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National Geographic Kids
Each year Americans in the United States celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. Most families follow traditions begun on the first Thanksgiving, but many have their own traditions that they follow each year. Here are some of the common traditions associated with Turkey Day.
Most years, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is spending time with family. Many people live far from family members and travel long distances by car, train, or plane to be with their loved ones. Thanksgiving is often one of the busiest travel days of the year!
THE TURKEY PARDON
Each year at Thanksgiving, the president of the United States receives a gift of two live turkeys. At a White House ceremony, the president traditionally “pardons” the National Thanksgiving Turkeys so they can live on a farm.
Traditional foods are a large part of Thanksgiving celebrations. Many families include the entire family in the food preparation. Traditional foods include turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Many people serve pie for dessert at the end of the meal. Popular pie flavors are pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, and apple.
Some families choose to serve vegetarian Thanksgiving dinners instead of a stuffed turkey. They might eat vegetarian turkey, which can be made out of tofu. Others eat squash, salads, or other fruit and vegetable dishes.
Some families include breaking the turkey’s wishbone as part of their celebration. The wishbone is found attached to the breast meat in the turkey’s chest. After the meat has been removed and the wishbone has had a chance to become dry and brittle, two people each take one end of the bone, make a wish, and pull. Whoever ends up with the larger part of the bone gets their wish!
Many families watch the New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which includes marching bands, floats, songs and performances from Broadway musicals, and giant helium-filled balloons! People like to watch football games—maybe your family likes to play one outside!
Giant helium-filled balloons are a highlight of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Thanksgiving is a great time to help out people who might not be as lucky as you. Some people volunteer to serve food at homeless shelters; others donate to shelters or participate in canned food drives.
AFTER THE MEAL
The food is eaten, the dishes are washed … now it’s time to relax. Some families take bike rides, go on walks, or take naps. Others play board or card games together.