Jolie Lee, USA Today Network
Thanksgiving is still big on most family's list as a day to gather, eat, watch football and enjoy good company. In the world of retail it is fast becoming a day to shop. Wednesday, on the eve of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, WFMY News 2 asked viewers to share what they're thankful for this year.
Read below and you may learn some things about this holiday that may not have known before.
History of Thanksgiving (USA Today)
How did a holiday rooted in English Pilgrims and Native Americans
sharing a harvest feast become a day defined by giant animal floats,
football and shopping 'til you drop?
The traditions that we now
see as synonymous with Thanksgiving each have their own history. A look
back at the evolution of some of the touchstones of this distinctly
Official Thanksgiving holiday
idea of creating a formal national holiday originated with Abraham
Lincoln. In an 1863 proclamation - amid the still-raging Civil War -
Lincoln designated Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday
of November. Decades later, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a
week, to the third Thursday of November, in part to lengthen the amount
of time for holiday shopping. Some states still insisted on celebrating
Thanksgiving on the last Thursday, so eventually Congress stepped in.
On Dec. 26, 1941, less than a month after the attack at Pearl Harbor,
Congress passed a law declaring the fourth Thursday of November as
MORE: Presidents' influence on the Thanksgiving holiday
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
little more than 60 years after the holiday's formal recognition,
another tradition was born: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Started
in 1924, the department store's first parade included actual animals
from the Central Park Zoo. A few years later, Macy's unveiled its first
ballooned character, Felix the Cat, according to Macys.com.
MORE: How Macy's Thanksgiving parade comes together
are few traditions more associated with Thanksgiving Day than watching
football, and it all started with the Detroit Lions, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.
In 1934, the newly created Lions, in an effort to appeal to fans in
their inaugural season, played the world champion Chicago Bears.
Although the Lions lost 19-16, the game had a strong turnout - 26,000
seats sold - and was broadcast nationally on NBC Radio. The Lions have
remained a holiday fixture, playing a game on Thanksgiving Day every
year since 1945.
The presidential turkey pardon has also become a Thanksgiving tradition, but its origins are a bit murky. According to a 2011 blog post on the White House website,
President George H.W. Bush in 1989 was the first president to grant a
pardon - the turkey in question was sent to, of all places, Frying Pan
Park in Herndon, Va. - but other presidents have also been credited with
offering reprieves. In one story, President Lincoln's son, Tad, pleaded
with his father to let the turkey destined for the family's Christmas
dinner to live. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy returned a turkey
from National Turkey Federation. President Richard Nixon also turned
away turkeys, sending them to a petting farm.
traditions don't end on Thanksgiving Day. In the 1950s, the day after
Thanksgiving was called Black Friday by factory managers because so many
workers called in sick, according to Harvard historian Nancy Koehn, on Marketplace.org.
In the 1960s, the Philadelphia Police Department took to calling the
day Black Friday to describe the traffic jams, crowds and shoplifters
during the start of the holiday shopping season. It wasn't until the
1980s that merchants tried to recast the name as something positive.
"They did so by pointing to all the 'black ink' that showed up on
balance sheets as a result of the day," according to Koehn.
Friday signals the start of the holiday shopping season, but it may be a
tradition that's continuing to evolve as stores vie to be the earliest
to open. Macy's, for example, is opening on Thanksgiving Day for the
first time in its 155-year history. "The reason for wanting to do this
is whoever opens first wins this huge pot of people waiting to do their
Christmas shopping," said Jean-Pierre Dube, marketing professor at the
University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Dube said, "It
wouldn't surprise me two years from now if people start their Black
Friday sales on Wednesday."