It is a day set aside for the gathering of family and friends. It is a day of feasts and football, of pilgrims and parades. Most importantly, it is a day that we are to stop for a moment and be grateful for all that we have. Often offer a mixture of relaxation and chaos, Thanksgiving may not mean the same thing to everyone, but it is a tradition holiday collectively celebrated throughout our entire history as a nation.

The genesis of Thanksgiving is admittedly a bit murky but we’ll stick with the generally accepted tradition here. We are taught that, in the early 1600s, shortly after the arrival of the pilgrims from Europe, the settlers celebrated their first harvest and showed their gratitude for surviving thus far by engaging in a great feast with their Native-American hosts. Flash forward 150 years or so, and George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving to be a celebration of victory over the British at Saratoga.

Leap to the next century and we find that Abe Lincoln declared it a National Holiday in 1863, amidst the turmoil of the Civil War. FDR got into the act in 1939, designating the fourth (rather than the previously accepted fifth) Thursday of the month as the official turkey day. And that’s the way we’ve done it ever since.

But enough with the history, let’s talk about the food.

Over the centuries, the early menu of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes and squash has been modernized with the inclusion of numerous culinary delights. Each family tends to have their own unique version of the food spread that they stick to every year, but the one thing they have in common is the centerpiece of the meal, a big roasted bird.

With turkey being a somewhat bland meat, moms have created a number of alternate ways to cook up a more flavorful version, with the days of just sticking one in the oven giving way to exciting new innovations. Some now prefer to smoke their bird, while others like to deep-fry – some fowl even get injected with various substances before they are cooked for a more flavorful result.

More often than not, all of this food preparation brought considerable stress for the providers (which probably accounts for the growing number of people that choose to let a restaurant serve their meal). For those that chose to brave the experience, preparing a dozen dishes while watching a turkey AND being jovial to a kitchenful of friends and family, tempers occassionally ran a little high – especially when the meal got delayed by unforeseen circumstances.

For a kid, the stretch of time leading up to dinner was always a tad boring, with too many adults jabbering away and very little to keep one occupied – especially if you were at someone else’s house. One thing we all quickly learned, however, was that it was best to steer clear of the minefield otherwise known as the kitchen. Mom already had her hands plenty full and her fuse ran short. Luckily, there was always one surefire way to battle the holiday boredom (and avoid the relatives that wanted to talk your ear off) – switch on the television and watch the parade.

A time-honored tradition of the holiday, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was started in 1924 and regular television broadcasts began in the 40s. The star attractions are the humongous helium-filled balloons that slowly make their way down 34th Street. Over the years, cultural icons such as Mickey Mouse, Superman, Bullwinkle, Smokey Bear, Betty Boop, Kermit the Frog, Babar the Elephant, Barney and the Pillsbury Doughboy have earned their lofty place in the parade.

As fun as the balloons are to watch, however, they have also been the source of numerous injuries thanks to often-unpredictable weather conditions. Popeye, Raggedy Ann, Sonic the Hedgehog and even Barney have all created their share of havoc at the parade. Today, weather forecasts are taken a little more seriously, and balloons now fly much lower to the ground if high winds are present.

Alongside these behemoth balloons, numerous Broadway show casts also perform at the parade, as well as Hollywood celebrities, acrobats, cavalry groups and, of course, a plethora of marching bands. And then, there’s the grand finale, the appearance of Santa Claus – reminding all the kids what holiday comes next on the calendar. There was always plenty of entertainment value in the Macy’s Thanksgiving’s Day Parade, and many former kids fondly remember sitting in front of the television, enthralled by the spectacle and eager to see Santa, as the house slowly filled with the aromas of a pending feast.

And once the parade wound down, once all the ravenous beasts we lovingly refer to as family devoured the smorgasbord of food, many of us took part in perhaps the most beloved ritual of the holiday, a well-deserved, turkey-induced, nap. And hopefully, amidst all the hoopla, we all found a chunk of time along the way to remember to be thankful for all that we have – for our family, friends, good fortune and a slightly larger waist size.

If you have fond memories of Thanksgivings past, or perhaps an entertaining horror story, we welcome all of your memories in our comments section, as we reflect upon this special holiday, here at Retroland.

6 Responses to “Thanksgiving”

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  1. jennifer harris says:

    I always watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since I was a child. I always loved thanksgiving dinner.I love Pumpkin pie.

  2. Jennifer harris says:

    I always loved Thanksgiving. I always Watched Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,since I was a child,I would go to my grandparents house,that stopped at 1989 0r 1990,when Grandmama became sick with Congestive heart Failure. Turkey,Stuffing,Mashed Potatos and gravy,Cranberry Sauce,Pumpkin Pie with Ice Cream.

  3. My fondest memory of Thanksgiving growing up was always helping my Grandmother make the stuffing the night before. My job was tearing apart the loaves of bread into pieces. The smell of the onions and celery and spices going in, was always a pleasent memory.

  4. Gina says:

    I have a personal tradition of saying a prayer with little emphasis on current needs, and more emphasis on things I am thankful for. Not just the big things, like food and shelter, but the little things, like the books on my shelves. You know, Norman Vincent Peale once said something to the effect of if you begin each day with a two minute prayer of thanksgiving, you will feel much better the rest of the day. I’ve been trying lately to add more thanksgiving to my prayers everyday, not just on Thanksgiving Day.

  5. Emily says:

    I’m Canadian, so we do our Thanksgiving in October, before Halloween.

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