Popular Thanksgiving Customs

There are many Thanksgiving customs and traditions that have become synonymous with this November holiday. How did these customs get started? Here are the stories behind some of our most popular Thanksgiving traditions.

Turkey
A big roasted and stuffed bird is the main event at Thanksgiving for 91% of American households. However, historians tell us that this was not the case at the first Thanksgiving, back in 1621.

The feast shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans most likely consisted of venison, various wild fowl and seafood, along with grains and vegetables of the harvest. While wild turkey was likely among the wild fowl that was served, it was not the focus of the meal. So how did this tradition begin? It is speculated that the large amount of wild turkeys wandering around in colonial America made the bird a popular choice for subsequent harvest feasts.

Cornucopia
The Cornucopia, a horn-shaped basket overflowing with vegetables and grain, is a popular Thanksgiving image. Many families use cornucopias as centerpieces on their Thanksgiving table. But where did it come from?

The cornucopia has its roots in Greek mythology. The "Horn of Plenty" was a magical horn that filled itself with whatever food or drinks its owner desired. Later, the overflowing horn-shaped basket became a symbol of a bountiful autumn harvest. This bounty is a large part of why the pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving.

Football
Football is a huge part of Thanksgiving Day for many Americans. Whether it's seeing the local rivals square off at the high school field on Thanksgiving morning, the NFL game in the afternoon or both, watching football is an essential part of the day's festivities for millions of people. The tradition began in 1934, with a game between the Lions and the Bears in Detroit, although there were games played on Thanksgiving as early as 1902. The first televised Thanksgiving game aired in 1956, but prior to this, the games were broadcast on the radio.

Macy's Parade
First staged as a way to promote the Christmas shopping season, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade first made its way through the streets of New York in 1924. Attending the parade soon became a favorite holiday tradition for many families in the area, and when local television coverage began in 1939, the parade found an even wider audience. Its first national broadcast in 1948 allowed the entire nation to view the parade. Today, more than 44 million people watch the broadcast each year.

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