Arizona Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill, left, joins other players and staff of the Cardinals NFL football team as they serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Phoenix Rescue Mission at the 15th annual 'Feed the Hungry' event, Nov. 21, 2016, in Pho
Arizona Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill, left, joins other players and staff of the Cardinals NFL football team as they serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Phoenix Rescue Mission at the 15th annual 'Feed the Hungry' event, Nov. 21, 2016, in Pho

For most Americans, Thanksgiving can be a holiday of excesses. Too much food at the traditional family dinner, too much football on TV, too many parades starting off the holiday season, followed by too much shopping on Black Friday.

But no amount of loosening of the purse strings will likely compare to the most expensive Thanksgiving dinner for 10 offered last year by the Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York: $76,000 for a dinner for 10. The restaurant refused to say if the dinner is being offered this year as it has been for four previous years.

The good news is the average Thanksgiving dinner will cost far, far less.

The average nationwide cost of a holiday meal for 10 people is $48.90, or less than $5 per person, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

A chunk of the savings is due to turkey prices, which at $1.36 per pound, are at their lowest since 2014. The prices of other traditional menu items, including rolls, sweet potatoes, peas and milk, are also lower this year.

Sandeen graphic: Thanksgiving Meal for 10 cost

 

 

Food, of course, is the focal point of the American holiday that falls on the fourth Thursday of November and commemorates the autumn harvest feast shared by Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians in 1621.

While the traditions of the holiday are modeled after what is believed to have been the first Thanksgiving, it didn't become a national holiday until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it so in 1863 and gave it a specific date, more than 200 years after that first dinner.

Other than a good meal, the original feast doesn't have much in common with the all-American holiday celebrated today. Venison, or deer meat, is said to have been the main protein, although turkey did make an appearance, alongside duck and geese.

FILE - One of the National Thanksgiving Turkeys is
National Turkey Federation Chairman Jeff Sveen presents one of the National Thanksgiving Turkeys to members of the press before U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the 71st national turkey pardoning at the White House in Washington, U.S., Nov. 20, 2018.

These days, turkey is definitely the meat of choice, followed by ham. The National Turkey Federation said about 44 million turkeys were served for Thanksgiving last year. In a survey conducted by the group, 88 percent said their holiday meal includes turkey, which 39 percent also said ranked as the favorite dish. The other top dishes in the survey: stuffing and pumpkin pie.

According to a YouGov/Huffingtonpost survey in 2013, 39 percent of those celebrating Thanksgiving, ate their meal between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., followed by 35 percent who eat their meal between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Football

FILE - Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher (2) kicks
FILE - Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher (2) kicks a field goal as punter Chris Jones (6) holds and Detroit Lions defensive back Nevin Lawson (24) defends in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sept. 30, 2018.

But before friends and family gather around the table, there are other traditions to be observed, and those involve the television: parades and football.

Thanksgiving and football formed a partnership fairly soon after each was accepted by the American public.

Just a little over a decade after President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, another tradition was born: football games played on Thanksgiving Day. The first on the field were the universities of Yale and Princeton, facing off in 1876.

Not to be outdone, Massachusetts high schools Boston Latin and Boston English high schools have been playing every Thanksgiving Day since 1887. The game this year is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Harvard University in nearby Cambridge.

However, weather forecasters are expecting record-cold temperatures along much of the East Coast on Thursday.

At the National Football League level, both the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have each hosted a Thanksgiving game since 1978.

Football isn't the only thing television offering, though.

Macy's parade

FILE - The Grinch balloon passes by windows of a b
FILE - The Grinch balloon passes by windows of a building on Central Park West during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 23, 2017.

Since 1924, U.S. retailer Macy's has been kicking off the U.S. holiday season with the world's largest parade.

This year as the parade winds its way along a 2.5-mile route in New York City, it will feature 31 floats, 25 giant balloons flying, 1,000 clowns, 12 marching bands and more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders. The spectacle will be watched by more than 3.5 million people in person and another 43 million via television.

The last float of the Macy's parade will carry Santa Claus, a signal to Christmas, which is 33 days later.

After the food has been prepared and eaten, and tables cleared, Americans will be ready, cash and credit card in hand, for the beginning of holiday shopping.

Last year, more than 174 million people shopped in stores or online during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, starting with Black Friday and ending with Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation.

Black Friday

An employee works on a display ahead of Black Frid
An employee works on a display ahead of Black Friday at a Walmart store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., Nov. 20, 2018.

Black Friday refers to the day when retailers hope to turn a profit — go from "being in the red," or being in debt, to being "in the black," or making money. Cyber Monday refers to the day when online sellers offer steep discounts.

Many stores will open late Thursday or early Friday, and publicize big sales or discounts.

But according to a survey conducted by BestBlackFriday.com this year, almost 48 percent of Americans were against Thanksgiving Day openings, while 24.6 percent were in favor.

But that doesn't mean Americans are against shopping on Thanksgiving. BestBlackFriday.com reported shoppers spent nearly $3 billion online on Thanksgiving Day last year, up 18 percent from the year before.

US Presidents Traditionally Pardon Turkeys Ahead of Thanksgiving Holiday

Getting to the roots of the holiday, though, is giving thanks, and there are probably none in America more thankful than two souls who made news on Tuesday: "Peas" and "Carrots." Not the vegetables, but two turkeys who received a pardon from President Donald Trump at the annual White House event.

As is tradition, the two birds will head to "Gobbler's Rest" at Virginia Tech University, rather than to a dinner table. They will live out their lives there, joining Drumstick and Wishbone, who were pardoned last year.