By E.W. Forsyth
In the rush to celebrate Halloween, and do the early shopping for Christmas, often Thanksgiving becomes merely about football and feasting. We need to think ahead to be prepared not only with fine food and football snacks, but with an ambience that truly reflects the meaning of this holiday. So begin drying your lavender, hydrangeas, and herbs now by hanging them upside down in a warm, dry and dark location--first removing the leaves. Bunch them with seasonally colored ribbons, and hang them in unexpected nooks for surprise texture and aroma. Collect small branches, spray paint them white, and create a forest of "snowy" branches that can be tied with a bright ribbon and hung on the front door. Be plentiful with pumpkins, gourds, fall squash, and Indian corn on your front porch, and luminarias leading up the stairs; the party should start before the door is even opened!
Take a walk around your home. Start collecting leaves from any colorful plants you have. They should be sturdy leaves with thick stems. When you've collected 30-40 of them, staple them to an orange or red ribbon and hang them across the front of your mantel. If you do any hiking, you can find pine cones, which can be used in your table's centerpiece; buy an inexpensive cornucopia made of woven reeds and fill it literally to overflowing with pine cones, gourds, mini-pumpkins, even pears, apples and citrus.
The original cornucopias were made of a curved goat's horn filled with fruit and ears of grain, a decorative motif emblematic of abundance. Scatter cranberries on the table, and slice lemons and limes in segments, arranging them in an arcing form on one of your prettiest salad plates. Intersperse the citrus with blueberries, and watch how they will be used in various beverages on the menu. Keep the palette of your table colorful, and the dinnerware neutral. The goal is color and plenty.
Don't wait until December to put your mini-lights to use; drape them across the center of your table, or along the top of your mantel. Curve the wires and in each "alcove" place a pine cone that you've spray painted white. Adorn with red berries that you've either found in your outdoor wanderings, or purchased in the craft department of your local garden center.
Place cards may be fancy or a family affair. Print out personalized place cards that you can find on many websites. Or to give your guests a sparkly and homemade welcome, several days before feast day, write each guest's name in glue onto cardboard place cards. Then sprinkle the glue with glitter in colors of gold, bronze, or red. Tip to get rid of the excess glitter, and allow the cards to dry for at least 24 hours. Then sit the kids down with seasonal magazines and have them cut out the images that most remind them of Thanksgiving. Pasting the overlapping pictures around the edges of the guest's name card will give it the look of collage.
Using the good napkins? Roll up each one and wrap it with some raffia rather than a traditional napkin ring.
And here's a fun and fabulous family tradition to begin this year. At the beginning of November, buy a large piece of white poster paper and some brightly colored construction paper. Draw a tree with as many different branches as you can manage. Cut the construction paper into leaf shapes (the children can draw an outline of their hands for the perfect leaf). Every day, one member of the family selects a leaf, writes something he or she is grateful for, and pastes the leaf onto the tree. On Thanksgiving Day, the entire family may offer thanks for the items listed on the tree.
In between the madness of removing and storing the Halloween decorations, and choosing and decorating the Christmas tree, take time this year to rediscover Thanksgiving, and celebrate it with the beauty of both handcrafted and store-bought decorations. Our garden center experts will be able to guide you towards the creation of what will become your favorite day of the year!
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