Americans are marking the annual Thanksgiving Day holiday Thursday with meals, family visits and bargain shopping.
The holiday is a time for giving thanks, often at family gatherings with feasts that center on turkeys with an array of traditional side dishes and desserts.
Americans across the nation also gather for religious services, watch professional football games, and volunteer at food banks and other charities to mark the occasion.
In New York, Snoopy and the rest of the iconic, giant balloons soared during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Police gave the all clear Thursday morning, calming fears that heavy wind forecasts would ground the helium-filled entertainment.
In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama gave thanks for the men and women serving in the military.
"We give thanks for the freedoms they defend - the freedom to think what we want and say what we think, to worship according to our own beliefs, to choose our leaders and, yes, criticize them without punishment, said Obama. "People around the world are fighting and even dying for their chance at these freedoms. We stand with them in that struggle, and we give thanks for being free."
On the day before Thanksgiving, President Obama and his family continued an annual tradition of volunteering at a Washington food bank to prepare food for needy families. He also pardoned two turkeys, named Popcorn and Caramel, in an annual presidential tradition to spare the birds ahead of the holiday.
Massive annual sales across the country mark the beginning of the holiday shopping season. In recent years, the sales at retail stores have started earlier and earlier. This year, several major retailers opened early Thanksgiving Day with special deals for the first shoppers, many of whom camped out in line for hours.
Spectators dressed as turkeys stand behind police barricades as they wait for the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, Nov. 28, 2013.
A Spider-man balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 28, 2013. (Sandra Lemaire/VOA)
A balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 28, 2013. (Sandra Lemaire/VOA)
Workers prepare the giant Snoopy balloon before the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, Nov. 28, 2013.
President Barack Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia carries on the Thanksgiving tradition of saving the national turkey, Popcorn, from the dinner table with a "presidential pardon," at the White House, Nov. 27, 2013.
President Barack Obama, right, and first lady Michelle Obama participate in a Thanksgiving service project by handing out food at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, Nov. 27, 2013.
Olivia Rios, who is currently unemployed, eats an early Thanksgiving meal served to the homeless and others at Los Angeles Mission on skid row, Nov. 27, 2013.
Travelers and commuters walk through Grand Central Station in New York, Nov. 27, 2013.
Chynnah Clasberry prepares to board a Megabus in Chicago, Illinois for a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, Nov. 26, 2013.
Motorists drive north in the rain on Interstate 270 out of Washington ahead of Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, 2013.
Tina Corpus and her daughter, Christina, shop for turkey in Los Angeles, California, Nov. 26, 2013.
U.S. Army Sgt. Angelica Ciriaco makes her way home at the Miami International Airport after serving 10 months in Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2013.
And at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan and around the world, soldiers were treated to traditional Thanksgiving meals served by their commanders to mark the holiday.
Tradition says the first American Thanksgiving occurred in 1621, when early North American settlers gave thanks for their harvest after a harsh winter.
More than a century later, the nation's first president, George Washington, issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.