Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Wish Bone


The informant is one of my close friends who I remembered telling me about this tradition around 10 years ago when we were kids. He practiced this tradition every thanksgiving with his family after carving their thanksgiving turkey. I reached out to the informant to get some more insight and background on the tradition and hear from him about the significance it holds to him and his family.

Main Piece:

The tradition involves removing the ‘wish bone’ of the thanksgiving turkey after carving it on thanksgiving. They then set the wishbone out to dry for a few days. The bone is in sort of a Y shape. After the bone dries, two people wish for something they want to happen and then stand across from one another. The bone is then grabbed on each handle of the Y shape by those who made their wish. The two participants then pull the bone apart, and whoever ends up with the longer end of the wishbone is said to have their wish come true.


The informant learned this tradition from his parents and would practice it every thanksgiving with his older brother. It was one of the most meaningful and exciting parts of Thanksgiving for the informant and something he looked forward to every year. He is a Caucasian male of protestant faith and stated that his parents had taught him the tradition and learned it from their parents. He stated that his parents had both been practicing it with their respective families every year since they were children.


This tradition immediately made me think of a trope that goes “How did I end up with the short end of the stick”. In this trope, the person who got the short end of the stick had something unfortunate happen to them or had to do something unpleasant. This saying implies that the person who did not end up with “the short end of the stick” must have been lucky or fortunate. In this wishbone tradition surrounding thanksgiving, it takes this trope to a literal level in which two people literally break apart a bone and one person ends up with a long end, and a short end. Similar to the “Short end of the stick” trope, this tradition involves the person ending up with the long end of the bone and getting their wish granted, while the other would be left with a short end of a bone.

The Turkey Bowl


BR: “Every year, we have the Turkey Bowl. It’s our annual Thanksgiving tradition.”

PAR: “What happens at the Turkey Bowl?”

BR: “Funny you should ask, because the same thing happens every year.”

PAR: “So you guys plan it out ahead of time?”

BR: “Nope. Virtually no planning goes into it whatsoever. We have a text group chat no one ever sends messages in and that’s about it.”

PAR: “Then how do you know what’s going to happen?”

BR: “We’ve been doing this for so long – the past 15 years I think but I really don’t remember how it started – and everyone just kind of knows what to expect.”

PAR: “And that is?”

BR: “Well we start off the morning by staking out our territory. We have always played on the same field and, no matter what time we show up, there is always a group ahead of us. As the group finishes up their game, the other families show up with the essentials: donuts, coffee, and beer. Eventually, the group ahead of us finishes and we get on the field. It is at this point that the C family shows up. They always arrive late – like clockwork. We pick teams and somehow they always end up the same. From there, cousin J insists on kicking off the ball. He runs up to it and has the ball pulled out from under him Charlie Brown style. I kid you not, this has happened literally every single year for the past fifteen years.”

PAR: “You’re joking.”

BR: “Somehow I’m not (laugh). Anyways, the game goes on and aunt S shows up. Everyone always tells her to not come because she will get too cold, yet she does anyway. Just like we all said, she gets too cold and complains about the temperature. Then she yells at her kids for not wearing enough clothes. After making several remarks that the game should be over, she leaves. It is around this point that uncle Z thinks he is still a Division 1 athlete and sacrifices his body on a play. He totally hurts his knee and we have to help him off the field. Now the game is winding down. The last play always results in the game being a tie. From there, we go and kick field goals for 20 minutes before heading home to catch the tail end of the parade.”


BR lives in NJ with his family and has done the Turkey Bowl annually for the past 15 years. He claims that it is a way for all of the extended families to see each other on Thanksgiving before heading their separate ways. BR is unsure as to how the Turkey Bowl actually started; however, the ritual has managed to repeat itself every year since its inception.

My Interpretation:

I think it is extremely interesting that the same events have unfolded annually for the past 15 years without any outside intervention. I think this goes to show that people enjoy ritualistic tradition and will subconsciously and uniformly repeat themselves.

Thanksgiving Wishbone

Main Text: 

Thanksgiving Wishbone 

Background on Informant: 

Currently a student, she grew up in an American household with heritage links to her Polish and Irish backgrounds. She has shared with me her many traditions and the folklore she has been exposed to through her experiences. 


She explains: 

“Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays we have here in the States, and with that my family and I have our own traditions that have developed throughout the years. 

Specifically we have this thing called the ‘Thanksgiving Wishbone,’ which  obviously comes from the typical wishbone custom but we’ve added a Thanksgiving twist to it. 

After someone finds the wishbone in the turkey, two people (usually my mom and me, or my dad and me) take one side each and then attempt to break it in half. 

The person who gets the bigger half is blessed with good luck for the year and sometimes we do a variation where we make a wish and whoever ‘wins’ has their wish come true. 

It’s very simplistic but it is a huge part of my Thanksgiving and it is something I look forward to every year.”


I knew before this interview about the wishbone tradition, but I loved how the person I interviewed had her own little family twist with it. I love how Thanksgiving has a standard set of ‘rules’ when celebrating but how everyone that I’ve ever talked to about Thanksgiving has developed their own little side traditions. 

I also find it fascinating how universal the wishbone custom is and how it is practiced so frequently and has remained an integral part of a lot of peoples’ cultural background no matter where they are from. Overall, I find it interesting to see how this tradition has continued overtime and how even if people don’t understand or know its’ origins, it is still something people value. 

Canadian Thanksgiving

Background: This informant is a young-adult Canadian student studying at USC. The informant describes a Canadian holiday that is similar to an American one, with different origins. This is a transcription of our conversation (the informant is labeled as “H” and I am labeled as “Me”):


Me: Do you have any other holidays in Canada, other than like Independence Day?

H: We have Canadian Thanksgiving actually. I mean it’s not about like pilgrims or anything but it’s similar to Thanksgiving here [in the US]. It’s about being thankful and spending time with family and friends.

Me: How do you celebrate it?

H: We have Turkey and stuff and have a big meal.

Me: Is it in November too?

H: No it’s like the second week of October, on a Monday- I think.

Context: This conversation occurred during an evening dance rehearsal during a brief break. I approached the informant as I knew she grew up outside of the US to see if I could gain some more international folklore.

Thoughts: I had no idea that Canada celebrated Thanksgiving too. When the informant told me about this holiday, I researched it to find out more information and found that the first Canadian Thanksgiving occurred before the original US Thanksgiving. While the holiday began to be celebrated later on in the 19th century, it’s a separate entity from the US holiday and represents Canadian pride and family. I think this holiday helps to demonstrate the value of the nuclear family in both Canadian and United States culture. Both cultures have allotted days to return home to family and miss work to focus on spending time with loved ones.

For more information on Canadian Thanksgiving, here is an article by Olivia B. Waxman originally published in October 2017 entitled “The Surprising Reason Canadian Thanksgiving Is Different From The US Version” (Time Magazine):


Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie


Interviewer: “What about the Thanksgiving tradition with pumpkin pie?”

Informant: “So the ingredients in pumpkin pie are largely consistent. Um, most pumpkin pies contain eggs and cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger and salt and pie crust. What you generally do is whisk it all together and bake it. Our family does not bake it at all, we instead use egg whites and all the same ingredients as well as the most important ingredient which is gelatin, which is used to make jello in many recipes. Also, we do not heat it up and it is served cold.”


The recipe for this pumpkin pie has been handed down for generations for use during Thanksgiving. It is important because it is the family’s signature Thanksgiving dish and pays homage to the ancestors who originated the tradition.


The informant (my mother) and I discussed this tradition at our home kitchen table, but the recipe itself is only used during Thanksgiving.


Although normal pumpkin pie is a very common Thanksgiving tradition, this cold gelatinous variant introduces the family’s personal twist on the traditional recipe. Because of this unique identifier, participation in the tradition brings one closer to the heritage of the family and also provides a family bonding activity in the form of cooking the pies the day before Thanksgiving.