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Thanksgiving Means Traditional Feast, Festivities

The traditional American holiday, Thanksgiving, originated as a day to celebrate and give thanks for the season's bountiful harvest. And for many Americans, Thanksgiving means eating roasted turkey and mashed potatoes, spending time with family and prepping for the holiday shopping season. VOA's Ruth Reader has more.

President Bush this week kicked off the holiday by pardoning two turkeys from becoming someone's Thanksgiving dinner. President Harry Truman started the tradition in 1947.

"So now I have a task and that is to grant a full presidential pardon to May and Flower that will shortly be flown off to Disney World, where they will serve as honorary grand marshals for the Thanksgiving Day parade,” said the president to a gathering at the White House. “I hope that honor doesn't go to their heads."

The turkeys' names, May and Flower, are a reference to the ship [Mayflower] that sailed nearly 400 years ago from Plymouth, England to America. And in the fall of 1621, these Plymouth pilgrims celebrated a bountiful harvest with local American Indians. This is considered one of the earliest Thanksgivings. 

Since the 1600s, Thanksgiving has morphed into a holiday in the United States marked by extravagant parades, feasts and the opening of the Christmas shopping season. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is one of the major festivities to mark Thanksgiving each year. Approximately 2.5 million people are expected to attend the parade this year, while 44 million will watch it on television at home.

The parade serves as a reminder that the holiday season is in full swing. This Friday, many Americans will rise early the day after Thanksgiving to take advantage of discounts at retail shops around the country. Last year roughly 140 million Americans hit stores and spent an average of $360.

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