Unperturbed by sub-zero temperatures, Santa Claus, Spongebob Squarepants and a host of stars hit the streets of New York on Thursday for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The parade through the streets of Manhattan on Thanksgiving morning, sponsored by the famous department store, has become as much of a tradition as feasting on Turkey on the US holiday.
Singers Diana Ross and John Legend were among performers entertaining the crowds, who braved what the National Weather Service said was the lowest temperature the city has seen on Thanksgiving since 1871 – at around minus 7 degrees Celsius.
The parade features giant helium-filled balloons depicting cartoon characters and more than 8,000 dancers, musicians and other performers.
This year’s parade is the 92nd edition of the spectacle, which attracts more than 3 million people along its route, while about 50 million more will watch it on television.
Americans are expected to consume huge feasts on Thanksgiving day, one of the biggest US holidays, when the country pauses to give thanks in a tradition dating back to the arrival of the first European settlers.
While the tradition has been partially hijacked by other activities like going to Disneyland, watching football and Christmas shopping, eating turkey is still the main attraction.
A survey by the National Turkey Federation in Washington shows that turkey is by far the meat of choice for the secular holiday, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November. About 88 per cent of the homes celebrating will serve turkey, according to the federation’s survey.
The 46 million birds expected to be roasted or otherwise prepared equal about 18 per cent of the 245 million turkeys raised on US farms in 2017, the federation said.
Accompanying meat on Thanksgiving dinner tables are dishes like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie. There are regional favourites as well, such as corn bread in the South, squash in New England and salad in California and other western states, according to a survey by the data-crunching website FiveThirtyEight.
Millions of Americans travel to get to these gatherings, during which the average American will consume about 4,500 calories, according to the Calorie Control Council.
The American Automobile Association predicted that about 54.3 million people will journey 50 miles or more to be with loved-ones and enjoy the meal with family. That would be a 4.8 per cent increase over last year and the highest travel volume since 2005.
The figure is an estimate of the number of people who will take to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways between Wednesday and Sunday.
Two of the top three holiday destinations are Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California – the locations of Disney World and Disneyland, respectively. The other destination in the top three is New York City, according to the association.
Watching one of the three NFL (National Football League) games taking place on the day, meeting friends who are home for the holiday and shopping for Christmas gifts are also popular Thanksgiving pastimes.
Shopping on Thanksgiving Day is a relatively new activity that has crept in as retailers try to draw people into their stores. Before the advent of e-commerce, the Christmas shopping season started on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
According to the FiveThirtyEight survey, 23 per cent of respondents said they will take part in Thanksgiving shopping, which also provides a nifty excuse to leave family gatherings early.
The National Retail Federation estimates that 116 million people plan to shop on Friday.
The Thanksgiving shopping frenzy now spans over five days, including Thanksgiving day. Black Friday is followed by Small Business Saturday, a day on which consumers are encouraged to support small local shops by spending money in them.
Most stores across the country will be open on Sunday, many with extended hours, and anyone with money leftover and an internet connection can take part in Cyber Monday, which is marked by sales and special deals at e-commerce websites.
Another new Thanksgiving activity gaining momentum, especially among millennials, is “Friendsgiving,” which sees gatherings of friends for pot-luck meals in which everyone contributes a dish or less traditional fare like pizza or vegan food.