An Old-Fashioned Louisa May Alcott Thanksgiving

From Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag comes “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving,” one of many charming short stories Louisa May Alcott wrote after the success of
Little Women.

Story summary

It’s a simple story of a time long ago and far away (very early 19th century), starring a country family in New Hampshire, “poor in money, but rich in land and love …” Familiar themes but I never grow tired of them, especially when the world today is so full of uncertainty and misery.

Takes you to another time

I never was a fan of descriptive writing, wishing instead for the plot line to simply proceed. This story’s descriptions however, folded me into its time and place such that the Bassett farmhouse was a home I truly wanted to visit and live in, even for a short time:

“The big kitchen was a jolly place just now, for in the great fireplace roared a cheerful fire; on the walls hung garlands of dried apples, onions, and corn; up a loft from the beams shone crook-necked squashes, juicy hams, and dried venison . . . Savory smells were in the air; on the crane hung steaming kettles; and down among the red embers copper saucepans simmered, all suggestive of some approaching feast.”

Dinner with the Bassetts

The story line is simple: Mother and Father are called away suddenly the day before Thanksgiving because Grandma was “failin’ fast,” leaving their 8 children behind. The oldest girls, Tilly and Prue, decide to finish the dinner though they had never made a turkey with stuffing before, nor had they ever cooked plum pudding. All doesn’t turn out perfectly (after all, young inexperienced girls in the kitchen can lead to disaster) but at the end of the day, everyone is happy, warm and fed. And the cooks have much to laugh about.

Personal reflection

The Bassetts are certainly the portrait of an ideal family (rather like the more modern-day Cleavers) with all 8 children getting on well with each other. Everyone is happy and healthy. We all know that moments like this were likely few and far between (and still are).

But in this messy, modern world of broken homes, people out of work, threats looming from abroad, and traditional values seemingly trashed, I found “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” to be the perfect escapist pleasure.

It doesn’t need analysis nor critique – it’s just meant to be enjoyed.


The copy I have of Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag belonged to my mother and dates back to 1929 (with those exquisite 1920s illustrations). As I turned the pages, I thought of my mother turning those same pages while allowing her active imagination to plant her in the midst of the Bassett family and home. She may not be with me anymore but she lives in my heart, my memories, and in her beloved books which now grace my shelves.

You can read “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” in its entirety on Google Books.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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9 Replies to “An Old-Fashioned Louisa May Alcott Thanksgiving”

  1. Even as I type, I am awaiting a copy of this story in the mail. I have never read it and am now even more excited to read it . . . . . . we have 8 children!
    We have so much to be thankful for!!!

  2. I read this on Thanksgiving as well (except I read mine on my Kindle.) How neat that you have your mother’s copy! Thanks for sharing some of the illustrations!

  3. I truly enjoyed this as well as your memories of your mother and feeling her close to you as you held “Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag”. While I don’t have a copy of that book, I do have a 1974 book of “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”, illustrated by Holly Johnson. It is a lovely copy that I pull out every Thanksgiving, reading it while the turkey roasts. The wood cuts from your copy are wonderful.

    1. Thank you! That particular copy of Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag has the cutest story of 2 dolls that travel from Minnesota to Maine – my mother loved dolls so I have the fondest memories of her when I think of that story.

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