Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November which this year, is the 25th. We want to wish a very happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends, family, colleagues, and customers.
Every year on Thanksgiving, American families come together to give thanks for the harvest and reflect on all the good things that have happened in the past year. The highlight is the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey with all the trimmings, with a pumpkin pie pudding. This honours a meal enjoyed in 1621 when the original pilgrims invited Native American Wampanoag Indians for a feast to thank them for teaching them how to successfully grow crops. Find out more about that first feast on the Smithsonian website
Although Thanksgiving can trace its roots all the way back to 1621, it wasn't until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln officially made Thanksgiving a national holiday. He was influenced by a campaign led by Sarah Josepha Hale, (who wrote the nursery rhyme 'Mary had a little lamb').
It's estimated that every year over 46 million turkeys are eaten at Thanksgiving. And one has a lucky escape. Each year the president of the US pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. Learn more about the presidential turkey antics on the White House history page
The date of Thanksgiving was moved forward a week between 1939 and 1941. It was done in an attempt to increase the Christmas shopping period and boost the economy following the Great Depression. This wasn't popular with everyone, and not all US states adopted the change leading Congress to decide the dates used today.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving has become known as 'drinksgiving' and is a popular evening to pop out to your local bar. Uber has been known to offer free rides on this night. Remember to drink responsibly folks!
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade
One of our favourite Thanksgiving events is the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. After last's year's virtual event, the parade is back this year with its spectacular showcase of giant balloons, fabulous floats, and exciting performers. It's a great day out and a lot of fun.
The parade is how New York kicks off the holiday season, and this November marks the event's 95th year. As usual, there'll be marching bands, performance troupes and the signature giant balloons of favourite cartoon and film characters – but it hasn't always been this way. There were no balloons when Macy's employees started the first parade back in 1924; instead, it featured a host of animals from the Central Park Zoo!
The oversized balloons were not debuted until three years later, and on their first outing, they were carried on sticks before being released into the sky. The following year the balloons were safely redesigned with address labels attached in case any floated away. If you were lucky enough to find one, you could bring it back to Macy's for a prize.
During World War II, the parade was suspended. All the balloons were deflated and donated to the government for the war effort. There was a severe rubber shortage at the time, and the combined weight of the balloons was about 650 pounds in total.
In 1947 the parade began to be televised nationally, and it now reaches more than 50 million TV viewers and almost four million live spectators annually. The broadcast has even won twelve Emmys for Outstanding Achievement.
Macy's own creative team started building floats for the parade in 1969, and the artists at Macy's Parade Studio still design the floats (or 'falloons': floats with a balloon) to this day. Even though some of them can stand up to 40 feet tall, they're ingeniously engineered to fold up so they can be brought into NYC via the Lincoln Tunnel on the day before the parade and then hurriedly reassembled during the night for the 9 a.m. start.
If you're visiting New York, be sure to hit the streets early to grab a prime viewing spot for this magical spectacle. The parade departs from 77th Street and Central Park West at 9 a.m., but the best curbside viewing points are between 72nd Street/Central Park West and 61st Street. There's also an official viewing area along 34th street, but this is by far the most crowded section of the route, so we recommended sticking to Central Park West. Found out more and plan your visit on the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade website
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and is regarded as the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season. In recent years shops have opened earlier, and the discounts have got bigger, resulting in snaking queues and even some overnight campers. The name – which originated in Philadelphia due to the snarled-up traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving – has an alternative explanation too: it's the point in the year at which retailers traditionally begin to turn a profit and head back into 'the black', after operating in the red for most of the year. Knowing where to find New York's best Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals can be a guessing game. Many stores don't reveal their opening hours and offers until the last minute, leaving those planning a shopping trip with little time to plan. But if you're flying to JFK this week, we can help out, with some tips for making the most of NYC's best deals.
So who are New York's big players? Department stores, big fashion brands, electronics chains and tech stores tend to offer the best deals, sometimes reducing prices by as much as 80%. These big-name retailers often use a strategy to announce limited quantity, ultra-cheap 'doorbusters' with extravagant discounts for those who are first to arrive, fuelling levels of anticipation and, some say, desperation.
Expect to find significant discounts on everything from jewellery and watches to designer handbags, sunglasses and shoes, not to mention all men's and women's fashion lines and home goods. It's always worth checking the big store's websites in the days before Black Friday as they're known for announcing some unbeatable deals at the very last minute.
Keep an eye on their websites, though, as they're known for announcing some unbeatable deals at the very last minute. Best Buy's multiple Manhattan locations are the best place to head for deals on electrical items, gadgets, tablets and phones. Previous years' offers have included massive savings on iPads, Kindle Fires, and Samsung Galaxys. Keen photographers should also check out B&H Photo Video, the USA's largest non-chain photo and video store for exceptional deals on cameras, lenses, and video equipment. They also stock computers and mobiles and have previously had some of the cheapest deals around on Apple products over Thanksgiving weekend.
How to find the best deals
As many retailers play their cards close to their chests in the run-up to Thanksgiving, the best way to be in the know is to sign up for the email newsletters of those stores you plan to visit. Many brands give their email subscribers advance notice of offers before the big TV ads go out on air. Some include further discount codes or coupons for extra savings. Check out company websites in the days leading up to the big weekend – last-minute bargains are added all the time – and don't forget to pick up a couple of local papers once you actually land in New York for details of any exclusive deals or one-off opportunities. If you're stuck for gift ideas or want to discover stores you may have never heard of, then keep an eye on some of the dedicated websites that track everything under one roof. TheBlackFriday.com is one of the most comprehensive, SlickDeals.net is another.
The Virgin Atlantic Black Friday campaign
Of course, we're always happy to fly you to New York, or anywhere for that matter, to grab a bargain or two. But we're also of the opinion that making lifelong memories with your favourite people is so much more important than buying new stuff. So head over to our own Black Friday page to find a bargain flight and start planning that long-awaited trip to one of our fabulous destinations.