Thanksgiving: Sharing the Holiday in Your Office

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, your workers probably have their sights set on a four-day weekend filled with football.  Or, perhaps they are strategizing the list of stores to hit up on Black Friday.  Yet others are probably drooling at the thought of all the treats they only get to indulge in during this time of year. However, there is a lot more to Thanksgiving than football, shopping, and food.  So, even if those are the only things you care about during this season, here are some tidbits you might not know about each.  Furthermore, here is how you can make these aspects of Thanksgiving relevant in your office.

Pilgrims and Non-Indians

Now, history is a funny thing because it tells a story from the perspective of the speaker.  Specifically, sometimes the speaker has a loud voice and a big platform, but doesn’t have the most accurate information.  Take the first Thanksgiving, for example.  Many U.S. citizens think of Pilgrims with starched white collars, and Native Americans scantily clad in loin cloths sitting at a long dining room table eating a Butterball turkey and canned cranberries, speaking in English and regaling each other with humorous stories of life before they met.  Admittedly, that’s the image I have in my own head.  Nevertheless, I feel I can’t possibly be the only one who has this very flawed snapshot in my mind of the first Thanksgiving. 

On Second Thought

So, to debunk my own interpretation, here are some things wrong with my ill-conceived impression:  First, as a mother, I know how hard it is to keep white clothes white in the 21st century.  Therefore, it seems dubious that the Pilgrims would have brought the tools along to wash, starch, and press their whites.  Arguably, that doesn’t seem like it would have been a priority in the exploration and colonization of the New World. 

Second, the temperature was in the 30s on Halloween in Tennessee where I live.  So, what is the typical temperature further north at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts at the end of November?  According to data, the average temperatures in November range from the low 30s to the low 50s.  Therefore, a sole loincloth is pretty unlikely attire for the first Thanksgiving. 

Third, I don’t think I need to even waste air on the Butterball turkey and canned cranberries. 

Fourth, English is a difficult language to learn.  Threrefore, the likelihood of the Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing fluent English dialogue within a year of landing at Plymouth is nearly zilch. 

Need I say more?

Thanksgiving in the Sunshine State

More recently, historians have been shining light on a communal meal nearly 60 years before the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.  So, the actual first Thanksgiving celebration might actually have been between the Spaniards and Native Americans in September of 1565 in Florida.  Now, do you know what this means?  That’s right– loincloths are back in the picture!

Regardless of where, when, or with whom the first Thanksgiving took place, the important point is that it has always been a time for celebration.  Giving thanks is something that we can all practice regardless of class, religion, or race. So keep that in mind as you are preparing for Thanksgiving in your office.  However, you might want to remind employees that although they may break dress code to wear their favorite turkey-themed sweater, they might want to avoid sporting a loincloth. 

Gobble, Snort

Image of a turkey on a platter with various words about Thanksgiving.

Speaking of turkeys, let’s discuss the main entrée.  Now, regardless of which “first Thanksgiving” story you subscribe to, the meat du jour didn’t have a snood. (In case you are wondering, a snood is that red thing hanging off a turkey’s beak.)  Contrary to popular belief, at the Plymouth feast the Pilgrims and Native Americans supposedly ate venison, not turkey.  In fact, the story goes that the Native Americans killed five deer as their contribution to the meal.  Further south in Florida, however, salted pork would likely have been on the platter.  So, we can thank President Lincoln for designating Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and for including turkey as part of the tradition.

Now, here is where you take this new information and decide how you can make it a part of your office celebration.  One idea is to do a potluck, and ask volunteers to bring a turkey dish, a venison dish, and a pork dish.  For added relevance, you can ask volunteers from the regions of the country where those dishes are derived from.  Another idea is to include these facts in a Thanksgiving trivia game that employees can play as they are partaking in the feast.  It’s sure to be educational and fun for all!

Go Long! Watching Football on Thanksgiving

Not long after Lincoln approved Thanksgiving as a national holiday, another tradition was being born.  However, some people don’t realize that football has been a holiday fixture for so long.  In fact, football was part of Thanksgiving before the sport was football as we know it today!  That’s right, the sport was still a hybrid form of rugby when the first Thanksgiving game kicked off in 1876 between Yale and Princeton.  Fast forward 14 decades, and many of us recognize the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys logos as another symbol of our beloved holiday.

So, what can you do in your office to include football as part of the festivities?  Well, an office pool, of course!  You see, office pools are all the rage, and they are a great way to get employees involved in some good, clean fun.  Also, if your company must be open on the holiday, you might want to have a TV available for employees to catch a glimpse of the game during their breaks.  In fact, you might have fewer employees call out “sick” if they know they will have access to the game on a big screen.  Just saying.

Black Friday Shopping ‘til You Drop on Thanksgiving

Once upon a time, Black Friday shopping took place on a Friday.  To the centennial generation, that might be a little-known fact.  Nowadays, however, retailers freely pick whatever day they want so implement their Black Friday sales.  Furthermore, some retailers even opt into opening their stores on Thanksgiving Day itself (see above for reasons why you should have a TV available where you work), giving people an opportunity to run off the calories they consumed, as they hunt for once-a-year bargains. 

So, if you are a centennial reading this, here is what you need to know about the history of Black Friday.  You see, Black Friday dates back as far as 1952, and was considered the start of the Christmas shopping season.  Back then, retailers would open their doors early the Friday after Thanksgiving, and some shoppers would even camp out all night waiting to be the first into the store to grab gifts at rock-bottom prices.  The prices weren’t the only thing to hit rock bottom, however.  Some shoppers also hit rock bottom in terms of behavior, fighting over products and items that were high in demand but low in supply.  Some stores even became notoriously dangerous to visit on Black Friday, having a reputation for brawls and stampedes.  The sales surplus and the influx of shoppers have been explanations for possible origins of the name “Black Friday,” although neither has been confirmed.

Black Friday in Your Office

Now that you have a little more insight into “Black Friday,” here are some things you can do to encourage employees to partake in the festivities.

  1. Extended lunch hour – If you allow employees to combine break times and their lunch hour, it might give people an opportunity to get out and visit a couple stores on their list.
  2. Encourage online shopping – Since we know that many retailers offer special deals online, remind employees that they can check gifts off their list without even leaving work.
  3. Make it easy – Bringing in flyers or coupons for nearby retailers will help employees make their Black Friday shopping more efficient, and will help promote shopping local.

Whatever you choose, keep in mind that happy employees are those who get good prices for the gifts on their list.  So do what you can to ensure that they have access to the deals in one way or another.

Ok, there it is. I have given you all you need to know about Thanksgiving, and how you can integrate it with your office.  Now, just one more thing:  Remember to give thanks.  Whether it is the food on your plate, your team winning the big game, or the huge discount on the flat screen TV, there is something to be thankful for.  Finally, it should go without saying that Thanksgiving would be a perfect time to tell your employees that you are grateful for what they do.  If nothing else, showing appreciation to employees can be the perfect way to share Thanksgiving in your office.

Image of pine needles, leaves, and pinecones with the words GIVE THANKS over them.

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This is not meant to provide legal counsel or advice. Every situation is different. Please contact an HR professional or employment attorney before taking any action.

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