Fullervision presents: Thanksgiving

The Story of Thanksgiving

The concept of a day of thanksgiving has been around the continent since the 16th Century. Explorer Martin Frobisher held a thanksgiving day in 1578, and the French, Spaniards, and English settlers also held thanksgiving feasts throughout the continent, as did indigenous people. Days of thanksgiving were sporadically given throughout the early days of both the United States and Canada, with several of the early U.S. Presidents issuing Thanksgiving proclamations, and they were particularly popular in the New England states. In the early 1860s, during the midst of the Civil War, author Sarah Josepha Hale drew particular attention (perhaps somewhat unwarranted) to one such Thanksgiving celebration, the story of the "Pilgrims." President Lincoln capitalized on Hale's suggestion and made Thanksgiving an unofficial national holiday, which most states made official. (The Southern states had opposed a day of Thanksgiving prior to this, but had seceded to form the Confederacy and were thus unable to object; they eventually accepted the holiday during Reconstruction.) This is the story of the (erroneous) "First Thanksgiving" commonly associated with the holiday today:

The story begins in England. A religious group known today as the Pilgrims were disillusioned with the Church of England and wanted to separate. Efforts to do this in England were futile due to the Crown's fierce resistance, so they moved at first to Holland until they were able to raise enough funds for a ship to the New World of America, which had been successfully settled since 1607. According to records, the group planned to experiment with a communist society where all the raised goods would be placed into a common store. In 1620, they landed and attempted to implement this economic system. Food shortages abounded, winter was long, and many died. The system was scrapped in the spring of 1621 and instead replaced it with open markets and an "every man for himself" system. With a market system in place, and a little bit of help from some gracious natives, the food supply grew to much higher levels and thus a feast was declared after harvest. The Pilgrim community was a devout one and thus gratitude to God was paid on this day of thanksgiving. (The Pilgrims did not wear tall steeple hats or buckles; the image was a 19th-century invention. Instead, for formal wear, most Pilgrims wore Elizabethan-era doublets with jerkins and ruff collars.)

Canadians do not associate this story with their day of Thanksgiving.

The association of Thanksgiving with a particular date differed in each country. In the United States, the holiday became associated with the last Thursday in November by the start of the 20th Century. In 1939, then-President Franklin Roosevelt, in an attempt at economic stimulus and to extend the holiday shopping season by a week, tried to move the holiday to the penultimate Thursday in November. Since it was still mostly a state holiday, not all states abided by Roosevelt's suggestion (hence causing some confusion), but in 1942, Thanksgiving officially became a national holiday, being set on the fourth Thursday in November in a compromise. (Most Thanksgiving activities were suspended for World War II, and the full effect of the new Thanksgiving took until about 1945 or 1946 to set in; some states such as Texas waited until the 1950s to finally get in sync with the rest of the country.) In Canada, Thanksgiving was associated with Armistice Day (U.S. Veterans Day), which was set for the second Monday in November, in 1921. The two holidays were split in 1931, with Armistice Day getting fixed at November 11 and Thanksgiving set for the second weekend in October. The earlier date is mainly because of earlier, longer winters in Canada compared to the United States. Since the U.S. set Columbus Day as a floating holiday in 1971 as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving have landed on the same day. As such, some people near the Canadian border (myself included) prefer to celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving over Columbus Day, due to the fact that Columbus didn't reach the American continent until several years after the day for which Columbus Day is commemorated. (To the Italians, who view Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian heritage, much as the Irish do St. Patrick's Day, I mean no offense. However, I'm not Italian.)

The Thanksgiving Tradition

In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally a five-day weekend, from the Wednesday before through the Sunday after (although some businesses only give the Thursday and Friday off). In Canada, where the holiday is celebrated on a Monday, it is a three-day weekend, with the holiday itself being celebrated on the last day. The holiday is among the most observed holidays in the American calendar, with almost all businesses closing down at least on Thanksgiving Day itself, and its comparatively secular and generic nature makes it an acceptable celebration for Christians and non-Christians alike. Also, Thanksgiving itself does not seem to have been commercialized to the degree of its nearby holiday, Christmas.

Usually the holiday begins the day before with preparations, either with travel (the AAA has determined that Thanksgiving weekend represents a peak in road travel, rivaled only by the summer driving season, despite much poorer weather) or by preparing the litany of food that serves as part of the celebration. The token Thanksgiving turkey (see "Food" below) is often left to roast overnight, or at least to thaw before being put into the oven Thanksgiving morning. The next morning, often some early breakfast is made (such as a pie), and any remaining dishes that need to be prepared are done at this time. In numerous jurisdictions, particularly in the New England and mid-Atlantic states, the local high school football teams play high-profile rivalry games on Thanksgiving morning (some of these games used to be nationally televised, but thanks to ESPN's decision to fill their Thanksgiving schedules with their own self-created college basketball tournaments, that's no longer the case). At 9:00 am (ET US), the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (among many other local parades) takes place and is televised across the country (see "Media Guide" below), featuring various marching bands, balloons, floats, and Broadway performances and concluding with the Rockettes, Santa Claus and his reindeer right around noon ET. (In Canada, the rough equivalent of this is the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade, which has a distinctly German flavor, lasts only one hour, and starts at noon.) At this time, the NFL takes over the ceremonies with what is now a tripleheader slate of games, the first two featuring the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, with each taking on an AFC and an NFC team, rotating between the two each year. Canadians also have football on Thanksgiving, with the Montreal Alouettes hosting an early afternoon CFL Thanksgiving game and a rotating game in the west in the late afternoon. Some time during all the football, the main course is served (see "Food" below), and when all is said and done, everyone can kick back, relax, and digest all that food. (Note: it is not necessarily true that the tryptophan in turkey is what causes people to become sleepy; in fact, it is usually the sheer volume of food that requires digesting that wears one down.)

Footraces are also popular on Thanksgiving in some cities, usually in the morning, with "Turkey Trots" in Dallas and Buffalo drawing over 12,000 runners each year. There also exist Thanksgiving races in Berwick, PA (the Run for the Diamonds) and Andover, MA (the Feaster Five Road Race), among others in Detroit, Houston, Fort Wayne, IN; Akron, OH; Mansaquan, NJ; and Philadelphia. In Irwindale, CA, an automobile race is held each Thanksgiving night, while in Cuero, TX, live turkeys do the racing. Turkey bowling is another, how do I put this?, unorthodox Thanksgiving tradition that has arisen in recent years, in which frozen turkeys are rolled down grocery store aisles to knock down bottles of soda.

Thanksgiving as a benchmark

Note: This section pertains exclusively to U.S. Thanksgiving.
While Thanksgiving itself has not been commercialized to the degree of Christmas, it is often used as a benchmark when beginning the "holiday season." The Friday before Thanksgiving is traditionally the time when radio stations (particularly the 'elevator music' chick stations that air Delilah and the like) change formats to Christmas music for the season. The most notable of this type of usage is Black Friday, a shopping event that takes place at various retail outlets across the country. Among the busiest shopping days of the year, Black Friday (so named for both its notoriously chaotic nature and the fact that it marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season that pushes businesses "into the black" or into profitability) events usually involve the "doorbuster" sale, which involves people lining up at the store's doors the morning after Thanksgiving. The store will open at 5 AM and the customers will swarm the store in a no-holds-barred free-for-all to grab the latest toys as the store usually runs out by noon. Various sites such as BlackFriday.info and TheBlackFriday.com have advertisements for many participating retailers. (For the record, the absolute busiest day of the year for shopping is in fact the Saturday before Christmas, largely due to last-minute shoppers.) The day after Thanksgiving is usually when many networks begin their Christmas specials and programming as well.

Thanksgiving Countdown

Canadian Thanksgiving (Columbus Day in the U.S.) lands on October 8, 2012
There are exactly  days until October 8.

U.S. Thanksgiving lands on November 22, 2011.
There are exactly  days until November 22.


Canadian Thanksgiving:
Weekend prior to U.S. Thanksgiving:
U.S. Thanksgiving Day (all times Eastern Time)


Of course, the most common food that is ever eaten during the Thanksgiving holiday is roast turkey. Generally, how one roasts a turkey is by thawing it (using the "cold water" method, this takes about 30 minutes per pound, so obviously an overnight job), removing the neck and giblets, adding some crouton-based stuffing, and cooking the turkey at 325°F for 15 minutes per pound until the meat is at 180°F. Further details can be found from this Web site. In a crisis, call the Butterball Turkey Talk Hotline at 1-800-BUTTERBALL (that is, 1-800-288-8372).
Another hotline that may come in handy is the Betty Crocker hotline (1-888-ASK-BETTY or 1-888-275-2388), for your non-turkey baking needs.
Other traditional Thanksgiving foods include:
  • Green bean casserole (recipe)
    A recipe using green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions. Nothing says "happy holidays" more, other than perhaps the turkey itself.
  • Cranberry sauce
    Available in the can in whole berry or jelly varieties. Apparently it can be made from scratch, but unless you really are into homemade stuff (and that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially on Thanksgiving), it's not particularly necessary-- or common.
  • Vegetables
    • Yams (recipe)
      Gotta have yams. Prepare them with brown sugar and vanilla for a Thanksgiving classic. (OK, technically they're called "sweet potatoes," but 1] they're not potatoes and 2] yam is more fun to say.)
    • Squash
      Acorn squash and butternut squash are the two most common varieties. Split the squash in half, sprinkle some brown sugar and honey or syrup in the cavities, and bake at 400°F for roughly an hour.
    • Mashed potatoes
      Pillowy mounds... Well, you have to do something with the turkey gravy.
  • Pumpkin pie
    Pumpkin puree is mixed with sugar, milk and spices and baked in a pie crust. Other pies are popular as well.
  • Other traditional family favorites
By the way, don't forget the leftovers. You can make turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, all sorts of items with a used turkey. The meat usually lasts a couple of days in the fridge.

Sports: Canadian Thanksgiving

  • TSN: CFL Thanksgiving Day Classic
    • Winnipeg @ Montreal, 1:00 p.m.
    • Saskatchewan @ Toronto, 4:00 p.m.

Broadcast television schedule: Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)

Last update: November 9, 2012. Well, what I had predicted last year (that eventually, The X Factor would wipe out Fox's usual movie/special programming on Thanksgiving, finally came true this year. Also: marathon programming added. Movies I haven't sorted out yet.

First-run specials in green, reruns in orange, movies in pink, sports in blue, non-special programming in gray.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade IATZ
New York parade coverage LIVE Local programming

National Dog Show
Presented by Purina
Local news
NFL Football:
Houston @ Detroit LIVE
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade encore
FOX 3pm
Local programming
New York parade coverage replay (West)
Local programming (East)
NFL Football:
Miami @ Dallas LIVE
NFL Football:
New England @ New York Jets
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving / This is America Regular schedule
Michael Jackson: BAD25

On the radio

Friday, 11/16 (or slightly before): Wall-to-wall Christmas music begins on most "adult contemporary" stations.
Wednesday, 11/21: The Rush Limbaugh Show airs its annual broadcast of "The Real Story of Thanksgiving," from the book See, I Told You So.
Thursday, 11/22, 9:00 a.m. (here), 12:00 noon and 6:00 p.m. (most other stations): "The Alice's Restaurant Massacree" by Arlo Guthrie, played primarily on classic rock radio stations.

On cable TV

  • WGN America: McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade; Bozo, Gar & Ray: WGN TV Classics; Walker, Texas Ranger
  • A&E: The First 48
  • Bravo: Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles
  • Style: Giuliana & Bill
  • History: Swamp People
  • Lifetime: Frasier
  • Oxygen: House
  • TBS: Friends
  • TNT: Castle
  • ESPN: 30 for 30
  • Speed: Dumbest Stuff on Wheels
  • FX: Shrek Forever After
  • USA Network: NCIS
  • TV Land: Leave it to Beaver; I Love Lucy; The Andy Griffith Show
  • Syfy: James Bond movies
  • MTV: Jersey Shore
  • VH1: TI & Tiny The Family Hustle
  • CMT: Roseanne
  • OWN: Dr. Phil, Main Street Mysteries
  • Food Network: Restaurant Impossible
  • HGTV: Home Strange Home
  • TLC: Cake Boss; Breaking Amish
  • Travel Channel: Adam Richman's Best Sandwich in America
  • Discovery: Alaska: The Last Frontier
  • Animal Planet: Finding Bigfoot
  • National Geographic: Untamed America
  • Cartoon Network: Looney Tunes
  • Nickelodeon: Hourlong Nick specials and movies
  • The Weather Channel: Coast Guard Florida
  • truTV: Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura; Black Gold; World's Dumbest; Wipeout
  • CNBC: 60 Minutes
  • The Hub: Alf
  • Disney XD: Pair of Kings
  • BBC America: Top Gear
  • Military Channel: WWII in Color
  • DIY Network: I Want That
  • GSN: Beat the Chefs; Minute to Win It
  • Boomerang: The Boomerang Zoo
  • Antenna TV: Leave it to Beaver (yes, that's two networks with the same programming)
  • Chiller: Dark Shadows (1980s)
  • IFC: R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet
  • VH1 Classic: Rocky & Bullwinkle?!
  • ESPN Classic: Friday Night Lights
  • Discovery Fit & Health: I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant; Secretly Pregnant
  • ESPNU: Turkey Day Classic, Tuskegee vs. Alabama State, 4:00 p.m.
  • ESPN Networks: Old Spice Classic and 76 Classic, all day
  • ESPN: Texas @ Texas Christian, 8:00 p.m.
  • Versus: Battle 4 Atlantis, afternoon
ESPN3 will carry the sports events on ESPN networks. Oddly they have not scheduled a game for Thanksgiving night (the traditional Texas/Texas A&M is not being played anymore due to the continual upheaval of the college conferences that is making a mess out of scheduling).

Thanksgiving Weekend on TV

Friday, 11/23
  • NBC: NHL Black Friday Special: New York Rangers @ Boston Bruins, 1 p.m. This event was canceled due to the ongoing lockout.
  • CBS: College football: LSU @ Arkansas, 2:30 p.m.
  • CBS Sports Network: College Football: Marshall @ East Carolina, 2 p.m.
  • ABC: College football: Nebraska @ Iowa, 12 noon
    West Virginia @ Iowa State, 3:30
    South Florida @ Cincinnati or Syracuse @ Temple, 7:30
  • NBC: National Dog Show (encore)
  • CBS: Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas, SpongeBob Christmas, Person to Person
  • FOX: College football: Washington-WA State, 3 p.m.
  • FOX: Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown
Saturday, 11/24
  • NBC: College football: Grambling @ Southern, 2:30 p.m.
  • NBCSN: College football: Air Force @ Fresno State, 3:30 p.m.
  • CBS: College football: Auburn @ Alabama, 3:30 p.m.
  • ABC: College football: Michigan @ Ohio State, noon;
    Notre Dame @ USC, 8:00 p.m.
  • FOX: College football: Baylor vs. Texas Tech
  • NBC: Movie: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 8:00 p.m.
This page is dedicated to the memories of Andrea C. Morton (1988-2009) and Eric R. Peters (1990-2010).
Fullervision Enterprises, Unltd. 2003–12 - All code by Jerry Myrle Fuller