EDITOR'S NOTE: A former Sullivan and Charleston resident, Jerry Ginther writes a column the first Tuesday of each month in the JG-TC with his remembrances of years gone by in Charleston, Sullivan and the area.
Of course the turkey is part of the meal, but not all of the meal. And, the day is not all about eating the meal. What else takes place on this national holiday in America? I’ll throw in a few extra features associated with the day that we are pleased to call traditions.
One of the largest parades in America, known as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, begins the celebration in New York City at 9 a.m. It originates at 77th Street and Central Park West and terminates at Herald Square and 34th Street at approximately noon. Each year thousands of spectators line the parade route, and millions more watch by television to view this parade as it makes its way through the city. With its impressive floats, marching bands, and helium filled balloons floating several stories in the air, it has been a Thanksgiving Day tradition since 1924.
I said in last year’s column that Thanksgiving Day is an American tradition because it has been observed since colonial times. Our décor still includes napkins and tablecloths with images of turkeys, pilgrims and pumpkins. However, it was observed nationally by presidential proclamations until 1941. In November of that year, President Roosevelt signed a bill establishing the fourth Thursday as the official Thanksgiving Day for America.
We are aware that there are turkeys that do not meet up with the hatchet, and therefore do not become part of the Thanksgiving Day meal. This is not merely because of a huge surplus of fat turkeys. No, it’s because of another special celebration that does include the turkey, but not as the main course of the meal. Each year the president of the United States pardons at least one turkey that will live out his natural life, usually on a “petting farm.” Now, as I recall, none of the turkeys or chickens that we had for Thanksgiving, or even Sunday dinner, were ever considered for pardon, except by me. As a boy I tried hard to save a few of my feathered friends by hiding the hatchets and axes, only to surrender them due to threats of disciplinary action if I should persist in withholding the necessary hardware.
There was yet another tradition, not often mentioned nowadays, that took place near the end of the meal. Usually, a couple of youngsters would take the pulley bone, also known as the wish bone, and each would pull the “y” shaped bone from opposite sides until it broke. The person who ended up with the long side of the break got to make a wish.
Then, there are the songs we have associated with this day for many decades. When we were kids we would sing, "Over the River and Through the Woods." You well know the line, “To Grandmother’s house we go.” And, most of us did go to Grandmother’s house for the day. It was always an exciting time, getting to see so many folks that we did not see often during the year. Now, I may be wrong, but I don’t recall invitations being sent out; it seemed to be a perpetual, open invitation. Of course, the invitation may have been included in the parting goodbyes from the previous year, such as, “Y’all come back to see us next year!” Regardless of who showed up, they were welcome.
As the title suggests, it isn’t all about the meal regardless of the splendid preparations. It is a day of family gathering and thanksgiving, which seems so much a part of our American fabric. The name of the day proclaims its purpose as does the hymn, "We Gather Together." It has been sung traditionally for this holiday as far back as I can remember. It rings so appropriately as the first line begins, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.” So, let us not forget the very important tradition of giving thanks to our Creator for our many blessings.