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Americans Give Thanks with Feasting, Holiday Shopping

  • VOA News

Washington Nationals baseball infielder Ryan Zimmerman, right, and his wife, Heather, center, help pack turkeys for Thanksgiving meals at Food & Friends in Washington, Nov. 23, 2015.

Washington Nationals baseball infielder Ryan Zimmerman, right, and his wife, Heather, center, help pack turkeys for Thanksgiving meals at Food & Friends in Washington, Nov. 23, 2015.

This year's holiday shopping season in the U.S. got off to a brisk start as consumers gobbled their turkey dinners and then gorged on Thanksgiving shopping.

Several chain stores opened their doors Thursday afternoon or evening in hopes of luring shoppers with deals ahead of Black Friday, traditionally the start of the crucial holiday shopping season.

Software firm Adobe, which tracks sales at 4,500 websites, predicted $1.7 billion would be spent during the 24-hour Thursday period.

This year, 22.3 percent of consumers were expected to shop on Thanksgiving, up from 18.3 percent last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Overall, nearly 136 million people are slated to shop over the entire holiday weekend, up from nearly 134 million last year, the NRF said.

Performers stand in front of balloons at the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in New York, Nov. 26, 2015.

Performers stand in front of balloons at the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in New York, Nov. 26, 2015.

Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama reminded Americans that Thanksgiving is about more than shopping. The holiday, he said, is a day for food, football and hoping "the turkey didn't turn out too dry.''

In his weekly address, Obama struck a more serious note, reflecting on the nation's history of welcoming men and women seeking a safer, better future for themselves and their families.

On this uniquely American holiday, the president recognized the greatness of American generosity, as evidenced by people around the country who use the day to volunteer and give back to others.

"Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims — men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families,'' Obama said. "What makes America America is that we offer that chance.''

WATCH: President Barack Obama pardons "Honest" and "Abe"

Later in the day, Obama made several telephone calls to U.S. service members from all the military branches — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

The Thanksgiving celebration is traditionally held on the fourth Thursday in November and marks the beginning of a holiday season that culminates in New Year's celebrations in early January.

In New York, crowds of spectators watched the marching bands, floats and giant balloons of the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, held without incident under tight security almost two weeks after deadly attacks in Paris.

WATCH: Obama: 'No specific and credible' threat to U.S.

More than 2,500 police officers were stationed along the parade route — the largest number of officers the department has ever assigned to the event.

More than 3 million New Yorkers and visitors lined the route for the parade, Macy’s said.

At a news conference before the parade began, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the turnout was evidence that New Yorkers wouldn't be intimidated by acts of terrorism abroad.

“The people of this city are voting with their feet,” he said.

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