Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving CustomsFrom turkeys to parades, we look at the customs that make this holiday worth celebrating.

Whether you spend Thanksgiving Day with family or friends, you’re likely to share longstanding customs. For some, it’s all about the feast. For others, it’s all about football. Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions:

Gobbling up a meal. Whether it’s turkey and the trimmings, or a meatless meal, food is the focus for most of us on Thanksgiving Day. While the menu may vary, the idea of a communal meal is universal. Sitting around a table with family and friends is all-important, whether it’s at grandma’s house, or in a restaurant.

Pigskins. From professional league games to college contests to high school face-offs, Thanksgiving football generates over-the-top fervor. Many games are battles between long-standing rivals. On a lighter note, whether you’re a player or a spectator, there’s nothing quite like an impromptu game of touch football in the brisk autumn air.

Shopping. Shopping has become a national pastime at Thanksgiving time. Sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are like a Thanksgiving dessert for bargain hunters. On the down side, shoppers may display more aggression on Black Friday than the football players do during the Thanksgiving Day game.

The Macy’s Parade. One of the most well-known Thanksgiving traditions is the Macy’s parade in New York City. While other cities have parades at Thanksgiving, it is the Macy’s extravaganza that enthralls the nation. The huge balloon characters and big-name entertainers delight young and old alike.

Distributing turkeys. Thanksgiving is a time of plenty for some, but it’s also a time of need for others. Charitable organizations traditionally run food drives and hand out turkeys during the Thanksgiving season. Some people decline celebrating at home in order to serve Thanksgiving meals at local homeless shelters.

Giving thanks. Although not a religious holiday, Thanksgiving evokes spiritual themes and sentiments such as gratitude, compassion and the family bond. Many people begin the Thanksgiving meal with a prayer, poem, or reminiscence of loved ones departed.

Wishbones. Breaking a chicken or turkey’s clavicle, or “wishbone,” is said to grant a wish. Two people grab either side of the bone and pull. The person left holding the larger section after the bone snaps will get his or her wish. The superstition allegedly started with the Romans, was passed on to the English, and then brought to America.

“Pardoning” turkeys. Another interesting Thanksgiving tradition is the “presidential pardon” of turkeys. Some say Abraham Lincoln was the first president to “pardon a turkey,” by sparing it from the chopping block. Others consider Harry Truman the father of the tradition. Whatever its origins, the practice has amused generations of Americans. President Barack Obama in 2012, spared the National Thanksgiving Day Turkey, and the bird is living out its days at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

Family Health History Day. Each year since 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General and Department of Health and Human Services have declared Thanksgiving Day as “Family Health History Day.” The goal is to have family members share and discuss family health issues while gathered at the Thanksgiving table. The initiative helps keep everyone informed about risk factors so that preventive steps can be taken when necessary.

Does your family have a unique Thanksgiving tradition of its own? If so, share it with us on Facebook. If not, there’s no better time than the present to start one!

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