November 24 (Reuters) – The United States celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with traditional festivals, parades and American football on Thursday, taking a moment to celebrate in a week marred by gun violence.
The official holiday dates back to the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving and seeking healing. US schoolchildren are learning to trace the holiday back to pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and celebrated the fall harvest with the Wampanoag peoples. Among Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a day of somber reflection on the genocide that followed.
Americans mourned this year after two deadly shootings. On Saturday, an attacker opened fire at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing five people. On Tuesday, a Walmart employee in Chesapeake, Virginia, gunned down six co-workers and turned the gun on himself.
Those were just two of more than 600 mass shootings that year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, using the definition of four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.
President Joe Biden called the two owners of Colorado Springs nightspot Club Q, Nic Grzecka and Matthew Haynes, on Thursday to offer his condolences and thank them for their contributions to the community, the White House said.
Visiting a fire station on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, to thank first responders on Thanksgiving, Biden told reporters he will try to pass some form of gun control before a new Congress meets in January and may renew his attempt to ban assault weapons .
“The idea that we’re still allowing the purchase of semi-automatic weapons is sick. It’s just sick. It has no, no social value, zero, none. There isn’t a single rationale for this other than profits for arms manufacturers,” Biden said. Presumably it refers to specific rifles, since many common and less lethal weapons are also semi-automatic.
Earlier, Biden called the presenters of New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a televised extravaganza of marching bands, floats and performances by stars including Dionne Warwick, who sang the classic “What the World Needs Now.”
The approach of the long bank holiday weekend usually sparks travel fever as scattered families from across the country gather for holiday meals.
Midnight after Thanksgiving also marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and provides a snapshot of the state of the US economy.
American football on TV serves as the backdrop for turkey dinners with heaps of sides and desserts. The National Football League hosted three games on Thursday.
Thanksgiving also brings a flood of donations to the poor and hungry, a task made more difficult by bird flu outbreaks that have wiped out about 8 million turkeys, making the big birds rarer and therefore more expensive this year. According to US government data, turkey meat production is expected to fall by 7% this year compared to 2021.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Nantucket, Massachusetts; Editing by Jonathan Oatis
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