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The dinosaur who came to Thanksgiving dinner

It’s nearly Thanksgiving (in the USA at least). In our house, that raises the question: If dinosaurs were still alive today, how would they celebrate Thanksgiving? And did you realise that there is probably a dinosaur already at your Thanksgiving?

Can you imagine having dinosaurs at your Thanksgiving?

Tyrannosaurus debating the virtues of roasting and basting with Uncle Bob. Galimimus catching Cousin Blaine’s desperate Hail Mary. Ankylosaurus secretly scoffing the pumpkin pie in the shrubbery.

A dinosaur probably will be at your Thanksgiving. And we don’t mean Grandpa.

So how would dinosaurs celebrate Thanksgiving?

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How would dinosaurs celebrate Thanksgiving? Toy Brachiosaurus with white pumpkins

Would dinosaurs celebrate Thanksgiving?

The critical question. Luckily, we don’t have to answer it.

Dinosaurs died out long before Christopher Columbus “discovered” America and pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving. But what if they didn’t?

Imagine: The dinosaurs that populated North America during the Late Cretaceous survived the meteor hit and its aftermath. Triceratops, titanosaurs, Ankylosaurus, Velociraptors and the Tyrannosaurus Rex still roam the Earth.

When pilgrims moved to the “new world” made friends with the dinosaurs and avoided becoming their next meal. Perhaps Thanksgiving would be the celebration of this newfound friendship?

Can you see the family of 4 Triceratops in a truck driving across the country to celebrate the holiday with family?

What would dinosaurs be thankful for?

Dinosaurs have much to be thankful for, but two main events stand out:

  1. The meteor missed the earth. That space rock could have done some real damage and forced the earth into an ice age if it had hit…
  2. Bird flu was bad, also for dinosaurs. Many succumbed. Fortunately, COVID-19 is not contagious for birds or dinosaurs.
RAWRsome thankful dinosaurs to make this Thanksgiving: with image of Tyrannosaurus Rex in a feathered thankful skirt

WHAT ABOUT DINOSAUR DECORATIONS?

How would dinosaurs celebrate Thanksgiving? Would they dress up? Or have Thanksgiving decorations?

Dinosaurs look cute in pilgrim hats!

Why not use some in your Thanksgiving decor?

DInosaur Pilgrims - a simple Thanksgiving craft - here with a picture of a toy Brontosaurus wearing a Pilgrim hat

The dinosaur at your Thanksgiving

A real dinosaur will probably be the centrepiece of your Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, the turkey on your table is a farm-raised dinosaur.

Tyrannosaurus is already salivating.

The real dinosaur at our Thanksgiving: the turkey on your table

Why is your Thanksgiving turkey a dinosaur

Birds and certain dinosaurs display synapomorphy: they share various anatomical characteristics because they evolved from a common ancestor.

  • If you examine the wingtip of your Thanksgiving turkey, you will see it is made up of three bones – two longer bones and a nub. The second of these is the longest, just as it is in saurischian dinosaurs.
  • Birds and theropod dinosaurs, like T-Rex, are the only animals (ever) to have wishbones (furcula). A wishbone is a fused collarbone used to support flight muscles in birds.
  • Birds and theropod dinosaurs have hollow bones (snap open a drumstick to see). This makes birds lighter so they can fly and made therapod dinosaurs more agile.
  • Birds are descendant from maniraptors, a group of theropod dinosaurs which includes the velociraptor. Both share backwards-pointing hipbones.
  • The feet, neck shape and feathers also show similarities between certain theropod dinosaurs and birds.

The key difference between birds and theropod dinosaurs is the tail. Birds no longer have a boned tail like dinosaurs, they have a nub (pygostyle) that supports the feathers.

The real dinosaur at your Thanksgiving is the roast turkey: a direct descendant of dinosaurs.

What would dinosaurs eat for Thanksgiving?

Obviously, the carnivorous dinosaurs would devour the turkey. All of it. And at least three more each. Your oven will be working overtime.

While the turkeys are roasting, the dinosaurs would be celebrating Thanksgiving like we do: chowing on some snacks (not on the other guests. Hopefully).

The carnivores would love the Triceratops dip until they discovered it did not contain meat and only resembled a Triceratops.

The main course would include some green side dishes, such as a spinach and kale salad with pomegranate seeds and nuts.

Green beans and brussel sprouts would delight. The herbivores request them raw and not in a casserole (your oven will be full of turkeys anyway).

If you have a Spinosaurus or other pescatarian guests, you will need to add some steamed or grilled salmon. Whole, of course.

Would there be pumpkins if there were dinosaurs at your Thanksgiving? A toy Brachiosaurus on top of a pumpkin.

Would there be pumpkin pie?

That is debatable.

Some Pleistocene megafauna (i.e. oversized Ice Age animals which roamed the earth after dinosaurs died out), such as the Mastodon ate prehistoric pumpkins and gourds. Herbivorous dinosaurs would probably eat them, too (had they survived the meteorite).

However, the pumpkins would not be the ones we know and love and use in pie.

Prehistoric pumpkins were hard, bitter, and toxic to Neanderthals. Early humans used them to make bags. Once the megafauna died out, pumpkins lost their toxicity and bitterness and became safe for humans to eat.

If dinosaurs survived, the pumpkins and gourds would probably still be toxic for humans. Ergo, there would be no pumpkin pie.

Why not make dinosaur pie?

Dinosaur pie, well dinosaur with pie. Parasauralophus watercolour image carrying a pie

How to make dinosaur pie

No, you don’t have to catch, pluck and boil a dinosaur:

  • Grab a dinosaur mask template for inspiration. We have this book or you could use one of these from the Senckenberg Museum.
  • Make your favourite pastry, line your dish and add your chosen filling; ensure you have some pastry left over.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry and, using the mask as a guide, cut out the pastry to reproduce the mask with layers of pastry. If I made the Parasaurolophus on the front page of the book, for example, I would have one piece of pastry for the whole face, one for the nose and crest (with nostrils cut out), probably two pieces for the purple on the crest and little bits for the eyes and jaw.
  • Bake and enjoy!

other Dinosaur thanksgiving traditions

Would the President pardon a Thanksgiving turkey? Or a Velociraptor for eating the turkey?

Would dinosaurs make a wish when they break the wishbone? Can you imagine two Tyrannosaurs struggling? What would they wish for?

What about Galimimus and the other football fans? Would dinosaurs watch football? Some dinosaurs would be very good at football:

  • Ankylosaurus and Euplucephalus, aided by Pachycephalosaurus make a powerful defensive line.
  • Galimimus is a natural wide receiver
  • Utahraptor a skilled running back – providing his talons don’t puncture the ball.

And don’t you think “Las Vegas Raptors” has a ring to it? Or the “Texas T-Rexes”? Or perhaps the “Detroit Dinos,” given both are built on fossil fuels?

Tyrannosaurus playing football, probably not as a quarterback.

Would the dinosaurs play tag outside while waiting for dinner? Some would have a distinct advantage. And hide and seek would be difficult for other dinosaurs, especially the hide part.

After dinner, they may play board games. Dino-Opoly, perhaps? Or Dino Dump (our current favourite)?.

Maiasaura might read some selected children’s books aloud:

Of course, dinosaurs would also watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – for once they are smaller than most of the entertainment. Their favourite balloon is Sinclair’s Dino – the only life-sized one in the parade.

The dinosaurs' favourite: Sinclair Dino Balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Will you be celebrating Thanksgiving with dinosaurs?

Why not add a little prehistoric fun to your Thanksgiving? A simple change to your snacks or a dinosaur-themed after-dinner game could make this Thanksgiving one to remember for your little dinosaur fan. And you can teach them about evolution as you savour your roast dinosaur turkey and pumpkin pie!

We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with dinosaurs. And Grandpa.

How do you think dinosaurs would celebrate Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving sign-off with stegosaurus in a pilgrim hat

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Thanksgiving for dinosaurs, how would dinosaurs celebrate Thanksgiving: pin with image of a T-Rex

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