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Table of Contents
One of the many Thanksgiving traditions we have is breaking the turkey wishbone. The turkey wishbone is a forked bone between the neck and chest of a bird. The turkey wishbone is broken by two individuals and whoever gets the larger part of the wishbone wins and can make a wish.
See the fact file below for more information on the Turkey Wishbone Tradition or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Turkey Wishbone Tradition worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The wishbone is the forked chest bone found in any bird.
- Its odd shape is formed from the fusion of the bird’s two clavicles, commonly known as collarbones, at the base of its sternum.
- It’s situated between the bird’s neck and chest.
- It is also called the furcula.
- The furcula means “little fork” in Latin.
- The furcula acts as a strong support for the thoracic (chest) skeleton when a bird is in flight.
- The furcula expands and contracts according to the movement of a bird’s thorax.
- It may also help in respiration.
- Some dinosaurs also had a furcula.
- In the early 17th century, the furcula was called a merrythought. It was only in the mid-1800s when it was called a wishbone.
- The tradition of breaking the wishbone did not originate in the USA.
- It dates back to an ancient Italian civilization called the Etruscans.
- Etruscans preserved the furcula of chickens because they believed that birds possessed divine powers.
- By saving the furcula of chickens, they would still have access to these so-called powers.
- There is no recorded reason of why they chose this bone of the chicken.
- They would remove the furcula from a slaughtered chicken and dry it in the sun.
- Afterwards, they would gently stroke the wishbone and make wishes upon it.
- Upon meeting the Etruscans, the ancient Romans adopted this custom.
- It got to a point when the number of wishbones was not enough to meet the demand as so many Romans desired to make wishes, and so they began breaking chicken wishbones into two.
- They did this primarily to wish for good fortune.
- Two people would pull apart the wishbone while simultaneously making a wish.
- The person with the bigger part would have his wish granted.
- If both parts were equal in size, both people would get their wish.
- This Roman tradition got passed on to the English in the 16th century when the Romans traversed Europe.
- The English named the bone “merrythought”.
- The English brought the tradition to America upon their arrival to Plymouth, Massachusetts during the Colonial era.
- Plymouth is where the Pilgrims settled and celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
- The Pilgrims started using turkey wishbones as well as chicken wishbones. Wild turkey was abundant in the Plymouth region.
The Thanksgiving Tradition
- In the mid 1800s, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.
- Since then, the term “wishbone” has been used to refer to the furcula.
- In modern American tradition, it’s the turkey’s wishbone that’s used and not the chicken like in ancient Etruscan, Roman, and English traditions.
- To have a perfect wishbone to break, the bone must first be set to completely dry.
- People dry it in three different ways: dry it for a whole year, dry it from Thanksgiving to Christmas, or dry it quickly in an oven. If it’s not perfectly dry, the wishbone will only bend and not break.
How to Win
- The American tradition of pulling apart wishbones has become a sort of competition between the two people breaking it.
- Research on how to best win the breaking of wishbones was conducted in 2014 by scientists from the University of Michigan. They worked on 3D models of wishbones.
- Here are some tips on how to get the bigger piece:
- Make sure your hands are dry. This gives you a better grip of the bone.
- Hold the wishbone between your thumb and forefinger.
- Be sure to have a good grip of the bone using your dominant hand.
- The closer your grip is to the base or center of the “V”, the better.
- Choose the thicker side of the bone. This puts more stress on the other person pulling.
- Let the other person do most of the pulling. The person who pulls more will have the greater tendency to have their side break.
Other Wishbone Superstitions
- Divination is one of the customs of the Late Medieval Period that is now considered superstitious.
- Divination is the process of gaining and interpreting insights through mystical rituals.
- A goose’s wishbone, for instance, was used to predict the changes in the weather. People would trust the goose bone so much they would wage wars based on it.
Turkey Wishbone Tradition Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Turkey Wishbone Tradition across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Turkey Wishbone Tradition worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the one of the many Thanksgiving traditions, breaking the turkey wishbone. The turkey wishbone is a forked bone between the neck and chest of a bird. The turkey wishbone is broken by two individuals and whoever gets the larger part of the wishbone wins and can make a wish.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Turkey Wishbone Tradition Facts
- What is a Wishbone?
- Trace the Tradition
- Who Did What?
- Which Has It?
- Words From Wishbone
- Wishbone Posts
- Wishbone Word Search
- Other Traditions
- Bone Construction
- Wish Upon A Bone
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Link will appear as Turkey Wishbone Tradition Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 29, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.