Making a wish with a wishbone

Have you ever wondered why people fight over the chance to break a wishbone?

A wishbone is the front of a bird’s breastbone: the furcula. It’s formed by the connection of two clavicles. The superstition, where two people grab either end of the dried bone and pull to see who gets the larger pieces, has a long history.

As early as the 15th Century, and before turkeys were introduced to Europe, geese bones were used to foresee the future and predict the upcoming winter. Wars were waged based on the bones’ predictions.

Clergy in the 17th Century even tried to tried to stop people from using the bones as a form of superstition. Despite their best efforts, the practice continued–and was brought over to America.

Now, the wishbone is less about prediction and more about making a wish. It’s even called the merry-making bone. But make no bones about it. There’s nothing merry about killing a turkey.

If you want to see if you get a “lucky break” or a “bad break” without including a carcass at your thanksgiving meal, you’ve got options. I suppose a v-shaped twig would work. My husband and I tried a similar tug-o-war with two grapes and a stem and it was also successful (he got the bigger piece, and hence the opportunity to make a wish).

grape wishbone

There’s even a company that sells synthetic wishbones for families who want more than just one wishbone per meal. Their site specifically mentions that their product is suitable for vegetarians.

So no matter how you break it, you can have a fun Thanksgiving, keep the traditions you like, and ditch the cruelty.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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