Thanksgiving: Americans gather ’round the table to express gratitude and feast

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
Abraham Lincoln, October 1863, Proclamation for Thanksgiving

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22: Count your blessings and savor the smells and tastes of the season, for the holiday of (American) Thanksgiving. Many foods common on the Thanksgiving table are native to North America and to the season, such as corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squashes and cranberries.

Mealtime prayers and worship services are still common on this holiday of gratitude.

THANKSGIVING: A HISTORY

Turkey on table, with lights in background

Photo by LuminaryPhotoProject, courtesy of Flickr

Though earlier thanks-giving events took place through the centuries, it was in 1621 that the feast shared by Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans, in Plymouth, that would become today’s American Thanksgiving. Lincoln may be the founder of our annual holiday tradition, but that very early cross-cultural dinner in Plymouth still inspires millions of Americans.

That Thanksgiving celebration melded two very different cultures: the Wampanoag and the Europeans. For the Wampanoag, giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts was an established custom. A plentiful harvest was just one of several reasons for a Wampanoag ceremony of thanks. For European Pilgrims, English harvest festivals were about rejoicing, and after the bountiful harvest of 1621 and amicable relations between the Wampanoag and the Europeans, no one could deny the desire for a plentiful shared feast. The “first” Thanksgiving took place over three days, and was attended by approximately 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.

By the 1660s, an annual harvest festival was being held in New England. Often, church leaders proclaimed the Thanksgiving holiday. Later, public officials joined with religious leaders in declaring such holidays. The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777, and just over one decade later, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” National Thanksgiving proclamations were made by various presidents through the decades, falling in and out of favor until Sarah Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. Still, it wasn’t until 1941 that Thanksgiving was established permanently as the fourth Thursday of November.

FOOTBALL, PARADES & TURKEY TROTS

The National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving Day since its creation. In 1924, Americans enjoyed the inauguration of both the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held annually in New York City—and “America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held in Detroit. To this day, both parades welcome tourists and locals alike and are widely televised. Several U.S. cities host a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, welcoming runners of all ages to burn off some calories in anticipation of the day’s feast.

Recipes, décor and hosting tips: Find recipes, menus and more at Food Network, AllRecipes, Food & Wine and Epicurious.

Thanksgiving crafts: Adults can create DIY décor with help from HGTV, and kids can be entertained before the big dinner with craft suggestions from Parents, Parenting and Disney.

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Categories: National Observances

Black Friday: Shoppers enticed early with added promotions, sales

Woman smiling with multiple colored paper bags

Photo by Roderick Eime, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23 and FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24: Millions of shoppers may have to choose between sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and hitting stores on Thursday this year, as Black Friday sales begin earlier than ever. Days before in-store deals began, shoppers were signing up for email lists or connecting with favorite stores via social media for inside access to upcoming deals, promotions and coupons. Online sales also began earlier than ever in 2017: This year, many stores—such as Kohls—began their Black Friday online deals at the beginning of Black Friday week.

Original use of the term “Black Friday” was associated negatively with the less-than-ideal conditions that occurred from the shopping chaos of the day following Thanksgiving, though as years passed, the term morphed into its current meaning: as a day (or two days, now) that retailers move from operating at a financial loss (“in the red”) to a period of profit (“in the black”).

Internationally, Black Friday—along with its corresponding Cyber Monday and Cyber Week—has gained immense popularity.

BLACK FRIDAY: HOURS, SALES & ONLINE VS. IN-STORE

Busy shopping mall, people, escalators

Photo courtesy of PxHere

Black Friday only gained its No. 1 ranking as the busiest shopping day of the year in 2003. (Prior to 2003, Black Friday made the list of top-10 busiest shopping days of the year.) For several years, stores opened their doors at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, but in 2011, major retailers like Target, Kohls, Macy’s and Best Buy opened at midnight. In 2012, Walmart and others announced sales as starting on Thanksgiving evening; this year, Kohls, Best Buy, Macy’s and Toys R Us have announced a 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day opening, while JCPenney will start its Black Friday sales even earlier: on Thursday at 2 p.m. (USA Today has a list of store opening times.)

As online retailers like Amazon provide increasing competition for Black Friday sales, some brick-and-mortar stores are amping up their own competitive edge this year. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp are offering especially early discounts, making in-store prices better than their online counterparts and placing increased emphasis on products they offer that are not available from online giants like Amazon.

Though their Thanksgiving holiday occurred weeks ago, Canadians have been getting into the spirit of Black Friday during the past decade, and 2012 saw the biggest Black Friday to date in Canada. Online retailers like Amazon and Apple have begun reaching out to the United Kingdom, and Black Friday was promoted in Australia by Online Shopping USA in 2011.

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Categories: National Observances

Thanksgiving: Americans feast, gather in tradition and gratitude

Turkey float going down street in parade

A turkey float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo by martha_chapa95, courtesy of FLickr

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23:  Join the millions of Americans giving thanks and expressing gratitude over a savory feast, as family and friends gather for the historical and beloved holiday of Thanksgiving. This year, news sources are reporting the biggest Thanksgiving weekend travel volume in 12 years, while the actual cost of Thanksgiving dinner itself will go down (read more here.) The cultural instinct to gather, as a community, and give thanks before winter storms arrive has been a strong pull across the Northern Hemisphere, but the widely celebrated “first American Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 at Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. In 1621, Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared such a feast in Plymouth. Lincoln may be the founder of our annual holiday tradition, but that very early cross-cultural dinner in Plymouth still inspires millions of Americans.

THANKSGIVING: A HISTORY

First Thanksgiving prayers

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That 1621 Thanksgiving celebration melded two very different cultures: the Wampanoag and the Europeans. For the Wampanoag, giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts was an established custom. A plentiful harvest was just one of several reasons for a Wampanoag ceremony of thanks. For European Pilgrims, English harvest festivals were about rejoicing, and after the bountiful harvest of 1621 and amicable relations between the Wampanoag and the Europeans, no one could deny the desire for a plentiful shared feast. The “first” Thanksgiving took place over three days, and was attended by approximately 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.

Here’s a fun joke to share: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims!

By the 1660s, an annual harvest festival was being held in New England. Often, church leaders proclaimed the Thanksgiving holiday. Later, public officials joined with religious leaders in declaring such holidays.

The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777, and just over one decade later, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” National Thanksgiving proclamations were made by various presidents through the decades, falling in and out of favor until Sarah Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. Still, it wasn’t until 1941 that Thanksgiving was established permanently as the fourth Thursday of November.

PARADES & TURKEY TROTS

Pumpkin pie, coffee on wooden table

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

The National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving Day since its creation, and in 1924, Americans enjoyed the inauguration of both the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held annually in New York City—and “America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held in Detroit. To this day, both parades welcome tourists and locals alike and are widely televised. Several U.S. cities host a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, welcoming runners of all ages to burn off some calories in anticipation of the day’s feast.

RECIPES, HOSTING TIPS & MORE

Recipes, décor and hosting tips: Find recipes, menus and more at Food Network, AllRecipes, Food & Wine and Epicurious.

Vegetarian guests? Please guests sans the turkey with menu suggestions from the New York Times, here and here.

Thanksgiving crafts: Adults can create DIY décor with help from HGTV, and kids can be entertained before the big dinner with craft suggestions from Parents, Parenting and Disney.

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Categories: National Observances

Thanksgiving: Americans gather ’round the table—and not the mall—in gratitude

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Abraham Lincoln, October 1863, Proclamation for Thanksgiving

Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered, talking, sharing food

The first Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24: Savor the tantalizing smells and clasp your hands together in gratitude, for the holiday of (American) Thanksgiving. News sources are predicting a busy travel season, this year—with low airfares, U.S. airlines are expected to carry approximately 55,000 more passengers a day than last year—and that means more gathering around the table for turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie. (Chicago Tribune has the story.) Those statistics, paired with last year’s 44 percent plunge in Thanksgiving Day retail shopping from 2014, indicate that more Americans just may be deciding that gathering around the turkey-day table really is preferable to battling crowds at a local mall.

HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING IN THE UNITED STATES

Of course, most Americans know that there were earlier thanks-giving events down through the centuries. The cultural instinct to gather, as a community, and give thanks before winter storms arrive has been a strong pull across the Northern Hemisphere. But the widely celebrated “first American Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 at Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. In 1621, Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared such a feast in Plymouth. Lincoln may be the founder of our annual holiday tradition, but that very early cross-cultural dinner in Plymouth still inspires millions of Americans.

Did you know? The U.S. President “pardons” the White House turkey each year, and after the pardoning, the turkey becomes part of the Mount Vernon Christmas-themed display. Later, the turkeys live at Mount Vernon in its ongoing agricultural exhibit. The First Family and friends dine on dressed turkeys shipped to White House chefs for the holiday.

That 1621 Thanksgiving celebration melded two very different cultures: the Wampanoag and the Europeans. For the Wampanoag, giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts was an established custom. A plentiful harvest was just one of several reasons for a Wampanoag ceremony of thanks. For European Pilgrims, English harvest festivals were about rejoicing, and after the bountiful harvest of 1621 and amicable relations between the Wampanoag and the Europeans, no one could deny the desire for a plentiful shared feast. The “first” Thanksgiving took place over three days, and was attended by approximately 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.

Pumpkin pie on plate with rest of whole pie behind it

Pumpkin pie. Photo by Dennis Wilkinson, courtesy of Flickr

By the 1660s, an annual harvest festival was being held in New England. Often, church leaders proclaimed the Thanksgiving holiday. Later, public officials joined with religious leaders in declaring such holidays. The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777, and just over one decade later, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” National Thanksgiving proclamations were made by various presidents through the decades, falling in and out of favor until Sarah Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. Still, it wasn’t until 1941 that Thanksgiving was established permanently as the fourth Thursday of November.

TURKEY TROTS & PUMPKIN PIE

The National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving Day since its creation, and in 1924, Americans enjoyed the inauguration of both the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held annually in New York City—and “America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held in Detroit. To this day, both parades welcome tourists and locals alike and are widely televised. Several U.S. cities host a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, welcoming runners of all ages to burn off some calories in anticipation of the day’s feast.

Recipes, décor and hosting tips: Find recipes, menus and more at Food Network, AllRecipes, Food & Wine and Epicurious.

Vegetarian guests? Please guests sans the turkey with menu suggestions from the New York Times, here and here.

Thanksgiving crafts: Adults can create DIY décor with help from HGTV, and kids can be entertained before the big dinner with craft suggestions from Parents, Parenting and Disney.

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Categories: National Observances

Thanksgiving: Gather in gratitude (and pass the turkey) on America’s oldest holiday

Above table with Thanksgiving type dishes of food and multiple hands toasting glasses

Photo by Satya Murphy, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26: Clasp hands in gratitude and share a custom embedded in American history, on the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Originally a 1621 feast shared between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans, the turkey-centered meal that graces most American tables today has changed significantly since its initiation. This year, New York Times features a look at Julia Child’s impact on Thanksgiving (plus a few of her favorite recipes), and USA Today examines the turbulent relationship between Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Keep reading, and you’ll find Thanksgiving history tidbits to share at your dinner table, tantalizing dish suggestions, activities for kids and more.

Ready? Let’s turkey!

THE WAMPANOAGS, THE PILGRIMS & THANKSGIVING

Days for thanksgiving have an integral place in many faiths, and it was a day for gratitude that Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared, in 1621, that became the American secular holiday known as Thanksgiving today. For the Wampanoag, giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts was a long-standing tradition; for the European Pilgrims, an abundant harvest gave more than enough reason for a celebration of gratitude. The 1621 feast lasted three days, and historic estimates point to approximately 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Native Americans in attendance.

By the 1660s, an annual harvest festival was common in New England—a custom often proclaimed, in early years, by church leaders. Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving in 1777, and years later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. In 1941, Thanksgiving was permanently placed on the fourth Thursday of November on the American calendar.

Illustration on old postcard of boy and turkey quarreling

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FOOTBALL, PARADES & TURKEY TROTS

In tradition held almost as dear as the turkey, Thanksgiving in America has become an occasion for football—after all, the National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving since its inception. Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has marched down the streets of New York City, and in Detroit, America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade also has a long history. Many cities across the U.S. today host a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

RECIPES, CRAFTS AND NEWS

From traditional sweet potatoes to a new twist on cranberries, there’s no shortage of Thanksgiving recipes—find menus to satisfy any cook from Food Network, AllRecipes, Food & Wine and ReadTheSpirit’s own FeedTheSpirit.

Feeling crafty? Adult DIY instructions for Thanksgiving décor are at HGTV, and kids can get creative while the turkey’s cooking with ideas from Disney and Parenting.

Julia Child—the national Thanksgiving commander-in-chief? Read a fascinating history of Julia Child and the American Thanksgiving, and click here for Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie, Sherry Vinegar-Glazed Onions, Spicy Dried Fruit Dessert Sauce and more tempting recipes.

‘Organic’ or ‘All Natural’? Learn how to read turkey labels, with help from USA Today.

Volunteering this Thanksgiving? Learn the facts ahead of time—of how to be the most help—and understand how to really pitch in.

Traveling? Get the 2015 Travel Outlook. For travel tips, check out this article from the Washington Post.

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Categories: InterfaithNational Observances

National Day of Prayer: The push and pull of an American holiday

“Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
1 Kings 8:28, Scripture for 2015 National Day of Prayer

Hands folded in prayer over holy book with eyeglasses set on book and sun shining onto book

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Days of fasting and prayer have been proclaimed since the earliest days of colonial America, and that tradition continues with the National Day of Prayer. The first Thursday in May each year, the National Day of Prayer is designated by the United States Congress and proclaimed by the President of the United States. The modern observance was made into law in 1952, to call Americans of a variety of religions to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.” Gatherings at houses of worship, artistic performances and shared meals are common on the National Day of Prayer.

THE PUSH AND PULL OF A HOLIDAY

Holidays often inspire unity, but many also spark long-running debates as they evolve. Our current observance of Mother’s Day runs counter to the simpler vision of its founder Anna Jarvis, for example.

These days, the National Day of Prayer is an annual occasion for as much controversy as unity. The national team that owns the holiday’s main website is closely associated with conservative Republican causes. They have defined the holiday, not as a religiously inclusive event, but as a day “to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families.” The group also insists that America “was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible”—with no room for other religious perspectives.

Many National Day of Prayer events across the U.S. are exclusively Christian; many are held at evangelical churches. Local news stories scattered across the country, this year, also are reporting that key participants at some events represent conservative political causes. Nevertheless, each year, many groups who celebrate America’s religious diversity are trying to push back against this evangelical effort to corner the holiday.

In Michigan, a Sikh educator and peace activist, Raman Singh, has been named the new president of the nationally influential InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. This week, Raman Singh writes an open letter describing “An inclusive vision for National Day of Prayer.”

FROM COLONIES TO TRUMAN

As was the first observance of Thanksgiving, collective days of prayer were not uncommon in the New England colonies. Traditionally, prayer conducted in autumn was undertaken with the intent of thanksgiving; in the spring or summer, prayer was combined with fasting.

The Continental Congress issued a proclamation for all colonists in 1775. Response to the proclamation of 1775 was, according to John Adams, “gratifying,” and he observed that more colonists paid tribute on the designated day than often attended Sunday church services. (Wikipedia has details.) Days of prayer and fasting continued to be proclaimed through the decades, and in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln established the first official Thanksgiving holiday. Eighty-nine years later, President Harry S. Truman established a National Day of Prayer, in 1952. (Read the proclamation here.)

The modern idea for a day of united prayer came during the Korean War, when the Rev. Billy Graham expressed a desire “to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer. … What renewed hope and courage would grip the Americans at this hour of peril.” A joint resolution was introduced, and in 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed the bill.

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Categories: National Observances

Thanksgiving: Recall Pilgrims and Wampanoag on America’s holiday

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Abraham Lincoln, October 1863, Proclamation for Thanksgiving

Vintage depiction of little girl in blue dress with red bow holding mirror and showing a turkey his reflection

Thanksgiving greeting card, c.1870. Photo courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27: Savor the tantalizing smells and clasp your hands together in gratitude, for the holiday of (American) Thanksgiving. ReadTheSpirit has lots of Thanksgiving-related resources, sparked by last year’s 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s declaration of the first annual nationwide observance in 1863. Here is our extensive Resource Page on Lincoln and the Season of Gratitude.

You’ll find a Thanksgiving prayer in the words of Abraham Lincoln that you can use with family and friends, plus this year we have a news story from a town in Belfast, Maine, right along the Atlantic coast, where people are gathering for a potluck dinner to mark this “Season of Gratitude” and remember Lincoln’s original proclamation.

THE “FIRST” THANKSGIVING

Of course, most Americans know that there were earlier Thanksgiving events down through the centuries. In 1621, Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared such a feast in Plymouth. Lincoln may be the founder of our annual holiday tradition, but that very early cross-cultural dinner in Plymouth still inspires millions of Americans.

That Thanksgiving celebration melded two very different cultures: the Wampanoag and the Europeans. For the Wampanoag, giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts was an established custom. A plentiful harvest was just one of several reasons for a Wampanoag ceremony of thanks. For European Pilgrims, English harvest festivals were about rejoicing, and after the bountiful harvest of 1621 and amicable relations between the Wampanoag and the Europeans, no one could deny the desire for a plentiful shared feast. (Find more historic details at Plimoth.org. Or, Wikipedia has more.) The “first” Thanksgiving took place over three days, and was attended by approximately 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.

By the 1660s, an annual harvest festival was being held in New England. Often, church leaders proclaimed the Thanksgiving holiday. Later, public officials joined with religious leaders in declaring such holidays. The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777, and just over one decade later, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” (Visit History.com for interactive resources.) National Thanksgiving proclamations were made by various presidents through the decades, falling in and out of favor until Sarah Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. Still, it wasn’t until 1941 that Thanksgiving was established permanently as the fourth Thursday of November.

WHAT ARE AMERICANS PRAYING FOR?

Even families that rarely visit houses of worship muster a prayer over the Thanksgiving table. But how much do you know about Americans’ preferences in prayer? How often do we pray? What do we pray for? Religion news writer David Briggs has assembled a surprising quiz on Americans’ habits of prayer. We challenge you to take this little test! (No question. You will be surprised.)

FOOTBALL, PARADES,
TURKEY TROTS & PUMPKIN PIE

Plate from above of Thanksgiving sides and turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, roll, etc.

Photo courtesy of Smiley Apple Blog

The National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving Day since its creation. In 1924, Americans enjoyed the inauguration of both the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held annually in New York City—and “America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”—held in Detroit. To this day, both parades welcome tourists and locals alike and are widely televised. Several U.S. cities host a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, welcoming runners of all ages to burn off some calories in anticipation of the day’s feast.

Many foods common on the Thanksgiving table are native to North America and to the season, such as corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squashes and cranberries. Mealtime prayers and worship services are still common on this holiday of gratitude.

Recipes, décor and hosting tips: Find recipes, menus and more at Food Network, AllRecipes, Food & Wine and Epicurious. Of course, at ReadTheSpirit, we especially encourage you to explore Bobbie Lewis’s weekly columns at FeedTheSpirit. Scroll through Bobbie’s columns and you’ll find lots of yummy recipes (and inspiring stories).

Vegetarian guests? Please guests sans the turkey with menu suggestions from the New York Times, here and here.

Thanksgiving crafts: Adults can create DIY décor with help from HGTV, and kids can be entertained before the big dinner with craft suggestions from Parents, Parenting and Disney.

THANKSGIVING AND BLACK FRIDAY:
A MILLENNIAL PREFERENCE?

Hot off the press this Thanksgiving are headlines that Black Friday may soon be a permanent fixture in our American Season of Gratitude.

Why? Blame it on “the millennials.” They’re demanding more shopping hours on Thanksgiving Day, claim marketing analysts. (Read more in our full story on Black Friday.) Findings reveal that while Baby Boomers are happy to stay seated at the table, millennials are in a rush to wrap up the turkey for leftovers and hit retail stores. What these findings don’t take into consideration, however, is the tendency for millennials to enjoy shopping in general more than the Baby Boomer generation. (TIME has the story.) In addition, most millennials don’t yet own a home and are unlikely to be hosting on the holiday—something that may very well change in time.

 

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Categories: National Observances