November Thanksgiving Traditions
There are three themes to Thanksgiving Day traditions, the family turkey meal, parading and giving thanks.
New York Thanksgiving Tradition
In New York City there are lots of engaging Thanksgiving traditions. For example, a lot of New Yorkers don't buy the frozen Thanksgiving turkey. They prefer to buy the bird live and then push it in front of a subway train. David Letterman
Getting Betrothed at Thanksgiving
A strange Thanksgiving Tradition in the Chinese areas of San Francisco is for engaged couples to buy a lock and key, then chain the lock to the Golden Gate bridge and throw away the key.
Children love Macy's November Thanksgiving Day parade through Manhattan, New York. I wonder how many people have attended at least one parade since its inception in 1924*?
One constant theme of Macy's parade is characters made of balloons, indeed we muse in the 1930's did Walt Disney make Macy's parade, or did Macy's parade make Disney?
Some say Macy's parade did not start until 1927, the argument centers over the naming of the 1924 version, 'Macy's Christmas Day Parade', the confusion arises because it was held at Thanksgiving.
Old timers say they used to release balloons with prizes for those who found the balloon. Many think it would be great if Macy's resurrected the tradition.
Amongst other cities, Detroit is at the forefront of celebrations. Since 1924 they have their own parade down Woodward avenue. Also their NFL team, the Detroit Lions always play a game on Thanksgiving, a tradition that goes back to 1934.
White House Rose Garden Turky Pardon
Beware the Turkey?
To borrow a line from WC Fields: 'Never work with children, animals, or Thanksgiving turkeys'.
Thanksgiving 2008 marks the 61st anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. Live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented to presidents since the days of Abe Lincoln. However, the current form of the ceremony dates back to President Harry Truman in 1947.
Whitehouse Tradition Continues - Spot the Turkey!
The turkey (and its alternate) are pardoned by the President on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The ceremony traditionally takes place on the White House Rose Garden, and is a wonderful photo shoot opportunity. The lucky turkey will then be sent to Disneyland, where it will be the grand marshal of the Disney Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The tradition's origin is uncertain. One story claims that Harry Truman pardoned a turkey in 1947, but the Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence for this. Another claims that the tradition dates back to Abraham Lincoln, in October 1863, pardoning his son Tad's pet turkey. Both of these stories have been cited in recent presidential speeches.
Interestingly, the great American public is allowed to vote for the turkeys' names on the White House web site. 2007 lucky birds were 'May' and 'Flower'. In 2006's the turkeys pardoned were named Flyer and Fryer. While in 2005's turkeys were named Marshmallow and Yam were spared. 2004's were named Biscuit and Gravy; and 2003's were Stars and Stripes. The 2008 winners, who were pardoned were Pumpkin and Pecan.
Thanksgiving 2009 Update
President Obama made the official presidential Thanksgiving pardon on Wednesday, November 25. A turkey called 'Courage' was spared along with an alternative called 'Carolina'.
Crazy how one thing can set you off at a tangent.
Talking of yam,
this what Popeye said:
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2011 President Obama pardoned two turkeys as usual, this year they were called Liberty and Peace.
Sarah Hale, a magazine editor, campaigned tirelessly for a national Thanksgiving day. Hale wrote in Godey's Lady's Book, eventually Sarah's idea caught the president's eye and in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the idea of November Thanksgiving, to be precise, that last Thursday in November would be a national day of Thanksgiving. In 2010, Thanksgiving day falls on November 25th.
In Canada they set Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. Here it was Martin Frobisher who in Newfoundland first gave thanks for surviving his explorations in 1578. Other countries who celebrate Thanksgiving include Argentina and Brazil. Japan has a national holiday on 23rd November to celebrate Labour / Thanksgiving day.
Looking back approaching 400 years one can see why those first Pilgrims had a lot to be thankful for. Their boat, the Mayflower, made it across the Atlantic Ocean. We can only ponder how many perished in similar boats before their success. And indeed we can think of all those boats which have been lost with all hands since. The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 can be grateful that Iroquois Native Americans were not more numerous and more belligerent.
The Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower were members of the English Separatist Church (a Puritan sect). They fled from persecution in England and took the opportunity of a better life in America. Puritans negotiated with a London stock company to finance the pilgrimage to America. However, 2/3 of those aboard the Mayflower were not Separatists, they just went along for the adventure and the opportunity.
That first winter on 1620 was severe and by the fall of 1621 almost half of the original 102 settlers had died of hardship. However, the vegetables were new to the Pilgrims and they needed help from the Iroquois Indians to grow crops such as maize and pumpkins. Thanks to the skill of native Indians like Squanto, and good fortune, the harvest of 1621 was bountiful.
Governor William Bradford famously sent 'four men fowling'. They returned with deer, wild ducks and geese. While they probably did not have turkey as we know it, the Pilgrims coined the word 'turkey' as a generic term for any wild fowl. The resulting feast was more like an English harvest festival than a true Thanksgiving observance. See more pictures of the Pilgrim fathers
The history of the turkey goes back at least 800 years to New Mexico. When Cortés invaded Mexico, he discovered that the natives kept flocks of turkeys. Biologists suspect that the Meso-american civilization domesticated the turkey Meleagris gallopavo. This culture developed in the Maya of Belize, Guatemala, and up through Mexico.
In Cortés time it was all very different from today's celebration of Thanksgiving with the turkey at center stage. Or was it? While the surroundings were completely different, and the time of year may have been nearer summer, but I expect the ancients new how to party on turkey!
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