As November began, Americans everywhere started planning for the annual Thanksgiving celebration November 25. As you begin preparing for the holiday, how much do you really know
about both the history and the tradition of this celebration?
In 1941, President Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. Some will point out that the pilgrims never actually observed an annual Thanksgiving feast in autumn, except in 1621, but most Thanksgiving celebrations consisted of more prayer, and fasting, then eating.
Lest you think America is the only country that celebrates a day of Thanksgiving, our closest neighbor, Canada, celebrates such a day annually on the second Monday in October, when they give thanks for the end of harvest season, which relates to the European harvest festivals. It was on January 31, 1957 that the Canadian Parliament proclaimed a day of general thanksgiving for the country, and they first celebrated it in 1959.
European in nature, American traditions are now a part of the Canadian holiday, such as parades taking center stage, football, and a day of feasting.
Regarding tradition, in America today, although we continue to give thanks during this annual holiday, over the years we began to include a few other things into our traditions.
- Given the name “Turkey Day” for a reason, according to the National Turkey Federation, 95 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and though the types of turkey served varies by the region you live in, it’s turkey nonetheless.
- Another turkey tradition includes the act of making a wish with the wishbone. Families even fight over who gets to participate in the “lucky break” of the wishbone from the Thanksgiving turkey. However, this is not a modern tradition, the pulling of the wishbone, meaning pulling either end of the bird’s breastbone in order to pull the bigger piece to ensure your wish comes true, dates back many centuries. The Etruscans of 322 B.C. actually started this tradition; when they conquered England, the English brought the tradition to American when they began immigrating.
- Commonly known as “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year as it kicks off the official Christmas season. If they get up early enough on Friday morning, and are willing to stand in the long lines at the front door of their favorite stores, shoppers find some of the best sales of the year.
- Everyone loves a parade and Thanksgiving is no exception. The first big parade of this kind actually dates back to 1920, when Gimbals’ Department Store in Philadelphia, PA, organized the event, not Macys. The Macy’s day parade actually began four years later, but these days, it is as much a part of Thanksgiving as the turkey. In fact, estimates show that nearly 45 million people attend, or watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
- Another well-worn Thanksgiving tradition is football, and many folks consider Thanksgiving “the” day to watch football while eating a big piece of homemade pumpkin pie. These annual
Thanksgiving games began in 1934 with the AFL Detroit Lions, although no games occurred during World War II. As for the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys began hosting Thanksgiving games in 1966, with the exception of two years in the 1970s. Much of this football tradition predates the official declaration of Thanksgiving Day, since it includes the first intercollegiate football championship held on in 1876.
So, when all is said and done, and your Thanksgiving traditions are fulfilled, there is one other important tradition; remember to give thanks for all the blessings you received throughout the year. After all, the Thanksgiving holiday really is about a time of unlimited thanksgiving.
Various authors, Life Lessons, The Bizarro Centerpiece and Other Tales of Thanksgiving Wonder, Real Simple Magazine; November 2010.
Kimberly Powell, Top 5 Family Thanksgiving Traditions, www.about.com .