News / USA

US Thanksgiving Weekend: Family Celebrations, Then Holiday Shopping

The Thanksgiving turkey has made a circular journey, from its origins in Mexico to Europe and back to North America. (Alison Klein/VOA)The Thanksgiving turkey has made a circular journey, from its origins in Mexico to Europe and back to North America. (Alison Klein/VOA)
x
The Thanksgiving turkey has made a circular journey, from its origins in Mexico to Europe and back to North America. (Alison Klein/VOA)
The Thanksgiving turkey has made a circular journey, from its origins in Mexico to Europe and back to North America. (Alison Klein/VOA)
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
Millions of Americans are heading to airports or taking to the nation's highways to visit friends and relatives for Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday.

The holiday is ingrained in American life as a day for family gatherings with sumptuous turkey feasts, accompanied by a wide array of side dishes and pies. By one estimate, more than 43 million people are expected to travel 80 kilometers or more to attend holiday gatherings between now and Sunday.

Macy's Thanksgiving paradeMacy's Thanksgiving parade
x
Macy's Thanksgiving parade
Macy's Thanksgiving parade
But other Thanksgiving traditions are prominent in the U.S. as well, including religious services and key youth and professional football games. One major retailer, the Macy's department store chain, stages a splashy parade in New York City, with large inflated cartoon balloons and marching bands.

Tradition says the first American Thanksgiving occurred in 1621, with early North American settlers commemorating a harvest after a harsh winter.

More than a century later, the nation's first president, George Washington, declared it a national holiday in 1789. The current U.S. president, newly re-elected Barack Obama, followed tradition Wednesday and "pardoned" two turkeys, nicknamed Cobbler and Gobbler. He said the birds would then get to live out their days at George Washington's nearby Mount Vernon estate.

Obama called on Americans, even as they celebrate the holiday, to do all they can to help less fortunate people, including those who lost homes along the country's Eastern seaboard because of the recent superstorm Sandy .

"I'd like to ask every American to do what they can to help families who are in need of a real Thanksgiving this year," said Obama.

The American Thanksgiving, by law on the fourth Thursday of November, also serves as somewhat of a respite from the commerce of the approaching holiday shopping season, leading to Christmas on December 25.

US Holiday Shopping SeasonUS Holiday Shopping Season
x
US Holiday Shopping Season
US Holiday Shopping Season
But that no-shopping-on-Thanksgiving tradition is fading in the U.S., with some chain stores planning to open their doors for early holiday gift-buying on Thursday night. That is just hours ahead of what is called Black Friday in the U.S., traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the entire year.

In part, the day has been called Black Friday because of the millions of shoppers and traffic congestion throughout the country, from its largest cities to small towns. But the term is also said to describe the day in which retailers have enough sales to be profitable, to put them in the black, in accounting terms.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy and some retailers say end-of-year holiday spending accounts for about a quarter of their annual sales. But sales this year could increase just 2.5 percent compared to 2011, according to one estimate.

Holiday sales could be hurt by the sluggish pace of the U.S. economy, with more than 12 million workers still unemployed in the aftermath of the recession in 2008 and 2009.

One other complication is that the White House and Congress also are facing contentious government spending and tax issues that could further hurt the economy if left unresolved in the waning weeks of 2012. Almost all American workers face tax increases January 1 if the dispute is not resolved by the end of the year.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid