“Breaking” Down The History Of The Wishbone


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Chris Palone, Editor

Breaking the wishbone has been a common Thanksgiving tradition for thousands of years and has spanned across multiple continents.

Now, what does it mean to “break the wishbone?”. The wishbone is the “v” part of a turkey or any bird. It’s a skinny and fragile bone so it can easily be broken. To break the wishbone, one person grabs one end of the bone and another person grabs the other end of the bone. Both people make a wish and pull the bone apart. Whoever has the bigger piece is said to have their wish come true.

The tradition of breaking the wishbone has dated back thousands of years. It originally began in the ancient Etruscan civilization. The people of Etruscan civilizations would perform “bird divination,” the practice of using birds as oracles in order to predict the future. This tradition soon spread across the world, going from the Romans, to England, and to the United States.

When a chicken would die, the Etruscans would take the wishbone and lay it out in the sun. It was said that whoever touched it would get the chicken’s oracle power even after its death. The Romans learned the bird divination and wishbone wishing traditions from the Etruscan people. As time progressed, they would do what we do now by two people breaking the wishbone instead of doing what the Etruscan people did. It would soon spread throughout England and the United States.

Today, most people don’t realize the long history behind breaking the wishbone. It has been a tradition carried out for thousands of years all over the world and people don’t even realize it.