Many people are aware of the story of the origin of Thanksgiving. But that was just good public relations over the years. However, the origins of many of the traditions practiced on or around Thanksgiving are less well-known. Thanksgiving has many rich traditions that date back centuries and are just as worth exploring as the history of the holiday itself.
- Breaking the Wishbone. Wishbones have historically been used in divination practices, but their usage as a symbol of good fortune dates back to 17th century England. At this point in history, the person who broke off the larger half of the wishbone was predicted to be the first to marry (similar to the traditional bouquet toss at weddings now). However, the idea behind this tradition began to change until it became the symbol of good luck we know it to be today.
- Thanksgiving Football Game. The football game to begin this tradition was held between Princeton and Yale in the late 19th century. While the game was initially only held between the two teams as a way of enforcing their rivalry, it became widespread over the next few years, culminating when the NFL was formed in 1920 and that league creating its own Thanksgiving traditions. This escalated the traditional football game from a collegiate one to a national one, and is now one of the most widely watched days of the football season.
- Turkey Pardon. Every Thanksgiving, the White House pardons one of two turkeys, and allows for the general public to decide which turkey will be pardoned and which will not. Many believe that Truman was the first president to pardon a turkey, but historians have begun to believe that Abraham Lincoln actually began the tradition. Rumor has it that, when Lincoln’s son found out a live turkey had been brought in to be slaughtered for dinner, he begged his father to ensure the turkey was not killed, so Lincoln “pardoned” it.
- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started as a celebration of and for the New York City department store for becoming the world’s largest store in 1924 (after it underwent an expansion). While the parade was initially intended to be a Christmas promotion, Macy’s executives realized the actual Thanksgiving “parade” consisted of poor children in the city going door-to-door to get money, scraps of food, et cetera. Therefore, they decided to make the parade a more fun experience for the children, and a pleasant day, rather than one of gloom.
- Black Friday. The first Black Friday was not a time of economic prosperity, as it is considered today, but a time of economic crisis instead. In the late 1800s, two brokers bought up as much gold as they could in order to elevate the price exponentially. However, the day after Thanksgiving, their conspiracy was revealed and fell apart. Now, Black Friday refers to companies going “into the black,” or achieving a high profit due to steep discounts, especially following a time of lower profit.