Americans marked the annual Thanksgiving holiday Thursday with family gatherings, bountiful meals, festive parades and bargain shopping.

In New York City on Thanksgiving morning, thousands of people lined the streets to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A tradition for 88 years, it featured marching bands, celebrity performances and giant balloons of cartoon characters such as Spider-Man, Snoopy and SpongeBob Squarepants.

About six protesters chanting “Justice for Mike Brown!” - the black teenager who was shot dead by a white police officer - were handcuffed Thursday after they tried to march toward the parade route, the New York Post reported.

Near the end of the parade route, about 50 protesters walked down the sidewalk carrying signs and chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a reference to Michael Brown who witnesses said was shot after he had raised his hands in response to police warning.

“We will not tolerate, under any circumstances, any effort to disrupt this parade,” police Commissioner William Bratton said Thursday. “This is a national event, a historic event. Anybody who would seek to interrupt it would be callous, indeed, on this very special day.” Protests in New York have remained peaceful since a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who killed the unarmed Brown in Ferguson, a small town in U.S. State of Missouri.

The rain and snow that fell the previous day made getting around on one of the busiest travel days of the year a chaotic experience for some. The sloppy mixture grounded hundreds of flights in the Northeast. Stores remained open to make “holiday dollars” as shoppers waited in line to but cut-price items. Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 70,000 stores globally, is expecting a sales increase of 3 percent to 5 percent to $2.57 billion to $2.62 billion on Thanksgiving. Last year’s figure grew two-fold from the year before. In Washington, President Barack Obama thanked U.S. troops serving abroad via his weekly radio and Internet address. He also expressed gratitude for Americans who show compassion by helping those who are less fortunate.

The president called Thanksgiving his favourite holiday because “it is uniquely American,” with people “united by the gratitude for the bounty of this nation.”

Obama, who last week signed an executive order that limits deportations of illegal immigrants, said, “We welcome the contributions of all people – no matter their origin or colour or beliefs – who call America home and who enrich the life of our nation.”