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Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving Holiday

President Barack Obama, right, leans over to listens to hear child speak as he helps pack food for Thanksgiving at Martha's Table, a local food pantry in Washington, 24 Nov., 2010.

Millions of Americans are celebrating the annual Thanksgiving holiday Thursday with a traditional feast with family and friends.

U.S. President Barack Obama released his weekly address Thursday in honor of the holiday. He called on Americans to come together and support each other as the country struggles with war and unemployment. He said he hopes Democrats, Republicans and independents can work together to make progress on the economy and other issues.

The president also made phone calls to 10 members of the U.S. armed services in Iraq and Afghanistan to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. The Obama family is in Washington for the holiday, enjoying a dinner with family, friends, and staff.

The U.S. Thanksgiving celebration is centered on a meal typically including turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Some people spend part of the day volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens, where free meals are served to those without a home.

The day before Thanksgiving traditionally is among the biggest travel days of the year.

The day after Thanksgiving, known as "Black Friday," is seen as the start of the holiday shopping season. Many stores offer big discounts and open before dawn for a rush of shoppers.

The Thanksgiving tradition is based on a harvest festival held in 1621 by British settlers of North America and Native Americans who taught them how to grow food and hunt for game in their new home.