A Wishbone Wish
By Missey Butler
- As the celebration of Thanksgiving draws nearer and nearer, we see and hear about many wonderful family traditions that take place every November, around this time of the year.
I have my own favorite custom from my early childhood that involved my grandmother, myself, and the infamous turkey wishbone. As a youngster, I would make sure that I strategically parked my dining room chair right next to hers, in delightful anticipation of what was to be uniquely “our own” tradition.
I would eagerly watch as Dad (like a skilled surgeon) would carve the big turkey, carefully removing the u-shaped wishbone, and like a football running back would hand it off to my mom who would then place it in the windowsill to dry. Yep, that to me, was the signal that Thanksgiving had official arrived.
After my oldest brother had given thanks for the food, we would all delve into the scrumptious meal, exchanging large bowls of mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, string bean casserole, and hot rolls.
As the dessert plates were handed out and the pumpkin pie was being served, Grandma would lean over to me, whisper the rules, and then we looked squarely in each others eyes, holding the dried upper breast bone with our pinky fingers.
Our eyes together would close shut, both of us making a wish, and then we would pull!
The lucky holder of the largest bone portion won the wish contest. Her eyes would always twinkle with joy whenever I would win. It’s a memory I will forever cherish.
The tradition of breaking the wishbone dates as far back as 2,400 years, to the Etruscans, a European tribe that resided between the Tibor and Arno rivers in ancient Italy.
That’s right, an Italian Thanksgiving! Who would have thought?
I can see it now ... spaghetti, meatballs, pasta, rigatoni, ravioli, and who could forget…pizza! Yep, it all certainly whets my appetite a whole lot more than plain ole' turkey any day. Dating back to 322 B.C., according to tradition, the Etruscans considered chickens to be oracles and truth-speakers, basically a "know-it-all" kind of bird. Tribe members sought insight from the poultry (mainly the hens) by placing corn kernels in a circle that represented the 20 letters of their alphabet.
A scribe or high priest recorded the order in which the female chicken chowed the corn, which then would be interpreted in the order of the letters chosen to announce a forbearing, such as the initials of whom a woman might marry. The sequence of the letters generated from the hen's pecking was left to the interpretation and insights of the holy order.
After the event, the chicken was prepared and consumed as a meal. The collarbone was saved and left to dry in the sun. Tribe members were allowed to make a wish when stroking the drying bone; and eventually, the tug-of-war contest began.
History tell us, that the pilgrims carried the tradition onward to the United States, when they discovered that the woods of North America were mainly filled with turkey. They then changed the custom from the chicken clavicle to the turkey wishbone. And we carry on that tradition to this day.
Thanksgiving and traditions go hand-in-hand. Each family has their own traditions that make their holiday celebrations complete.
Prayer traditions before Thanksgiving meals also vary widely from family to family. Some families prefer to rotate members, so every year a different family member says the Thanksgiving prayer. More popular, every member says their personal prayer out loud, taking turns, giving thanks for the countless blessings enjoyed.
Yes, we are blessed to have such wonderful traditions and treasured moments with our family and friends that will forever remain close in our hearts.
“Father, give us this day our daily bread, and we pray that we, who are filled with boundless good from your open hand, may never close our hearts to the hungry, the homeless, or the poor. For you nourish and sustain all living things,
And do good to all, and provide food for all Your creatures whom You have created.”
All Glory and Thanksgiving unto you oh Lord!
"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1)
“They will celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness.” (Psalm 145:7)
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