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    Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

    Americans are marking the annual Thanksgiving holiday Thursday with meals, family visits and bargain shopping.

    The holiday is a time for giving thanks, often at family gatherings with feasts centering around turkeys with an array of traditional side dishes and desserts.

    In New York, police gave Snoopy and the rest of the iconic, giant balloons the all-clear to fly during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Forecasts had called for winds close to the maximum speed before balloons would have been grounded.

    The day before Thanksgiving is considered the busiest travel day in the United States. The American Automobile Association estimates that more than 43 million people are expected to travel 80 kilometers or more this week. Wintry storms have slowed travel this year with snowy and icy roads and thousands of flight delays.

    On the day before Thanksgiving, U.S. President Barack 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. The Obamas will mark the holiday at the White House.

    Americans also gather for religious services, watch professional football games, and volunteer at food banks and other charities to mark the holiday.



    Another Thanksgiving tradition is massive annual sales across the country to 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.

    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.

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