15 Thanksgiving Themes to Make This the Best Turkey Day Yet

Updated November 10, 2022
Thanksgiving dining table elegant place setting

As the weather grows chilly and colorful leaves drift down from the trees, it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. Whether you're hosting an intimate gathering of friends and family or having a huge blow out with everyone you know, you can breathe some life into traditional festivities with an original Thanksgiving theme. Turn the day into an unexpected and fun celebration by matching your menu and decor with your theme. Keep the traditional feast of turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes and add in a few surprises, or do something totally different and unexpected. Either way, a fun theme is sure to make this year's Thanksgiving gathering an unforgettable event.

Creative Color Themes for Thanksgiving

Create a cozy yet festive mood with a Thanksgiving-themed color scheme. Autumn colors are so warm, inviting, and vibrant that they make you want to jump into a pile of freshly-raked leaves. Using fall colors can help you set the mood and get your guests in the holiday spirit. Autumn colors like amber, brown, tan, burgundy, or orange are perfect for Thanksgiving.

Autumn Spice Theme

White cup of coffee with cozy decor on white table

Take a multi-sensory approach to this year's Thanksgiving theme by combining color, texture, flavor, and aroma. Start by adding a spicy mix of reds and oranges to your tablescape using bright place settings, warmly colored linens, cut fall flowers, and natural elements like wood chargers, leaves, and acorns. Light aromatic cinnamon and spice candles to sweetly scent the air, and use twine-wrapped cinnamon sticks as napkin rings. Play with drink garnishes such as cinnamon sticks and other whole spices, and serve a seasonal dessert - such as spice cake - to complement your theme.

Festive Fall Theme

Table festively decorated for autumn holidays

Let nature lead the way by using the traditional, rich colors you see outdoors in autumn. Start with a neutral backdrop such as a cream-colored tablecloth and add cream, earth-toned, or white dishes so your centerpiece is the star. Then, let 'er rip. Splash shades of orange, brown, and yellow down the center of the table, using fall leaves as your inspiration. Along with vivid leaves, add gourds, berries, and other fall embellishments. Nestle candles in glass jars among the natural elements for a cozy, intimate feel, and you'll have the perfect fall mood for your Thanksgiving gathering.

Burgundy and Gold Theme

Burgundy and Brass Theme

Set a table that's as gorgeous as the wine you'll be serving alongside your turkey. Burgundy and other wine shades are always popular fall colors, so they're perfect for a Thanksgiving celebration. Add contrast with soft green, burnt orange, and gold, and you'll have a sophisticated take on autumn. You can accomplish this with burgundy-colored fall flowers and dishes, soft green foliage, and pretty table linens. There's no need to overdo the gold...use it as a highlight. Add small elements like candle holders, gold threaded ribbon, or a gold-trimmed plate to evoke a cozy autumn vibe.

White and Bright Theme

Farmhouse style Thanksgiving table setting with white pumpkins

Decorating with bright white provides a clean, sophisticated look that's perfect for turkey day. Use white linens, dishes, and candles and then add bright pops of color, such as a vase of colorful lowers, pretty napkin rings, or brightly colored Thanksgiving place cards. The colors set against the bright white will liven up your table.

Outdoor Theme

Outdoor theme table setting for Thanksgiving

Bring the outdoors inside for your Thanksgiving celebration. In addition to decorating with some colorful leaves and branches, set your dining area to resemble a picnic. Use a plaid tablecloth, paper plates and napkins and serve your meal buffet style where each guest can help themselves.

Harvest Celebration Theme

Thanksgiving Dining Table Place Setting with Autumn Decoration

In addition to giving thanks for family and friends, Thanksgiving is about the bountiful harvest in front of you. Arrange abundant layers of natural elements right on your tabletop. Start with a rustic burlap table runner. Add gourds, corn husks, and a cornucopia brimming with beautiful produce. Put a mini pumpkin on every plate. Place dried flowers in vases or artfully scatter them sans vase around your table. Sprinkle walnuts and acorns throughout your arrangement. Let nature's bounty overflow from your tabletop to create a rich and beautiful harvest table design.

Sustainable Thanksgiving Theme

Sustainable Thanksgiving Theme

Let reduce, reuse, and recycle be not only your personal mantra, but also the inspo for this year's theme. Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on sustainability and to share your philosophy with those who share your table. Make sure that any paper products you use are recyclable and/or made from post-consumer waste. Use live plants to craft a living centerpiece. Thrift your dishes and silverware. Add cloth linens you can wash and reuse, and add found natural items (think pinecones, leaves, pumpkins, dried flowers, etc.) as a Thanksgiving tablescape. Once the event is over, compost or recycle everything you can. You're well on your way to a zero-waste Thanksgiving.

Farm-to-Fork Thanksgiving

Farm-to-Fork Thanksgiving

Take your sustainability theme to the next level by planning a locally-grown, locally-sourced farm-to-table feast. Locally source as many of the foods and ingredients as you can and cook from scratch as much as possible. Encourage guests who are bringing shareable dishes to do the same. If you purchase any decor, buy it from local craftspeople. Make table tents that show the name of the local farm or vendor for each item so guests will know where they can get their own.

Celebrate Sports Theme

Celebrate Sports Theme

If you're hosting a houseful of sports fans this year, lean into all the football that's on TV with a sports theme. You can still serve the traditional dinner (after the annual backyard football grudge match) but add a few creative twists, such as decorating the table in your favorite team's colors or adding a few football party foods to the menu. Allow guests to watch the games while enjoying the meal so that cheering on their favorite team is included in the day's festivities. For an added touch, ask your guests to wear football-themed jerseys.

Around the World Potluck

Around the World Potluck

For an international theme, prepare traditional Thanksgiving foods with an international flair (think Moroccan stuffing or French-style green beans). Ask your guests to choose a culture and bring a side dish to represent it. Choose decor that incorporates a variety of cultures, or set up a display of spices from around the world. Play international music and have each guest share a fact about the culture they are representing while enjoying the delicious food offerings.

A Formal Thanksgiving Affair

A Format Thanksgiving Affair

Boujie it up this Thanksgiving by making it a formal affair. Start with formal invitations (the kind you mail) and ask guests to dress in their fanciest attire. Lay out your best table linens, china, silver, and crystal stemware, and place printed menus on each plate. Add candlesticks and soft music for ambience, and hand each guest a glass of Champagne or wine as they arrive at your celebration. Don't forget a Thanksgiving wine pairing for every course.

Thanksgiving Theme for the Kiddos

If you have a lot of kids coming to the celebration, focus the day around them with some fun kid-friendly themes and family-friendly Thanksgiving games. This will make it engaging for the kids and easier for the parents. Make your Thanksgiving menu kid-friendly and include items such as mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, turkey sandwiches, and mini apple pies.

Kid-Friendly Feast
  • Provide turkey and Thanksgiving feast coloring pages and turkey cut-outs that kids can decorate and hang around the house.
  • Grab a few extra pie pans that you won't use for those delicious pumpkin pies and allow kids to use acrylic paint to decorate them. Use their artwork to accent your table.
  • For a special twist, bake a batch of cookies in the shape of turkeys and allow each child to decorate them for dessert.
  • Rather than wine for dinner, offer apple cider in wine glasses and a dessert of apple fritters and donuts.
  • Have the kids run outside and collect all different kinds of leaves to use for decorations.
  • Make custom leaf-inspired table decorations. Have kids dip their leaves into the paint or paint the leaves. Glue them on white construction paper or stamp their leaf designs on the paper in different colors.
Children dipping fall leaves in paint

Family-Themed Thanksgiving Holiday

Rather than worrying about your decor, make your theme about family and let each member know how special they are. Instead of traditional turkey and stuffing, create foods centered around your family, like having everyone bring their favorite dish or making a family favorite. To keep your family engaged, try out a few of these activities.

  • Set up a holiday crafting table and have the adults help the kids create Thanksgiving-based family drawings.
  • Take a walk outside after the big meal or play a board game in the family room to bond together as a family.
  • Create cards that give thanks. All you need is some construction paper, markers, and creativity. Everyone can make one for each of their family members to pass out before dinner.
  • Host your own holiday parade and have the kids march around the room showing off their Thanksgiving creations. They might choose to show off their artistic prowess or hand out their cards to their loved ones.

Friendsgiving Focus Theme

If you'll be hosting a Thanksgiving gathering for your friends this year, adapt the focus to be about the family you chose rather than the family you were raised in. Consider asking each Friendsgiving attendee to bring a family favorite dish to mix up the food selections a bit. Incorporate local touches, such as the hometowns and hobbies of those in attendance, into traditional Thanksgiving decor.

Create Thanksgiving Memories With Special Touches

Having a Thanksgiving theme allows you to host a creative and cohesive event that your guests are sure to love. Use these ideas as a jumping off point and create a Thanksgiving gathering to be thankful for.

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15 Thanksgiving Themes to Make This the Best Turkey Day Yet