Thanksgiving is a day filled with moments for families and traditions? Does your family celebrate Thanksgiving in a certain way each year? We stay in the area for the holiday, spending the day with family at the house large enough to support the most people. Certain relatives can be counted on to bring their “special recipe” for food. The day is spent being thankful for the blessings of the year and the presence of family. About 100 million Americans will observe the day of traditions with family.

One of the newest American traditions for Thanksgiving is to gather family and friends on the couch and binge-watch the television. More than any other American holiday, Thanksgiving is one that is centered on the television. Perhaps because a television is almost always visible from the dinner table, expectations for viewership this Thursday will exceed 125 million. Broadcast networks are ready to take advantage of the audience through glitzy commercials and marquee programming.

Television festivities will kick off around 9 a.m. in the east with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC. Television researchers guess that about 45 million people will watch at least a portion of the parade on Thursday morning. An additional eight million or so will watch the parade on CBS, which has unofficial coverage of the activities in New York. Macy’s is known for its iconic balloons and Broadway style entertainment. The parade started in 1924.

Parades used to rule the television airwaves on Thanksgiving. The oldest parade in the United States belongs to Philadelphia. It began in 1920 as the Gimbel’s Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsored by the Gimbel department stores. The Gimbel’s parade was one of four or five that used to be broadcast on television years ago. Today, the parade continues through the streets of Philadelphia but is sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Tied with the Macy’s parade for the second-oldest parade of the day is America’s Thanksgiving Parade held in Detroit. The tradition was started by the J. L. Hudson Company, also a department store chain at the time. The idea was developed by Hudson after the success of the rival Canadian Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade in Toronto. One of the unique features of the Detroit parade are papier-mache’ heads carried by individuals marching through the streets. The heads are made in Viareggio, Italy. More than 4,500 volunteers make this parade possible.

Officially dubbed as Uncle Dan’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, WGN-TV will broadcast “Chicago’s Grand Holiday Tradition” on Thursday. The parade started in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression. Chicago leaders were searching for ways to boost the economy and the spirits of residents. The original caravan was filled with bands and toys and merchandise from the businesses on State Street. The day was exciting but freezing — dangerously below zero temperatures plagued Chicago and most of the state of Illinois. McDonald’s, Marshall Fields, Brach’s Confections and Target each has sponsored the event at various times.

After the parades, television viewing goes to the dogs — literally — while we eat our feasts of delicious goodies. The National Dog Show will hold onto about 20 million viewers. The show is an all-breed show sanctioned by the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. Founded in 1879, the show has been held faithfully each year since 1933. NBC has carried the event since 2002.

The Food Network tries to keep us remembering that Thanksgiving is all about the food. Challenges, Wars, and everything but a food fight has been peppering (sorry) the network’s hours all month. Its top 50 recipes for turkey, side dishes, appetizers and desserts from chefs like Giada DeLaurentiis, Bobby Flay, the Barefoot Contessa and Guy Fieri are available on the network's website if you need last-minute ideas. There is even a hotline number to call if you stumble in the kitchen.

Would we be able to talk about television on Thanksgiving without talking about sports? Since its inception in 1920, the National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving. Since 1934, one game has been hosted by the Detroit Lions. A second game has featured the Dallas Cowboys since 1966. The league introduced a Thursday night game in 2006, making a third prime-time performance, though it has no specific host.

Thanksgiving Day football was once a tradition among high schools and colleges in America. Today, most of the day’s football is played in the NFL. One of the greatest rivalries in the sport is held between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. The Bears and Lions meet each year, but have played 17 times on Thanksgiving. The teams first met in 1930 when the Lions were the Portsmouth, Ohio, Spartans. The teams have played each other 180 times over the years with Chicago winning a hundred of the games. The two teams play again this Thanksgiving.

Basketball, college football, hockey and a variety of other sports will receive television coverage on Thanksgiving, too. But the fiercest, most brutal sport will take place on Thanksgiving, but because of the gruesomeness, will not be broadcast on television. Seventeen retail chain stores begin their Black Friday extravaganzas on Thursday. If mapping out the shopping patterns is a Thanksgiving tradition for your family, many stores from Big Lots to Walmart usually begin their shopping hours around 5 or 6 p.m. Some stores, though, are open all day. Be sure to check the local stores for their specific hours.

From the Catbird Seat, Thanksgiving is a holiday set aside to celebrate families and traditions. It is a day to recognize the blessings that we share as a people and a nation. In the midst of the hectic pace of the day, carve out more than the turkey. Carve out time to let the people who are important to you know that you care.

Tom May is a freelance writer and educator, and a columnist for the News and Tribune. Reach him at

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