Americans are marking the annual Thanksgiving holiday Thursday with family gatherings, meals and bargain shopping.
The celebration is traditionally held on the fourth Thursday in November and marks the beginning of a holiday season that culminates in New Year's celebrations in early January.
The day after Thanksgiving Day, is a day for big sales on clothing, toys, and appliances, as people begin their holiday shopping in earnest.
So-called "Black Friday" sales begin Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, or even a few days before, and generally end the following Monday, known as Cyber Monday. According to the National Retail Federation, about 68 million people in the U.S. say they expect to shop over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama took care of business, both frivolous and serious. He conducted the traditional "turkey pardon," assuring two specially-selected turkeys in a White House ceremony that they would not be made into Thanksgiving dinner. The two birds, "Honest," and "Abe," will be sent to a turkey park to greet their fans in a public display area.
The president also took on more serious business: reassuring the nation that at a time of heightened security, there is no need to worry about terrorist threats as they go about their holiday travels and traditions. In his remarks at the White House, Obama said it is "understandable" that Americans are anxious about the possibility of attacks, but the government has no "credible, specific" information about any threats.