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Trading turkey week

Bull market this Thanksgiving...
Noel Hendrickson (L) & Juan Pelegrin (R) | Getty Images
Bull market this Thanksgiving...

For Wall Street, it turns out that Thanksgiving week is as much about bulls as turkeys.

On average, over the past two decades, all three major stock indices finished up in the three days before Thanksgiving. But the gains didn't stop there. Historically, stocks have risen on Black Friday and all the way through to Christmas.

In fact, the S&P 500 posted the largest average gain in the three days before Thanksgiving, while the Nasdaq tends to lead in all the other periods.

This year, however, the Nasdaq is taking the lead. All three indices were higher Wednesday afternoon, but the Nasdaq is leading on the week while the Dow and S&P are both basically flat. The Nasdaq was up 0.7 in the first two days of the week, hitting new 13-year highs. The Dow and S&P were each had one down day this week.

The trend in recent years seems to be a bit different, according to "Stock Trader's Almanac" publisher Jeff Hirsch.

"Thanksgiving seasonality had been historically where it used to be the Wednesday before and the Friday after were pretty strong, but what we're finding more recently is it's best to get into the market if you're going to be short-term trading in the weakness the week before and sell into the strength just prior to or after Thanksgiving," Hirsch recently told CNBC.com's Market Insider. "It doesn't always come in the same place. It's not cut and dry."

(Read More: Stocks could keep trotting before Turkey Day)

Here is a breakdown on how the market performed in the past 20 years:

Three days prior to Thanksgiving (S&P posted the largest average gain, but up only half of the time.)

  • Dow Jones posted an average gain of 0.24 percent
  • Up 55 percent of the time
  • The index rose more than 1 percent eight of the last 11 times it was positive
  • It fell more than 1 percent five of the last nine times it was negative


  • S&P 500 posted an average gain of 0.42 percent
  • Up 50 percent of the time
  • Rose more than 1 percent six of the last 10 times it was positive
  • Fell more than 1 percent five of the last 10 times it was negative


  • Nasdaq posted an average gain of 0.23 percent
  • Up 65 percent of the time
  • Rose more than 1 percent 10 of the last 13 times it was positive
  • Fell more than 1 percent each of the last seven times it was negative


Black Friday (The Nasdaq tends to outperform.)

  • Dow Jones posted an average gain of 0.22 percent
  • Up 65 percent of the time


  • S&P 500 posted an average gain of 0.28 percent
  • Up 65 percent of the time


  • Nasdaq posted an average gain of 0.59 percent
  • Up 70 percent of the time
  • Rose more than 1 percent five of the last 14 times it was positive


Week after Thanksgiving (All three indexes have been up the last four years; the Nasdaq tends to outperform when positive.)

  • Dow Jones posted an average gain of 0.52 percent
  • Up 60 percent of the time
  • Gained 2.63 percent, on average, the last four times
  • Rose more than 1 percent six of the last 12 times it was positive


  • S&P 500 posted an average gain of 0.50 percent
  • Up 60 percent of the time
  • Gained 3.05 percent, on average, the last four times
  • Rose more than 1 percent seven of the last 12 times it was positive


  • Nasdaq posted an average gain of 0.56 percent
  • Up 65 percent of the time
  • Gained 3.48 percent, on average, the last four times
  • Rose more than 1 percent 11 of the last 13 times it was positive


Thanksgiving to Christmas (All the indexes have been up the last four years, with the S&P up 75 percent of the time.)

  • Dow Jones posted an average gain of 1.66 percent
  • Up 70 percent of the time
  • Gained 3.86 percent, on average, the last four times
  • Rose more than 1 percent 12 of the last 14 times it was positive


  • S&P 500 posted an average gain of 1.53 percent
  • Up 75 percent of the time
  • Gained 4.37 percent, on average, the last four times
  • Rose more than 1 percent 11 of the last 15 times it was positive


  • Nasdaq posted an average gain of 1.77 percent
  • Up 65 percent of the time
  • Gained 4.7 percent, on average, the last four times
  • Rose more than 1 percent 11 of the last 13 times it was positive

BY CNBC's Giovanny Moreano. Follow him on Twitter: @giovannymoreano