Wishbone Meaning – What is the Story Behind the Wishbone?

If you’ve ever celebrated Thanksgiving dinner before at home or with someone else, then you probably know of the wishbone. It’s a unique bone found right between the turkey’s neck and breast, which is usually eaten during the occasion.

But where exactly did this tradition come from? Did it crop up from some old family’s dinner table? Or did it have a deeper and more cultural meaning behind it? Today, we look into the humble origins of the wishbone and why it’s still worth cracking the old bone in half, hoping for that “lucky break.”

The Rules of the Wishbone

For those who aren’t familiar with the bone and its tradition, here’s a quick rundown. Typically, once a wishbone is found, the family or group in question selects two people among themselves to break the bone in two. Usually, this is done days after the bone is found to make the bone more brittle and more comfortable to break. The bones are held by the pinkies of both people, after which they make their wishes. Finally, the wishbone is pulled from both ends, and the person with the more significant piece of the wishbone is said to have their wish come true. For sure a pretty, simple and a fun tradition.


Who Wins When You Break the Wishbone?

This tradition, of course, isn’t the only one of its kind. There are plenty of variations of this little game, depending on where you live. For example, one variation involved the winner placing both broken halves in their fists, then closing them. The loser would then pick a fist, and if they found the more significant bone, they would get their wish granted instead.

Another variation involved the same pulling-apart idea, but with a little extra preparation. The one making the wish would have to first balance the wishbone on their nose and make a wish with it. They would then have to shake the bone off, upon which the breaking ensues.

For some of the more competitive folk, there were even some additional rules in place. These rules were often unspoken, with most people already understanding the gist behind them. One such rule was where to pull the bone from. A common trick to “winning at wishbone” was by holding closer to where the two bones met, which some refer to as the “base.” Many people considered this as cheating (for obvious reasons), so you are expected to pull from the bones’ tips instead.

The Origins of the Wishbone

So now that you know the ins and outs of the wishbone tradition, it’s time to dig into its humble beginnings. And by modest, we really mean it – there isn’t anything overtly sacred or special about it. In fact, many believe that the origins of the wishbone were more heavily related to survival than superstition.

One of the first recorded instances of wishbone breaking was found in ancient Rome, where they enjoyed eating chickens, as opposed to turkeys. There was one catch, though – chickens weren’t necessarily as available as they are today, and that made every single chicken bone more precious to the Romans. It is said that the breaking of the bones was done as there just wasn’t enough chicken to go around for everybody.

This tradition evolved from sharing bones to exclusively breaking them, as people started believing in getting their wishes granted through them. Later on, this tradition would then be passed down to the British, which was then said to have been brought to the States through Plymouth Rock. That’s quite a long journey for a game of wishbone.

The same rules still applied back then as they do today – two people broke the wishbone, and the one with the larger piece would have their wish granted. It’s pretty amazing that this simple tradition still lives to this day.

And while the tradition isn’t by any means a Thanksgiving exclusive, it’s worth noting that the term “wishbone” is actually considered an Americanism. It was first coined in the 1850s by, as you may have guessed, combining the words “wish” and “bone.” So while wishbones themselves weren’t invented in the West, the English term certainly was.

Use of the Wishbone in Jewelry

You may have already heard about wishbones before, but did you know that they’re also a popular type of jewelry? As you may have guessed, wishbone jewelry is used to bring the wearer good luck to those who wear them. It may not be as great as having a real wish granted, but it’s great for day-to-day wearing, and you don’t have to be breaking wishbones regularly.

Wishbone Jewelry usually comes in the form of necklaces. They’re made using silver, gold, or some other metal and are smaller than actual wishbones. Sometimes, the wishbones are fitted with jewels or complemented with additional rings or chains.

So the next time you meet your family or friends for Thanksgiving, you’ll at least learn to appreciate the tradition of wishbone breaking a little more. And while many people do it for fun and take it casually, it’s still a great way to lift everyone’s spirits with a bit of lighthearted fun.