After mostly staying home last year, Americans celebrated a “closer to normal” Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, just four days after an SUV plowed through a Christmas parade in a Wisconsin suburb of Milwaukee, killing six people, including an eight year old.
The president, who is in Nantucket for the holiday weekend, wished Americans a happy Thursday and closer to normal Thanksgiving, the second celebrated in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
“As we give thanks for what we have, we also hold in our hearts those who are lost and those who have lost so much,” the president said in a video greeting, recorded with First Lady Jill Biden at the White House before their trip to Nantucket.
On Nantucket, the Bidens visited the Coast Guard station at Brant Point to virtually meet U.S. military personnel from around the world, in addition to station personnel. “I’m thankful for these guys,” the president said when asked what he was thankful for, referring to the Coast Guard members standing right in front of him on the property.
Earlier, Bidens traveled by motorcade to the Coast Guard station to cheers and waves of well-wishers.
From Nantucket, the Bidens also invoked the nearly 100-year-old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, briefly joking with NBC broadcaster Al Roker.
‘Festive and full of life’
Locked out last year in the wake of Covid-19, the holiday tradition of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
returned in full on Thursday, marking his 95th year, albeit with precautions. With vaccinations and booster shots, spectators once again lined the route as some 8,000 participants took part in the parade that featured hundreds of clowns, dozens of balloons and floats and, of course, Santa Claus, while marching bands from all over the country played. Parade staff and volunteers had to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and wear masks.
“It made Thanksgiving feel really festive and full of life,” said Sierra Guardiola, a 23-year-old assistant at an interior design firm, after seeing the spectacle wearing a turkey hat.
“It’s as if the whole spirit of New York has come and gathered so we can be together,” said Sebastian Pompey-Schoelkopf, a schoolchild.
Last Thanksgiving, when vaccines were not available and the virus started a winter storm in New York, the parade was limited to one block and sometimes pre-recorded. Most of the performers were local to cut back on travel, and the giant balloons were strapped to vehicles rather than handled by volunteers. No spectators were allowed.
With the reminder of Wisconsin again, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday that there was no credible, specific threat to the Thanksgiving Parade, but that security had been expanded. It involved thousands of police officers, heavy weapons teams, radiation and chemical sensors and more than 300 additional cameras, as well as sand-filled garbage trucks and concrete barriers blocking cars from the parade route and bomb-detection dogs.
Entertainers and celebrities have included Carrie Underwood, Jon Batiste, Nelly, Kelly Rowland, Miss America Camille Schrier and the band Foreigner. Several Broadway musicals and the Radio City Rockettes also performed.
Football, parties and more…
Not just parades, Americans flocked to packed football stadiums, traveled and gathered more freely for family gatherings on Thursdays to celebrate the Thanksgiving Day traditions.
Reuters news agency quoted data from the American Automobile Association, according to which an estimated 53.4 million people would travel for Thanksgiving, a 13% increase from 2020.
Air traffic recovered strongly, with US officers screening 2.31 million people at travel checkpoints on Wednesday, representing 88% of the volume screened on the same day in 2019. It was the highest checkpoint volume since the pandemic low of 87,534 on April 13, 2020, Transportation Security Administration spokesman Lisa Farbstein wrote on Twitter.
BREAKING NEWS: @TSA agents screened 2,311,978 people across the country yesterday, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, mak… https://t.co/G4tASMyBWC
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) 1637843296000
Fans also packed Detroit’s Ford Field stadium for the first of three National Football League games on Thursday, compared to last year when none were in the stands.
Midnight after Thanksgiving also marks the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season. But this year, retailers started promoting online “holiday deals” as early as September.
A brief history
The annual national holiday in the United States and Canada is usually the celebration of a good harvest and other blessings. The holiday is believed to date back to the early 1600s, when pilgrims from Europe and Native Americans gathered to share the autumn bounty — a celebration of goodwill, before a genocide.
According to Britannica, Thanksgiving is modeled on a 1621 harvest festival shared by the English pilgrims/settlers of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. Plymouth’s Thanksgiving started with a few settlers going “fowling” out. However, about 90 Wampanoag people surprisingly appeared at the gate of the English settlement, making the 50 or so settlers nervous. However, the two groups interacted without incident for the next few days.
Today, the long holiday weekend is synonymous with families across the country gathering for holiday meals, mainly turkey and deserts, colorful parades and the start of the festive (read shopping) season.
Also an opportunity to count your blessings, Thanksgiving even causes a flood of donations to the poor and hungry.
( With input from the agency)