Three Squares a Day

The following tips and instructions will have a family of eight on their way to 1621 for Thanksgiving, all for less than $50! Consider going potluck, so everyone can play more. More great at-home living history ideas can be found at our sister site,, and in our handguide The American Patriot’s Treasury of Historical Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas . Many pleasant Thanksgiving journeys to you and yours!

1. Make and Use English Serviettes – $20. It is fun and easy to use English serviette napkins! They were the near bath towel-sized table napkins of the time period, and were used by folding them twice lengthwise and draping them over the shoulder opposite the dominant hand. Complete details, including materials and finishing instructions, are provided in the LPH Thanksgiving guide, and also for free in this LPH blog post (see picture here): .

2. Omit Forks, Use Only Pointed Knives – $4. In 1620-21, neither the Native Wampanoag or the Europeans used forks to eat. In both cultures a pointed knife was used like the fork is used today. Native knives were made of stone, and English knives were made of straight-edge steel. Our local dollar store carries wood-handled pointed dinner knives 2 for $1. See what your local Dollar Store carries. Even though serrated, the Dollar Store knives provide an inexpensive prop for time travel starters! See period table settings:

3. Omit Salt & Pepper Shakers, Add a Salt Dip – $5. While the Native Wampanoag did not use salt and pepper in their cooking, the English did bring these condiments with them on the Mayflower. The English did not, however, put pepper out at the table, while the salt was set out in a central, open, small wood or pewter bowl called a “salt dip.” Diners used their pointed knife tips to scoop up a small amount of salt from the communal dip, and then would tap the back of the knife blade with their index finger to slowly knock the salt onto their food. Don’t forget to explain this up front to your hungry guests! Even if they don’t need the salt, curiosity will have them all wanting to experience dipping for salt in 1621-style!

4. Give Thanks English-Style – $0. The English in this time period prayed with eyes open and heaven-ward, and hands raised palms up. They also spoke in King James vernacular, using their “thee’s, thou’s and thine’s.” This can prove very humerous! Also, “God” was pronounced “Gott” in this time period.

5. Give Thanks Native Wampanoag-Style – $4. The Native Wampanoag had been giving thanks with fall maize offerings to the Great Spirit for centuries prior to the English 1621 feast. Colorful maize runs about $4 per three ears, which is enough for an offering. Simply burn the dried ears of maize completely in a fire before preparing the day’s food, and sing short, rhythmic, made-up songs of thanks-giving while it burns. Does maize corn pop? You will have to try popping it to find out!

6. Play (English) Card Games with a 1567 French Deck – $8. Even if you only play modern card games, why not play with a reproduction 1567 French deck? This reproduction deck is very typical of what was readily available to English royalty and commoners alike in the early 17th century. The deck runs about $5 plus shipping, and is available through You can also add Old-English phrases, insults and threats to the fun of playing card games. For complete instructions on over a dozen period-authentic Native and English games, including two authentic English card games, get your copy of the LPH Thanksgiving Guide . Never suffer a boring Thanksgiving again!

7. Make a Native Wampanoag Head Dress (or Two) – $8. Show kind respect to our Native Peoples by accurately depicting the Wampanoag tribes. The head dresses of the Wampanoags used only a small number of feathers, and they were always pointed down, or to the side; never up like the stereotyped plains Indians. Simply take a strip of leather or faux leather, and close the back side to size with sinew whip stitches, or with a tie / knot (sinew details in the guide). Insert or otherwise apply one or two medium to large bird feathers in the back, pointed down or to the side. And don’t forget: the Wampanoag word for “hello” is “kway,” not “how.” More Wampanoag words, phrases, customs, music resources and clothing details are available in The American Patriot’s Treasury of Historical Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas.

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By Carrie Franzwa,, copyright 2008

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