Last Saturday, while listening to The Nutcracker and installing exterior illumination on my front yard tree, I thought about how friends and family would be celebrating Thanksgiving. In this diverse land, how do others celebrate, and why are some traditions a part of nearly everyone’s holiday?

How Did It Begin?

Thanksgiving is credited in America to the 53 surviving pilgrims who, in the autumn of 1619, celebrated the harvest. Harvest celebrations were a common European tradition. The Spanish celebrated Thanksgiving (a harvest celebration) in St. Augustine, Florida, on September 8th, 1565, and the French in Canada, as early as 1578.

Why Do We Celebrate On The fourth Thursday of November?

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last weekend in every November to be a day of thanksgiving. However, it wasn’t until December 26th 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill, officially declaring the fourth Thursday of every November, “Thanksgiving Day.” FDR previously campaigned several years for an earlier observance; however, it was not passed by congress. He was trying to bolster the economy with a longer shopping period. I wonder what he would think of Black Friday? BTW, Canada celebrates Thanksgiving the second Monday of October. So does that mean Christmas advertising begins before Halloween in Canada? Oh Canada, Oh Canada, where days are short and shopping’s long.

Do You Travel? You Are Not Alone

In 2009, 42 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more on Thanksgiving weekend. This year, it is estimated another 3.7 million will be driving rather than submit to a TSA cavity search. (I made that up, but it could be true). Actually, air flight is up 3.5 % over 2009 while automobile travel is predicted to increase up to 12%. And speaking of being up — gas prices, currently in the $2.80 range, are expected to continue rising through the holidays.

What about the food?

675 million pounds of turkey meat and several millions of pounds of pumpkin, cranberries, and sweet potatoes are consumed on Thanksgiving Day in America. According to several sites – all of them wanting to help me lose those unwanted pounds and endless dollars they think I have – Americans consume 5000 to 6000 calories on Thanksgiving. In many parts of the world, 6000 calories is enough to feed a small village.

Are you ready for some football?
The first Thanksgiving Day professional football game was held on the last Thursday in November 1934, in Detroit. It was broadcast on a radio network assembled by NBC. Although Detroit went into the game with a 10-1 record, Chicago won 19-16, thus beginning Detroit’s long tradition of losing on Thanksgiving Day. You should ask my family about the time I turned off the TV so we could converse. I don’t think we ever had Thanksgiving at my home again.

You Have To Watch The Parade… Some

The Macy’s Holiday Parade was founded in 1924. This year, it includes 15 giant balloons, 21 novelty balloons, 31 floats, 12 bands (including the Purdue All-American Band), 11 specialty groups – like the NYPD motorcyclists, eight performance groups, 22 clown groups, and 20 celebrity talents. It takes three hours to complete, so you have plenty of time to watch a bit.

Other Traditions

Do you take a nap? Studies show it’s probably not the tryptophan; however, it is the turkey, pie, mashed-potatoes with giblet gravy, rolls, and sweet potatoes all consumed at once. How about that forced family fun time? Do you try to put the “functional” in the dysfunctional family? Watch the movie, Home for the Holidays.

Oh, And Don’t Forget To Give Thanks

I have a lot to be thankful for. My family is healthy. My 81 year-old parents are self-reliant, get around, and are of sound mind. I have a loving wife of nearly 20 years, and three cats who tolerate me. My two daughters are amazing. The oldest is a school principal working on her doctorate. I’ve shadowed her at work and I’m amazed at all she manages. My youngest teaches math and economics. Two years ago, on her first year teaching economics, she won an award and was recognized as the best in her state.

We have four beautiful, charming, and brilliant grandchildren. They will all visit during the holidays. They are traveling from out of state and out of the country. I have a great job. When folks at work ask me how I’m doing, I answer, “Living the dream!” and it’s true. I play rock & roll with a great group of players, the Under the Radar Band. What more could I ask for?

So… what are you thankful for?