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Focus on Agriculture

For the week of November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving is All About Traditions

By Cyndie Sirekis

No matter where you live in America – in a rural area, on a farm or ranch, in the city or suburbs, or anywhere in between – it’s a fair bet that traditions will be a major part in your Thanksgiving celebration.

Watching the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ranks high on the list of “can’t miss it” traditions for a lot of people. Although home cooks may hate  to admit it, long hours in the kitchen preparing a holiday meal, even one as delectable as Thanksgiving dinner, can be lonely. Watching the parade’s fantastic floats, marching bands and warbling singers helps pass the time. 

Football is a time-honored Thanksgiving tradition for many sports lovers, whether that means tossing a pigskin on the front lawn for an hour or two before dinner or settling in to watch a big game on TV.

Hunting remains a popular pastime around Thanksgiving and interest is growing. A recent National Shooting Sports Foundation report revealed that 21.8 million Americans (most hailing from small towns and rural areas) went hunting at least one time in the past five years. That’s up from about 14 million a few years ago. Another NSSF study found that 83 percent of those surveyed consider deer as their top priority; hunting upland game birds such as turkeys, quail, pheasants, doves and grouse is also popular.

In the week leading up to and including Thanksgiving, supporters of National Farm-City Week will host celebrations with the goal of increasing understanding and forging lasting connections between the farmers who grow our nation’s food and those who consume it. That tradition was started in 1955 and is still going strong.

Eating turkey would likely rank high on the list of food-centric traditions for the holiday. A whopping 46 million birds will be cooked and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. Most will be oven-roasted, although some will be smoked or fried. In the South, Cajun fried turkey is a particular favorite.

Enjoying other special foods that grace our tables only around the holidays (for the most part) is another highly anticipated tradition. Those of us looking forward to dishes such as cranberry salad with pecans, sweet potatoes with pecans or pecan pie, may have to pay a bit more for the nutty delights because a much smaller crop than usual was harvested. This year’s drought took a heavy toll in the top three pecan-producing states – Texas, New Mexico and Georgia.

Finding out the average cost for a classic Thanksgiving dinner as calculated by the American Farm Bureau has been a tradition for many over the past 26 years. This year, our wallets will open a little wider to pay for the feast, as the average cost increased 13 percent to $49.20 for a meal for 10 that includes a 16-pound turkey and all the trimmings.

Gathering with family and friends to celebrate and express thanks for blessings received is perhaps rightfully considered the most cherished tradition of Thanksgiving. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services with the American Farm Bureau Federation.