After mostly keeping to homes last year, the Americans marked a “closer-to-normal” Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, just four days after an SUV plowed through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee of Wisconsin state, killing six people, including an eight-year-old.
The president, who is in Nantucket for the holiday weekend, wished Americans a happy and closer-to-normal Thanksgiving on Thursday, the second celebrated in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
“As we give thanks for what we have, we also keep in our hearts those who have been 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 meet with US servicemembers from around the world virtually, besides the personnel at the station. “I’m thankful for these guys,” the president said when asked what he was thankful for, referring to the Coast Guard members standing ramrod straight in front of him on the grounds.
Earlier, Bidens travelled by motorcade to the Coast Guard station amid cheers and waves by well-wishers.
From Nantucket, the Bidens also called in to the nearly century-old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, briefly bantering with NBC broadcaster Al Roker.
‘Festive and full of life’
Shut out last year in the wake of the Covid-19, the holiday tradition of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
returned in full on Thursday, marking its 95th year, albeit with precautions. With vaccinations and booster shots, spectators again lined the route as some 8,000 participants joined the parade that included hundreds of clowns, dozens of balloons and floats and, of course, Santa Claus, as the marching bands from across the country played. Parade employees and volunteers had to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 and wear masks.
“It really made Thanksgiving feel very festive and full of life,” Sierra Guardiola, a 23-year-old interior design firm assistant, said after watching the spectacle in a turkey-shaped hat.
“It’s like the whole spirit of New York has come and gathered so we can be together,” said Sebastian Pompey-Schoelkopf, a school kid.
Last Thanksgiving, with no vaccines available and the virus beginning a winter surge in New York, the parade was confined to one block and sometimes pre-taped. Most performers were local to cut down on travel, and the giant balloons were tethered to vehicles instead of being handled by volunteers. No spectators were allowed.
With the Wisconsin memory afresh, mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday there was no credible, specific threat to the Thanksgiving parade, but security was extensive. It involved thousands of police officers, heavy-weapons teams, radiation and chemical sensors and over 300 extra cameras as well as sand-filled garbage trucks and concrete barriers blocking cars from the parade route and bomb-detecting dogs.
Entertainers and celebrities included Carrie Underwood, Jon Batiste, Nelly, Kelly Rowland, Miss America Camille Schrier and the band Foreigner among many others. Several Broadway musical casts and the Radio City Rockettes also performed.
Football, feasts and more…
Not just parades, Americans also flocked to packed football stadiums, travelled and gathered more freely for family feasts on Thursday to celebrate the Thanksgiving Day traditions.
News agency Reuters quoted an American Automobile Association data, according to which an estimated 53.4 million people were expected to travel for Thanksgiving, up 13% from 2020.
Air traffic rebounded strongly, with the 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 spokesperson Lisa Farbstein wrote on Twitter.
BREAKING NEWS: @TSA officers screened 2,311,978 people nationwide yesterday, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, mak… https://t.co/G4tASMyBWC
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) 1637843296000
Fans also packed Ford Field stadium in Detroit for the first of three National Football League games on Thursday, as compared to last year when there were none 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 mostly the celebration of good harvest and other blessings. It is believed that the holiday dates back to the early 17th century, 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 modelled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English pilgrims/colonists of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. Plymouth’s Thanksgiving began with a few colonists going out “fowling”. However, around 90 Wampanoag people made a surprise appearance at the English settlement’s gate, unnerving the 50-odd colonists. The two groups, however, socialised without any incident over the next few days.
Nowadays, the long holiday weekend is synonymous with families scattered across the country coming together for holiday meals, mainly of turkey and deserts, colourful parades and start of the festive (read shopping) season.
Also an occasion to count one’s blessings, Thanksgiving even prompts an outpouring of donations to the poor and hungry.
( With agency inputs)