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Thanksgiving Potluck Ideas for the Classroom or Workplace by Jesse Bluma

Thanksgiving Potluck Ideas


Jennie A. Brownscombe


The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth




Oil on canvas

Background:  Many of the British North American colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled in the seventeenth century (1600s) by men and women, who, in the face of persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and fled Europe.  Puritans were English Protestants who wished to reform and purify the Church of England of what they considered to be unacceptable residues of Roman Catholicism. In the 1620s leaders of the English state and church grew increasingly unsympathetic to Puritan demands. They insisted that the Puritans conform to religious practices that they abhorred, removing their ministers from office and threatening them with "extirpation from the earth" if they did not fall in line. Zealous Puritan laymen received savage punishments. For example, in 1630 a man was sentenced to life imprisonment, had his property confiscated his nose slit, an ear cut off, and his forehead branded "S.S." (sower of sedition). 

 Beginning in 1630 as many as 20,000 Puritans immigrated to America from England to gain the liberty to worship God as they chose. Most settled in New England. Theologically, the Puritans were "non-separating Congregationalists." Unlike the Pilgrims, who came to Massachusetts in 1620, the Puritans believed that the Church of England was a true church, though in need of major reforms. The Pilgrims, who celebrated the first thanksgiving in America, were fleeing religious persecution in their native England. In 1609 a group of Pilgrims left England for the religious freedom in Holland where they lived and prospered.  After a few years their children were speaking Dutch and had become attached to the dutch way of life. This worried the Pilgrims.  On Sept. 6, 1620 the Pilgrims set sail for the New World on a ship called the Mayflower. They sailed from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, America.

November is here and another opportunity to give thanks and celebrate!
"In 1621 the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is now known as the first Thanksgiving."  Before your potluck discuss the holiday with your child and ask them questions, comparing the lives of Pilgrims with their own and the peoples they have studied in social studies.

The following website will help in learning more about the holiday.

Potluck Ideas

Quantity:  For 35 students, guests, or coworkers:

Water (2 gallons)
homemade lemonade (2 gallons)
cranberry juice (2 gallons)
potato chips (2 bags)
whole wheat wafers (2 - 9 ounce boxes)
organic grapes (1 bunch)
organic plums (15)
organic baby carrots (1 pound)
turkey slices (36 ounces)
ham slices (36 ounces)
40 whole wheat rolls
organic jam (1 jar)
homemade pumpkin pie (2)
homemade apple pie (1)
homemade popcorn with various toppings
(1 cup corn popped = 6-10 quarts---typically pop 1/2 cup at a time)
organic apples sliced (40 slices)
cookies (48)
salad (36 ounces)
(No forks. Pilgrims ate with their hands and fingers)
trash cans
table cloths
holiday music

*Note:  Often holiday parties end with tons of food left over and gone to waste or guests over stuffed.  The ratio of food to people above works perfectly for a fun celebration.  One of the best ways to ensure items get brought is to utilize a group of parent volunteers in the classroom and assign them items to bring from above.  If you have classroom funds to reimburse, tell the volunteers to bring in the receipts with the items.

Decoration:  You may want to include pumpkins, fall leaves, and turkeys like the one above my aunt made with craft store feathers and and floral items.

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Credits:, Library of Congress, Studio Melizo, Image courtesy of

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