Americans celebrated Thanksgiving with massive fall feasts for hundreds of years.
The holiday, held on the last Thursday of November every year since the 1800s is meant to commemorate the freedoms Americans enjoy and look back on what they are grateful for.
Former-President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a federal holiday amid the Civil War in 1863 to recognize the pilgrims who first ventured to what became the United States from England in the 1600s.
For many families, it’s also chiefly about the food.
Turkeys, hams, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and other fixings became staples of the meal through the years of its tradition.
Americans consume about 46 million turkeys − usually the star of the game − every year for the holiday, according to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
It’s typically all prepared and consumed at home where families gather around the table or in front of the TV for a football game.
But it all starts at the local grocery store.
Carlsbad Albertsons Market estimated it sells at least 4,000 turkeys a year during the Thanksgiving season, and the store also offers myriad side dishes to compliments the bird.
Store Manage Dave Beaty said it’s the second-busiest week of the year, after Christmas, and is a holiday where grocers especially shine as it revolves around a home-cooked meal.
“It’s a time that we come together with family have a large meal,” Beaty said. “It’s that tradition to celebrate it with a home-cooked meal. That’s our industry and we work hard to fill those orders.”
At the city’s other grocery store La Tienda, store manager DJ Kellar said Thanksgiving is actually its busiest season, with Christmas right behind.
That’s because of the food, Kellar said.
“Thanksgiving is all about the meal,” he said. “It’s our busier week compared to Christmas. Christmas is more about presents and baking.”
Like Albertsons, Kellar said La Tienda stocks plenty of turkeys, hams and other traditional accoutrements of the season, but it also specializes in items more popular in the heavily Hispanic city like tortillas and tamales.
Many New Mexicans begin making tamales at home following the Thanksgiving holiday, in preparation for the Christmas season, and Kellar said his store is ready to serve customers throughout the rest of the year.
“We have everything everyone usually needs. We’re the local place and we’re all stocked for the holiday,” he said. “Right after Thanksgiving, people start jumping on tamales.”
But aside from delectable dishes many associate with the holiday season, Thanksgiving is also a time for charitable giving back to the community and those less fortunate.
The cost of a Thanksgiving meal could be higher this year than ever before, according to market research firm Information Resources Inc.
That could mean prices about 13.5 percent higher than last year, read the Nov. 1 report, driven by inflation and supply chain issues.
Beaty said his store worked to ensure that despite the hike, Carlsbadians had access to their favorite foods this holiday season.
“We have a lot of underserved and underprivileged people who can’t enjoy the traditional meal,” Beaty said. “Those of us that are fortunate enough work together to make it happen for them.”
Beaty said Albertsons recently gathered about $5,600 in two weeks through its “Turkey Bucks” fundraiser supporting Jonah’s House Food Pantry that saw workers collecting donations at the store, and provided 30 turkeys, along with “truckloads” of food and cash donations to Operation Hope.
Kellar said La Tienda also helps without local charities, donating canned good and food items to local food banks.
“We always try to help the community and give donations,” he said.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.