On Thursday, the nation will engage in the distinguishing activities that have become a part of one of America’s oldest traditions. In the United States, Thanksgiving is the most travelled holiday of the year. The nationwide travel company AAA forecasts that 42.5 million people will travel during the extended holiday weekend. Some travel to visit family or friends while others are drawn to some particularly distinctive Thanksgiving destinations.
In New York City, the gigantic balloons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will fly from the Upper West Side down to Herald Square for the amusement of nearly 3 million people who crowd the city’s streets in celebration. Over 600 miles west in Detroit, the Lions will play in the Thanksgiving Classic football game as they have done since 1934. Likewise, the Dallas Cowboys will treat their fans to a Thanksgiving Day game, but many will already be occupied visiting Thanks-Giving Square, a park in downtown Dallas that is devoted to the “spirit” of gratitude.
Exploring the history of Thanksgiving reveals an American penchant for gratitude as well as an innate ability to disagree, as the exact time and place where the first Thanksgiving was celebrated is still disputed. On the shores of New England, historically-minded celebrators will travel back to 1621 as Plymouth, Mass. celebrates almost 400 years of Thanksgiving tradition. Visitors in St. Augustine, Fla – where some believe the actual first Thanksgiving occurred 56 years before the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts – will enjoy the respite from the oncoming winter when they celebrate the holiday on the beach.
Much to the dismay of the country’s turkey population, Thanksgiving is a permanent part of the nation’s culture. In the nation’s capital, President Obama will pardon a turkey on the day before Thanksgiving, a tradition established in 1989 that always promises a slew of fowl puns. This peculiar act of mercy comes during a particularly difficult time of the year for turkeys, as an estimated 50 million of them end up as dinner on the last Thursday of November.
Since it was declared a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, “Turkey Day” has firmly established its place as a highlight on the nation’s calendar. Thanksgiving has evolved from humble beginnings as a celebration of good fortune shared between European settlers and Native Americans on the shores of the New World into a traditional American fixture. With so many divisive issues currently rampaging throughout the country, the nation will have a brief chance to forget about the economy and the election, share a meal, and give thanks.