By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Millions of Americans will gather on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving – stuffing turkeys for feasts, braving high winds along parade routes and planning for the holiday shopping madness as soon as the pumpkin pies have been gobbled up.
Nose-diving morning temperatures that are expected after a rainy, snowy evening along the East Coast may make for slick conditions during one of the nation’s busiest travel times.
In New York City, the threat of high winds could ground Snoopy, Sonic the Hedgehog and other giant helium balloons in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. City regulations prohibit them from flying when sustained winds top 23 miles per hour, and gusts exceed 34 mph.
The 87th year of the parade has proved to be among its most controversial with rocker musician Joan Jett, who is a vegetarian and animal-rights activist, moved off the South Dakota tourism float – but still in the parade – after cattle ranchers complained.
The parade, expected to be viewed by 50 million people on television and some 3 million more along its route through Manhattan, still includes SeaWorld’s float despite an outcry over keeping orcas in captivity by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal-rights group.
In an extremely rare coincidence this year, Thanksgiving overlaps with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, sparking the nickname Thanksgivukkah and adding to some dinner tables a turkey-shaped menorah – called a Menurkey – designed by an enterprising 10-year-old boy, Asher Weintraub of New York.
In complicated calculations of the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, the two holidays will not fall on the same day again until 2070, according to the Jewish website Chabad.org.
In another first, some retailers are opening on Thanksgiving evening to offer the earliest “Black Friday” shopping deals ever. About 140 million people are expected to shop over the four-day weekend, traditionally the start of the holiday shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation.
That move has prompted protests and an online petition drive by critics who say it takes workers away from their families on the holiday.
With 43 million Americans expected to make trips over the long holiday weekend, according to travel group AAA, a wintry blast of heavy rain, wind and snow across the eastern United States that started on Wednesday snarled roadways and airports.
Even after arriving safely, families may find new challenges in the kitchen this holiday. Butterball LLC, for the first time has reported a shortage of large, fresh turkeys and the cause of the deficiency is under investigation, company spokeswoman Megan Downey said in an email message.
Perhaps the biggest surprise this Thanksgiving is the upending of two common perceptions about turkeys and men.
Butterball conducted research and found 84 percent of men take part in Thanksgiving meal preparation.
More surprising, it found when it comes to cooking the holiday bird and its trimmings, men are more likely than women to ask for directions.