Nov. 20, 2012 — Thanksgiving is a holiday that has incorporated a variety of traditions during the years that are now part of the way many Americans celebrate. For example, family gatherings are common, which makes it the busiest travel day of the year.
Also common is cooking a turkey dinner. According to the National Turkey Federation, 95 percent of the American population eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Americans don’t always prepare their turkey the same way. While roasting is popular, Hawaii produces coffee rubbed turkeys; New England, salt encrusted; and the deep-fried method is southern.
The last Thursday of November was set aside as a day of thanksgiving and praise by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Many families give thanks for their blessings as they gather around the dinner table. Some express their thanks by serving others at a soup kitchen. Thanksgiving keeps the spirit of the holiday at heart.
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation began:
“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of almighty God.”
In many households, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade ushers in the holiday with 50 million people watching on television and another 3.5 million lining the streets of Manhattan. The first parade was held in 1924 at Christmas to draw attention to the department store. After that year, Thanksgiving became the day for the parade, which is known for its giant helium balloons floating high above the crowd. The first giant balloon was introduced in 1927 in the form of Felix the Cat. In 1928, the balloons were inflated with helium.
Today the creation of a balloon requires one year, beginning with a computer generated drawing. Once the characters become a balloon they go through a series of test flights. Thanksgiving Eve people come to the site of the parade to watch the inflation of the giant balloons from 3 to 8 p.m. Once inflated the balloons are secured with nets and sandbags.
Sports enthusiasts make football part of their Thanksgiving Day festivities. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys each play football on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys began the tradition of Thanksgiving Day football in 1966 and the Lions in 1934.
Finally, as the turkey is carved, some families set aside the wishbone, located in the turkey’s chest. Once the bone is dried and brittle, two people make a wish and pull the bone apart. The person holding the largest piece of bone supposedly will have the wish come true.
While the traditions mentioned are nationwide, often communities create events that become traditions. When I lived in Sacramento my husband, Terry, and I participated in the “Run to Feed the Hungry” Thanksgiving morning. It began 19 years ago as a fundraiser for the Sacramento Food Bank.
Whether national, community or personal, traditions make Thanksgiving special. It is a holiday that reflects the many blessings Americans enjoy, for which we can give thanks.
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