Turkey Wishbone

A common practice at my informant’s house revolves around the beloved American holiday, Thanksgiving. Every year after a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner has been eaten, members of the family are left with the discarded remnants of their meal including a specific bone left in the turkey. This bone is not considered to be garbage like the rest of the remains, however it can actually be considered one of the most important items on the table. Two people hold either end of the wishbone and pull on it trying to break it. While they are tugging, both people make a wish which they keep to themselves. Once the turkey wishbone is broken, the person who is left holding the bigger side is declared the winner and their wish is the one which is granted.

The tradition of breaking the wishbone after Thanksgiving dinner offers many insights into cultural beliefs, rituals, and communal practices within American families. This ritual holds significance far beyond its base function. It serves as a means of fostering social bonds and reinforcing familial traditions, as members of the family come together to participate in this shared activity. By pulling on opposite ends of the bone and making secret wishes, participants engage in a form of sympathetic magic, believing that their desires will be fulfilled if they emerge victorious. The power of the wishbone to bring luck or grant wishes reflects a broader cultural fascination with luck, fortune, and the supernatural. The tradition of breaking the wishbone also illustrates the adaptive nature of folklore, as it has been passed down through generations and adapted to fit contemporary contexts. The wishbone ritual continues to be practiced and valued within modern American households, demonstrating its enduring relevance and cultural significance. This offers a fascinating glimpse into the cultural beliefs, social dynamics, and communal practices within American families.