Thanksgiving Memories: The Wishbone

 

When we were little, my brother Timmy and I always used to fight over the wishbone from the Thanksgiving turkey. We would remove it on the holiday, then set it on the kitchen sink windowsill to dry. Several months later, our mom said the wishbone was ready. It was a really big deal to get the side that you wanted, hence, our yearly argument. You win some, you lose some.This annual tussle actually goes way back in time. Before the Romans, even. The Etruscans were a society that occupied southern Italy before the Romans. They believed that chickens could foretell the future because the hen squawks before laying her egg, and the rooster announces the dawn. They devised a ritual in which they drew a circle and arranged the 20 letters around its rim. A bit of grain was placed before each letter, and a chicken was set down. As it pecked, the letters from each grain would be listed, and the priests would interpret the message. When these fortune telling chickens died, their collarbone would be left in the sun to dry. The people were permitted to touch it and make a wish, which was supposed to come true.The Romans succeeded the Etruscans, and as often happens, adopted some of their traditions. But, just as my brother and I so often did, they fought over the wishbones, causing them to break. It’s possible that the saying “lucky break” or “I never get a break” drives from this ancient argument. As the centuries passed, the English learned of the superstition and adopted it into their own culture, calling the wishbone a “merrythought“. The custom traveled to the New World, where turkeys were more abundant than chickens, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, this is my kind of wishbone.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may all your wishes come true.

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