Your Favorite Thanksgiving Traditions, Explained

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Thanksgiving is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November (Credit: Publicdomainpictures.net)

On Thursday, November 24, 2022, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. The annual tradition is credited to an autumn harvest feast shared by the early European settlers and the Native Americans in 1621. The holiday centers around delicious food and has many fun traditions. Here is a brief history of how some of the customs began.

Why a Thursday in November?

Thanksgiving is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November. The month was chosen because that is when the first feast is believed to have been held. November also falls right after traditional harvest time. But there is no real reason for the holiday to be celebrated on a Thursday. The day seems to have stuck since President Lincoln first made Thanksgiving a holiday in 1863.

Turkey

The inaugural feast is believed to have featured geese. However, present-day Thanksgiving dinners center around turkey. Some experts believe the birds were selected because they were cheaper than geese or chickens. They were also easier to raise.

Turkey is the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals (Credit: Freepik/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Others credit the bird's inclusion to Sarah Josepha Hale. The well-known writer suggested it in her petitions to convince US officials to make Thanksgiving an official holiday. Since President Abraham Lincoln loved roasted turkey, he was happy to add the bird to his Thanksgiving menu.

Turkey Trots

Many Americans wake up early on Thanksgiving morning to participate in fun runs known as "turkey trots." The inaugural race, started by six friends in Buffalo, New York, in 1896, is now in its 127th year. It is North America's oldest consecutive footrace. The 8-kilometer (4.97-mile) race doubles as a fundraiser and attracts over 14,000 runners annually.

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

The Macy's parade features massive floats (Credit: Wally Gobetz/ CC-BY-SA-2.0/ Flickr)

Macy's first parade was held on Thanksgiving morning in 1924. It was meant to be a one-time event to showcase the opening of the company's new store in New York City. But the parade was so popular that the retailer made it an annual occasion. The beloved tradition now attracts over 3.5 million people in person and over 50 million television viewers worldwide.

Football

Football games are very popular on Thanksgiving (Credit: All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA/ CC BY-SA 2.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

Thanksgiving football games were started by the American Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA) in 1876. The organization was trying to increase the popularity of the still-nascent sport. In 1934, the National Football League's (NFL) Detroit Lions took over the tradition to attract more local fans to live games. Their first match against the Chicago Bears was sold out two weeks before the event. Since then, the team has played almost every Thanksgiving! The Dallas Cowboys joined the tradition in 1966. The two games have become a popular holiday ritual since.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Resources: History.com, Wikipedia.org, Businessinsider.com

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