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)
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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid