The Meaning of the Colors of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving colors represent foods traditionally eaten during the feast.
Thanksgiving colors represent foods traditionally eaten during the feast. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

The colors of Thanksgiving reflect the food and season of this annual holiday, originating with people expressing appreciation for bountiful harvests. The holiday is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November with a feast of foods harvested in the fall.

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Brown is the dominant color of Thanksgiving because the main course at a Thanksgiving meal is turkey. Turkey, however, may not have been eaten when the Pilgrims hosted the first feast in 1621, according to It is debated that the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate deer or even eel instead. Besides representing turkey, brown also reflects the color of leaves in deep autumn before they fall.


Yellow is the color of corn, one of the most popular symbols for Thanksgiving because the first Thanksgiving feast celebrated the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest, according to The Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn to survive the brutal winters. Corn comes in a variety of colors: yellow, orange, red, white, blue, even brown. The various colors of corncobs also make them attractive for decoration. Ornamental corncobs are found in wreaths and cornacopias, popular seasonal decorations, according to


Pumpkins are also a popular staple at Thanksgiving dinners. Whether as pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie, orange adorns almost every Thanksgiving table. The pumpkin is an important symbol of the harvest festival, according to Native American Indians used pumpkins as a staple in their diets. The Pilgrims were said to have invented pumpkin pie, according to the


Red, also a Thanksgiving color, represents cranberries, which are one of only three fruits native to North America. Cranberries were eaten by Native Americans who believed they had medicinal value. Cranberries were mixed with meat as sweetening. It is thought Pilgrims later added maple sugar to cranberries to create cranberry sauce, according to


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