What to Do After the Thanksgiving Dinner

By Anna Wentworth Sears


What to Do After the Thanksgiving Dinner


From Harper's Bazaar, Nov 24, 1900

 "The rub comes when the men have smoked out their cigars in the
dining-room, and the women have exhausted family gossip
and the subject of babies in the drawing-room."



Thanksgiving turkeys
Image: Library of Congress #LC-USZ62-70874

There may be persons, indeed, who prefer to watch a football game, or to play golf, or even ride a wheel, than to take part in a family Thanksgiving dinner, where old and young meet to eat, drink, and be merry together. But they are benighted beings, who have no true reverence for the traditions of their Pilgrim Fathers. It is certainly a good indication that "times are improving" that we hear less about Thanksgiving football than we used to do and more of home gatherings on the day which, of all days in the year, ought to be a family festival.

And it is also true that the old-fashioned mid-day dinner is being revived on Thanksgiving, where the tiniest tot of the family who can sit in a high-chair at the table may partake of the goodies with the rest. But there are drawbacks to every good thing, and more than one to eating a sumptuous meal in the middle of the day with a long afternoon to follow, even if it is to be spent with one's nearest and dearest assembled. I heard a hostess remark lately, apropos of her last year's Thanksgiving dinner party: "The rub comes when the men have smoked out their cigars in the dining-room, and the women have exhausted family gossip and the subject of babies in the drawing-room. It is charming, in theory, to gather all the family together, but the truth must be confessed, after a while they are apt to get horribly bored with each other."

Image: Library of Congress #LC-DIG-cwpbh-00642

She was not altogether wrong; the time to dread is the afternoon, when things begin to drag; and while every one is in a happy, comfortable mood as a result of having eaten of an abundance of good things, no one wants to make too much exertion to be entertaining or to do much brain-work. Furthermore, there are the children to be considered; whatever games are played, they must not be left out in the cold. The following are some plans for spending these after-dinner hours.

We are all familiar with the donkey tail-pinning contest of children's parties; a good Thanksgiving variation on this is to have a turkey contest.  A huge turkey, minus a head, is made of paper painted as nearly as possible like the real fowl, and this is pasted on a sheet; the sheet is suspended on a wall.  Every one is given a numbered head, and (after being blindfolded) is turned around three times and told to pin the head on where he guesses it should be.  The one who gets his bend nearest to the correct place should have as a reward a turkey-feather duster or a turkey-red bandanna.

Such a contest is a jolly starter for the entertainment, and another good one to set the ball rolling is to have a big pumpkin brought into the parlor, cut open, and spread before the assemblage. Each person is allowed one guess at the number of seeds; the final counting may take time, but it will be fun, and there will be a burst of hilarity when the reward is brought in—a big, home-made pumpkin pie—for the most successful guesser. 

And there is another pumpkin-pie contest, which is an attractive finale to the Thanksgiving dinner.  A big bread-pan may have yellow crinkled paper covering the sides, or a scooped-out pumpkin will do; the inside of either is filled with sawdust; in this are hidden packages for every one, each tied with yellow ribbon, one end of the streamers protruding through a yellow paper crust; the waitress carries in the monster pie and passes it around the table; every one gets a pull and brings to light a trophy. If there is a relative in the party who has a talent for making verses, so much the better, for then, wrapped around each package, will be a paper with a verse, which should be read aloud when the package is untied:  the rhymes should tell the reason for the gift, each being some joke on the finder. An  enthusiastic golfer will discover a  tiny caddie-bag bon-bonnière; someone who smokes a great deal will get a box of chocolate cigars; a mother with a new baby, of whom she is apt to talk, will have a pin­cushion doll, and the children of the family will get any of the Thanksgiving trinkets that are sold at about that time -- horns of plenty, candy-boxes, toy turkeys that fight if pulled by a thread, an ear of corn bon-bonnière, and other trifles of the kind.

A friend of mine who has a genius for thinking up pretty ideas of entertaining has planned such a charming surprise for her family party. She has been obliged to take some of the young people into her confidence, but none of the older relatives will be let into the secret. She has an ordinary city house, with the dining-room divided by portières from the parlor, and, after dinner is over, it will naturally happen that the portières will be tightly drawn for the table to be cleared; none will suspect what a hurry and scurry is going on behind the curtains, and it won't be long before at a signal they are pulled back and an impromptu stage is seen.

Image: Library of Congress #LC-USZ62-68469

A series of tableaux will now take place, each representing some scene that has happened in the life of some one present. Children will be able to represent their parents, and a pretty picture may be made of a mother's and father's first meeting by their son and daughter. A marriage in the family may be reproduced; a parting and a reunion, and other events which have been epoch-making to those who took part in them. I am sure this entertainment will be a most delightful surprise to the on-lookers; and what a quaint idea it is!

Somewhat on the same order is another scheme a hostess I know has devised. She will request the members of the family party who are to meet at her house on Thanksgiving day to send her a little while before all the photographs of themselves that they can collect. She will number, each one, and over the face in each picture she will put a bit of paper to hide it. She will pin all the pictures on the wall or on a curtain, and when the contest begins she will give everyone a card with numbered blanks and a pencil, and tell them to write the names on the blanks—whom they guess each picture to represent; the identity will have to be guessed from the necks and gowns and hands and hair; no one who has not tried it can imagine how hard this is to do of even one's nearest relative.

If the family party happens to be of a literary turn of mind, a good contest for the day is one of Thanksgiving history. A card with questions written on it is given to each person with a pencil, and against the question the answer must be written; appropriate questions would be about the dates of the sailing and landing of the Mayflower, the names of the principal Pilgrim Fathers, and anything about the early history of the settlers.

Charades are always good fun, and I lately have seen some new ones which are very easy to act and get up.

And, last of all, there is one kind of entertainment I must urge for the occasion. It is coming into vogue more and more to have parlor recitations with musical accompaniment. What could be a more delightful entertainment for a Thanksgiving afternoon than some of Longfellow's poems recited to music?