Retro Thanksgiving Recipes and Activities to Try this Turkey Day

Photos and illustrations from the 1950s of Thanksgiving Day spreads and family gatherings impart an especially warm, wholesome and inviting feeling, motivating enough to make anyone want to throw their own retro Thanksgiving. Boost the warm and fuzzies as much as possible with the following retro tips.

Classic Roast Turkey for retro Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Recipes From the Past

Traditional Thanksgiving recipes were celebrated during the 1950s just as much as today. A simple, classic roast turkey recipe complete with some Betty Crocker stuffing will have you covered with the main dish. Sides including green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, buttered peas, yams and giblet gravy to go over everything were expected on the table just as much as the turkey.

MCM Couple cooking Thanksgiving dinner retro thanksgiving

The mid 1900s was an era well known for its obsession with innovations in food. Bizarre “Jell-O Salad” dishes abounded, mayonnaise made a constant appearance in meals and Spam was considered a staple. New Thanksgiving recipes featuring these novelty-cooking ingredients frequently appeared in media and advertisements of the day.

Retro dessert Cranberry Jell-O Salad mold

If the idea of any spam-mayo-gelatin concoction doesn’t sound like the type of edible thing you would bring anywhere near your Thanksgiving table, but you’d still like to make something nostalgic, consider substituting your go-to cranberry sauce for a fun Cranberry Jell-O Mold.

Mamie Eisenhower Pumpkin Chiffon Pie slice retro

For a crowd favorite that incorporates gelatin in a festive, scrumptious dessert try Mamie Eisenhower’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. The recipe took off one Thanksgiving after Mamie’s recipe was published in a newspaper. Lucille Ball’s Persimmon Cake was popularized by retro Hollywood, and is perfect served as a Thanksgiving dessert. Plum pudding, a type of cake, was also very popular for turkey day desert, especially when served with whipped cream.

Retro Thanksgiving Activities

Keeping the kids entertained and out of the kitchen has always been important on Thanksgiving Day. Some retro crafts and activities are sure to occupy their wee minds for a bit.

1950s mom basting thanksgiving turkey

Keep your little ones busy with some retro paper dolls! This printable set from the Graphics Fairy features the “doll” accompanied by Native American, pilgrim and turkey outfits. Have them color before cutting them out. Have fun with your kiddos and print one out for yourself. Let your thankful little pilgrims dress up with some DIY hats. The Paper pilgrim hat tutorial and paper pilgrim bonnet tutorial from Martha Stewart will keep them busy and help them learn about the origin of the holiday.

The Wishbone-Breaking game is an ancient practice that was brought over with the Pilgrims. Keep the tradition alive and save the wishbone (located in the turkey’s “collar”) for a snapping contest between two of your guests/family members. Don’t let them forget to make a wish before pulling!

DIY Pilgrim Hat and Bonnet

Turn on television and set it to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The annual tradition was first televised in 1948, having been broadcast through radio prior. Therefore, it would be true to the era to watch the parade. You and your family may also enjoy comparing the balloons of yesteryear with today’s constructions.

Whatever your theme this Thanksgiving we hope you have a wonderful, warm holiday spent with loved ones and lots of good food!

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