing Day by … buying nothing. Suggested alternatives to violent stampeding at the mall? A lo-o-o-o-ng walk, catching up on a stack of magazines, a game of soccer or touch football, making an overdue phone call, or finally attempting to make that soup stock with your leftovers.

10. Spend that time with people, places, or things that make you feel grateful.

Need inspiration? Check out the 365 Grateful project.

Just one example of gratitude from 365 Grateful's Facebook page. Photo used with permission.

11. Really commit to your community.

Lots of us suddenly remember how lucky we are, and want to give back by volunteering on Thanksgiving, but places need help year-round. (In fact, many say they can't even offer volunteer shifts to all the people who want to come during the holidays.) Commit to sowing the seeds of gratitude and community throughout the year, with a group you feel as warm and gooey as sweet potatoes about.

And finally, remember to say thanks — to the person cooking dinner or bringing over a side dish, to the grocery clerk, to your ride home, and to whomever you're thankful for now and throughout the year.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less