Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

by Elspeth

Today is Thanksgiving Day, when America’s Christmas season officially begins.  It was first celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 when, after a long and treacherous voyage to the New World, followed by an extremely severe first winter, the settlers gave thanks for the following year’s bountiful harvest by feasting for three days!  It wasn’t, however, until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November should be a national day of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is now a time of family gatherings and traditional meals of turkey, cranberry sauce, Indian corn and pumpkin pie.  A staggering 45 million turkeys are eaten and, each year, the President takes time out from more serious duties to ‘pardon’ a live turkey!  Instead of being the centrepiece of a holiday dinner table, the lucky bird is sent to a sanctuary to live out the rest of its days.  Did you know that the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, traditionally the day when the shops go into the black for the first time in the year?  This marks the official start of the Christmas shopping season, with many shops opening as early as 4 in the morning.

An integral part of the Thanksgiving celebrations are the parades and, of course, the arrival of Santa Claus, a tradition dating back to 1920 when the Gimbel Brothers organised a parade of toys in Philadelphia.  The most famous parade of all is Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade which first took place in 1924 when the store’s employees, many of whom were first generation European immigrants, wanted to celebrate the start of the holiday season with some of the traditions of their homelands. 

Newspaper adverts promised the people of New York a surprise they would never forget and the 250,000 who turned out to watch this first Macy’s Christmas Parade were certainly not disappointed.  400 employees, dressed as clowns, cowboys, knights and sheiks, accompanied by floats, bands and 25 live animals from the Central Park Zoo, marched to Herald Square for the unveiling of Macy’s Christmas windows.  There has been a parade every year since, apart from during the Second World War, even in 1963, less than a week after President Kennedy’s assassination, when the whole nation was in mourning.  It was decided ‘that the show must go on’ so that ‘the millions of children’ wouldn’t be disappointed.

As you may know, I really enjoy quirky facts.  One of my favourites is the that Bernard Matthews, the man behind the infamous turkey twizzler, who will be forever remembered for his ‘it’s bootiful’ catchphrase, died on Thanksgiving Day three years ago.  As someone who made his fortune from killing turkeys, it seemed most appropriate to me that he should pass away on the day associated with roast turkey!  In fact, in some parts of the country, Thanksgiving is also referred to as Turkey Day.

In my Thanksgiving window each year there are Pilgrim Father bears, patriotic bears, pumpkins and, of course, several turkeys!  For several years, some of the larger bears have taken it in turn to be the pumpkin as I think you’d agree that it would be too humiliating for the same bear to play the part every year!  This year, I decided that the pumpkin bear should have a less prominent role and that the fortunate turkey chosen to be pardoned by the President should be the star of the window!  

   


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