Do you want a good vintage vibe for your Thanksgiving dinner? I know it isn’t really a popular holiday anymore, but it was one of my favorites when I was little. I always wanted to dress up as a pilgrim and be in a play about the first Thanksgiving. (I still love a good pilgrim hat.) Even now, I love that vintage, Norman-Rockwell-meets-Currier-&-Ives feel for this holiday. (And I teach my kids to sing Over the River and Through the Woods, too!)
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Finding Vintage Thanksgiving Decorations
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When it comes to finding vintage decorations, I usually turn to Amazon and EBay. I always make a point of looking in my local thrift stores, but this just isn’t a good area for thrift stores or garage sale finds. (Which would be my first choice; I love the heirloom feel of a pre-loved treasure.)
You can also find good reproduction retro Thanksgiving decorations at Vermont Country Store and Amazon that can really help with the old-fashioned Thanksgiving feels. A lot of time they are cheaper than true vintage, especially for consumable decor like paper decorations.
Create A Nostalgic 1950s Thanksgiving for Your Family
I LOVE doing a full-on 1950s Thanksgiving. It is almost more nostalgic for me than Christmas since it was my mom’s favorite holiday. (My dad’s favorite was Christmas!) And all that nostalgia fits perfectly because I LOVE using my 1950s cookbooks and magazines to make the whole celebration vintage. If you want to see how I put together a complete 1950s Thanksgiving, I wrote an ebook about it.
Here are some of my favorite new, retro-style, Thanksgiving decorations that I use to decorate for my most vintage holiday dinner!
1. Beistle Paper Decorations
Oh, yes: for any vintage holiday, ANYTHING BY BEISTLE! Seriously, this company makes the best retro ephemera — probably because they are still using the same patterns and models that they used for the originals back in the day. They are the real deal, folks. From honeycomb turkeys to glossy cornucopia, they’ve got it all.
2. Vintage Autumn Leaves
Every vintage holiday has some special herbaceous decoration associated with it, and for Thanksgiving, it’s abundant autumn leaves, harvest fruits, and mums!
Vintage ways of using these plant-ish decor items are as garlands, as wreaths, and as centerpieces. Here are some examples:
Unfortunately, where I live, there are NO pretty autumn leaves that I can use (great Christmassy evergreens, though), so I usually have to get silk like these:
3. A Vintage Thanksgiving Table
The thing about Thanksgiving is that SO MUCH of the decor revolves around the table and eating! In addition to the goregeous candles and flower arrangements, I focus a lot of my decorating energy on the table. And that means that a lot of the decorations are going to resemble “1950s Tablescape for Fall.”
For Thanksgiving, I love to use a lot of old-fashioned dinner tapers and old-fashioned candlesticks. Vintage glass and pottery go well with chrysanthemum flower arrangements. I LOVE Mosser glass for all kinds of things, especially tablescapes. Oh, and don’t forget the cornucopia!
I love the idea of cozy, vintage decorations and homey, family-table decor. I do my table with a full tablecloth, cloth napkins, and plenty of cute salt-and-pepper shakers and gravy boats.
White damask tablecloths are traditionally THE ONLY POSSIBLE CHOICE for formal meals (just read Emily Post on the topic!), but by the 1950s, colored table linens and an informal (which is what we now call formal . . .) Thanksgiving dinner were in vogue. So I like to use textured white tablecloths and napkins for a traditional vibe, along with white china. It makes a lovely background for the fruits-and flowers harvest centerpiece.
4. Vintage Decorative Candles
Holiday novelty candles have been around since at least 1939, when Gurley Novelty began producing them for Standard Oil as a way to use extra paraffin produced in the oil refining process.
It’s nearly impossible to find good novelty candles anymore, especially for Thanksgiving. Fortunately, there are plenty of vintage ones still available on eBay!
5. Vintage Postcards and Pictures
I love vintage pictures! I like to get them from The Graphics Fairy, first and foremost, then print them and make my own decorations with them. But there are also several lovely books of vintage Thanksgiving ephemera, if you don’t want to print your own:
6. Vintage Ceramic Turkeys and Pilgrims
I adore those sentimental ceramic scenes of Thanksgiving harmony, even though they are wildly inaccurate. They just make my little empathetic heart happy.
I also like the ceramic figurines that are candy dishes, or toothpick holders or vases. When I was little, I couldn’t resist playing with them and making little vignettes.
7. Vintage Cookbooks
When a holiday is all about food and family, then you also need a few cookbooks!
My favorite vintage cookbook for Thanksgiving is the 1950s Good Housekeeping Cookbook by Dorothy Marsh. It’s what I use every year to make my own family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Some other good vintage cookbooks I have in my collection are:
- The Encyclopedic Cookbook by Ruth Berolzheimer
- The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
- Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook
- The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook