We have the Victorians to thank for our modern day Thanksgivings! Communities across the country had carried out their own Thanksgiving celebrations since the 1600s. But there wasn’t a unified American Thanksgiving until Abraham Lincoln’s presidential proclamation in 1863 called for an official Thanksgiving Day in all states. The traditions established in those Victorian Thanksgivings live on today.
The Victorians loved sending cards, so of course they sent Thanksgiving cards too, just like this one. The cards were often illustrated with pumpkins and turkeys – the same images we have today of Thanksgiving! The tradition of serving turkey for the T-Day meal was quickly adopted in honor of the early settlers who found wild turkey to eat. Even the party games on Thanksgiving night after dinner might include Pin the Tail on the Turkey!
Turkey was first stuffed with simple fillings like seasoned bread and corn meal, but the Victorian cooks got creative with stuffings, adding oysters, chestnuts, cranberries and other fruits.
The Victorians often used natural elements to decorate their Thanksgiving table, such as autumn leaves, ferns, nuts, fruits and grasses. This table setting evokes the style and it is easy to recreate, with its beautiful natural centerpiece, a candle inside a lamp, and your best decorative stemware, and patterned china. It doesn’t matter if the plates or glasses don’t match. A mix of patterns or cut glass stemware creates an attractive vintage look.
Although the Victorian Thanksgiving meal was similar to ours, they also served some dishes that haven’t survived as traditional today, like boiled onions, clams and mincemeat pies! They did love their turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, though, just like us.
You can wash down your Thanksgiving feast with a traditional Victorian punch, like this one created by Charles Dickens. It combines rum, cognac, black tea, lemons and sugar for a very warming treat!
If you want another dessert in addition to pies, then why not create a festive Charlotte Russe? It was a favorite of the Victorians, and often served at functions in Abraham Lincoln’s White House. Here is a Charlotte Russe recipe from the Great British Baking Show’s episode about Victorian baking!
The jelly and the bavarois filling in the Charlotte Russe is heavy on the gelatin because gelatin was a new discovery in Victorian times, making life a lot easier for cooks. They experimented with many gelatin dishes. And, just like us, they had to get creative with leftovers, resulting in dishes like Turkey in Savory Jelly!
This is a charming way to serve your desserts if you don’t have an antique server or buffet. Empty out a display cabinet or hutch and make a pretty display of your desserts, fruits and candies!
We know that many of our customers live in Victorian homes and love Victorian decor. I hope that this blog post about Victorian Thanksgiving gives you some inspiration for your own holiday feast. Happy Thanksgiving!
Aimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.