Throughout elementary school, Thanksgiving might have meant making lots of pilgrim, turkey, and Native American crafts. Many people accredit the first Thanksgiving as a celebration of the harvest observed by the pilgrims at Plymouth, and this is primarily why Thanksgiving is accompanied by a dinner table full of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles, seasoned carrots, cranberry sauce, and several pies. Many families also celebrate the day by expressing thanks for every good thing they’ve received in the past year. Some form of Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, but it is always celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November in the United States.
The celebration of giving thanks has many religious roots as members of religious communities thank God for their blessings through prayer and other observances. However, that doesn’t mean that giving thanks is always a religious affair. Many individuals and families will show their thanks by giving back to others through charities. Around the Thanksgiving holiday, there are many food drives to give food to deployed troops, the poor, single mothers, widows, and orphans. These food drives are funded by a variety of companies and nonprofit organizations. For example, the Salvation Army will often enlist the help of many volunteers to fix Thanksgiving meals for those in need across the country.
Turkey Pardoning and Other Fun Traditions
One fun Thanksgiving tradition is called “Turkey Pardoning.” Each year, the National Turkey Federation gives 3 turkeys to the President of the United States, 2 dressed turkeys and 1 live turkey. This is done through the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. The president then officially pardons the live turkey, which is spared and has been sent to a variety of locations over the past few decades, mostly in parts of Virginia or to Disneyland. The tradition is said to have started with President Ronald Reagan in 1987, but this was not an official presidential tradition until 1989 under President George H. W. Bush.
Sports make many more fun traditions around Thanksgiving. Many communities will host Turkey Trots, which are races usually around 3 to 10 miles. Turkey Bowls are also popular. These informal football games between friends often bring a sense of camaraderie and bonding to the holiday. Many other sports also offer special Thanksgiving games, including basketball, golf, auto racing, and ice hockey. Community members can also usually participate in a friendly pie eating contest for fun prizes.
The Days Surrounding Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is the only holiday that is surrounded by days made into special occasions through American habits. Take a look: Blackout Wednesday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. These days have also been made into their own traditions. For example, on Black Friday, stores will have the lowest deals of the year, and any store you walk into will be crowded with hundreds of shoppers taking advantage of the sales. Needless to say, many Americans look at the concept behind Black Friday with a lot of derision: “Weren’t we just expressing our gratitude for the things we had yesterday? And now we’re buying more things?” Still, for families in need, this is a great day to buy a Christmas present for a loved one without breaking the bank.
Veterans and Thanksgiving
There are many opportunities to give back to veterans around Thanksgiving. If someone in your family is a deployed service member, take some time to send them heartfelt letters and a Thanksgiving Day care package to let them know they are loved and not forgotten on the holidays. Here are some great ideas for things you can put into your Thanksgiving Day care package:
- Construction-paper turkeys
- Thanksgiving drawings from the kids
- Package of marshmallows with a bag of sweet potatoes
- Turkey jerky
- Small box of instant mashed potatoes
- Dried cranberries
- Apple cider packets
From all of us at Low VA Rates, we want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving! Remember to give thanks for this beautiful country we live in and for all the freedoms we have because of the sacrifices of our troops. And as always, keep reading our blog for more articles about the military and benefits for veterans.