1. THE TURKEY TROT
A turkey trot is a fun run or footrace, usually of the long-distance variety, that is held on or around Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Traditionally, turkey trots are held because Americans anticipate indulgent Thanksgiving feasts and run in turkey trots to burn off calories before the big meal.
Some organizations hold their turkey trots the week prior to Thanksgiving in order to provide festive holiday meals to homeless and low-income families in their community. First prize for winning turkey trots is often an actual frozen turkey that the winner can use for his or her family’s Thanksgiving feast.
The oldest known turkey trot footrace took place in Buffalo, New York, and has been happening every year since 1896. Nearly 13,000 runners participated in the 4.97 mile race last year.
From 1939 to 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up by a week. In 1939, Thanksgiving, traditionally held on the last Thursday of November, fell on the 30th. Since enough people would wait until after Thanksgiving to start their Christmas shopping, Roosevelt was concerned that having the holiday so late in the month would mess up retail sales at a time when he was trying hard to pull Americans out of the Great Depression.
It didn’t entirely go over well though—some states observed FDR’s change, and others celebrated what was being called the “Republican” Thanksgiving on the traditional, last-Thursday date. Today, we’ve basically split the difference—Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday of November, regardless of whether that’s the last Thursday of the month or not.
3. BUY NOTHING DAY
Since 1952, Black Friday (the day following Thanksgiving Day) has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US. And in retaliation for Black Friday, there’s Buy Nothing Day. To protest consumerism, many people informally celebrate BND. It was first “celebrated” in 1992, but didn’t settle on its day-after-Thanksgiving date until 1997, where it has been ever since.
4. THE PRESIDENTIAL TURKEY PARDON
The story goes that since at least Harry Truman, it has been tradition for the President of the US to save a couple of birds from becoming someone’s feast. Records only go back to George H.W. Bush doing it, though some say the tradition goes all the way back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son’s pet turkey.
In recent years, the public has gotten to name the turkeys in online polls; the paired turkeys have gotten creative names such as Stars and Stripes, Biscuit and Gravy and Marshmallow and Yam.
5. THANKSGIVING PARADES
Everyone knows about the Macy’s Parade, but for a more historically accurate parade, check out America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth. The America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade is an annual parade held in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The parade, which began in 1996, is traditionally held the weekend before Thanksgiving and draws its name from the fact that Plymouth Colony was the landing point of the Pilgrims involved in the traditional “First Thanksgiving” in the early 1620s.
Unlike most Thanksgiving parades, which include giant balloons of popular characters, the America’s Hometown parade has a strict theme. Each element in the parade is based on the history of the United States and arranged in chronological order, with five divisions separated by century: the colonial period of the 17th century, the Revolutionary period of the 18th century, the Civil War and pioneer periods of the 19th century, military and automotive showcases from the 20th and 21st centuries, and the closing division, the last of which includes the traditional Santa Claus float.