Thanksgiving is a uniquely North American holiday steeped in tradition and history.
Photo: Modern Kiddo
When the fourth Thursday in November rolls around, many don’t have to spend much time deciding on menus and planning the day’s activities, because this holiday is so rich in tradition it almost writes itself. From what’s for dinner to what dad is going to spend his day doing, one of the nice things about Thanksgiving is that those things are almost always the same as last year (and the year before that and the year before that …) In case you were wondering, here’s a rundown on where those Thanksgiving staples came from in the first place
Photo: Real Simple
Native to North America, the turkey became the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal somewhere in the early-to-mid 1800’s. Turkey was cheaper than chicken and fed many, which made it an ideal protein for a festive dinner. Some actually argue that its place at the table was firmly cemented by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when Scrooge gifted one to the Cratchit family.
Photo: Ezra Pound Cake
As cranberries are also native to North America, they were widely available to the Pilgrims. However, the tart nature of cranberries and their inherent need for sugar to make them palatable made them a rich man’s condiment, as sugar was scarce and costly.
Photo: Dallas News
Watching football found its place with families across the country when the first Thanksgiving Day game was broadcast on NBC Radio in 1934. The Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears played each other that day and started a longstanding tradition that was only ever broken during World War II.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photo: Disney Parks Blog
The Thanksgiving Day parade was started by Louis Bamberger in Newark, New Jersey, at Bamberger’s department store and was soon transferred to the Macy’s flagship store in 1924. European immigrants working at Macy’s wanted to celebrate their new culture in a way they were used to in Europe. Wearing colorful costumes and manning decorated floats, they marched in the streets of New York in celebration. The parade has been televised and in our living rooms since 1952.
Photo: Good Memory
This strange tradition has been passed down to us from several cultures, dating back as far as the Etruscans who thought of chickens as oracles. They would dry out the carcasses and make wishes on the unique Y-shaped bone now known as the wishbone. This tradition was passed to the Romans and then on to the English who passed it to North Americans. Today, two Thanksgiving revelers each take a side, pull it apart, and, according to tradition, the person who gets the longer bone gets his wish granted. We can’t prove that those wishes really come true, but that doesn’t stop us from trying …