A Wishful Break

23 11 2013

IMG_8067Breaking the turkey wishbone remained a tradition throughout my childhood until my brother, Jeff, and I were in college. We stood toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye, grasping our side of the wishbone and counting down to the simultaneous tug. The purpose: To break off the longest side. The reward: The opportunity to make a wish come true. The outcome: He pretty much won every time. I think winning is all in the wrist, timing and possibly a bit of luck on choosing the stronger side. But, who am I to guesstimate, ask him! I passed this tradition on to my own children, and with three, the outcome isn’t so predictable.

A wishbone is the y-shaped collarbone, or furcula, in birds and some other animals. This obsession with wishbones began with the ancient Etruscans from Tuscany who passed it on to the Romans. Clavicle bones were rare in Rome, and fights commonly erupted in obtaining them. Inevitably, bones broke. The person holding the largest piece of the prize considered himself lucky. A lucky person must take advantage of his good fortune and make a wish. This notion that wishbones bring good luck eventually flew into English culture and sailed with the pilgrims to America where wild turkeys outnumbered people. Numerous foul mixed with lengthy feasts produced solid traditions.

Breaking the turkey wishbone on Thanksgiving survived four centuries in America so far. To obtain a wishbone, carve a turkey around its collarbone, carefully remove the bone, wash and dry it. The longer it dries, the more brittle it becomes, making it easier to snap. Waiting to break the wishbone boils down to preference. All we really need to carry on this Thanksgiving tradition is one clean wishbone and two enthusiastic competitors.

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