Thanksgiving Traditions to Take from Television 


Thanksgiving seinfeld kramer turkeyThe major Thanksgiving traditions are pretty consistent throughout America. People get together with their families, share the things for which they are most grateful, watch football and the parade, and enjoy the holiday’s typical bountiful feast of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

But of course, some of us—those of us who have built our lives around our surrogate family: TV—have developed a few alternative traditions over the years.

And of course, some of these television-inspired traditions might not seem like the most practical ideas, or the best uses of our time on this beloved American holiday, but in the age-old spirit of TV, anything—dangerous, idiotic, unrealistic, immoral—is better than boring. So, get onboard with this list of new traditions, courtesy of some of our favorite shows, and an you’re guaranteed an interesting Thanksgiving.

Pop a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Some call it a wholesome, festive display of American pop culture on one of the country’s favorite holidays. Some find it a tacky, consumerist production that represents style over substance. And a third group find it to be the perfect opportunity for a tradition inspired by the great American sitcom Seinfeld: deflate one of the parade’s giant balloons—specifically (if possible), the Woody Woodpecker balloon. Granted, this was an accident that turned out to be regrettable for Jerry, Elaine, her boss and Tim. But it’d probably be pretty cathartic revenge for all those years of that excruciating laugh.

HIMYMSlap Your Friends Vengefully

Fans of How I Met Your Mother should recognize this tradition immediately. Thanksgiving might very well be a celebration of gratitude and good spirits, but Marshall and Barney exemplify the great therapeutic power of imparting violence unto your closest friends. You might run into a family member who deems Thanksgiving a “slap-free zone,” as did Lily on this memorable episode. But even when it comes to respecting the wishes of loved ones, there are limits.

Pie Fight

A Pie Fight is one suggestion most people should be willing to get behind. In fact, I find it hard to believe that anyone, when first spotting a picturesque, fluffy Thanksgiving pie, doesn’t at least harbor a marginal compulsion to throw it (preferably at the family member who has been talking way too much about his new promotion this year). Cheers instituted this tradition in its classic Thanksgiving episode, and it is one that is at once an inspiring emancipation from societal fences, and also really, idiotically fun. If there is one tradition you learn from this list, let it be this one.

DexterInfiltrate a Murderer’s Family Dinner (or Spy on Your Coworker’s Wife Getting a Little Too Close with the Neighbor)

If wacky comedic antics like balloon-popping, friend-slapping and pie-fighting aren’t your game, then how about a tense dramatic situation? Dexter has two options for you:

First, you might be in the business of investigating and then bringing to violent justice people whom you believe to be serial killers. If so, then head out on Thanksgiving Day and make as stop (unannounced) at the house of that delightful white-haired church deacon you met at Habitat for Humanity. Surely your presence won’t spark any horrifying, traumatic family fights.

Here’s a slightly less dangerous, but still pretty uncomfortable, option: you might find yourself invited to a coworker’s Thanksgiving dinner this year. If so, when you show up, you might be inclined to have a look around. Be forewarned: when Vince Masuka took it upon himself to enjoy an ad-hoc tour of the Morgan household during Dexter’s fourth season, he stumbled upon a scene of heightened familiarity between Rita and that far-too-friendly neighbor guy that Dex eventually threatened. It’ll definitely be an uncomfortable situation for you, but it’ll spice up a boring holiday for sure.

Get Appendicitis

Yeah, this is a weird one…but it worked out for Zach Braff during the first season of Scrubs. The series proved that having to undergo an appendectomy can actually enlighten you with a new perspective on your job and your relationships; it may just alleviate some tensions between you and your best friend.

Celebrate with Disease, Ruined Friendships and Family Tragedies

If you want to really get dark this year, you can take a page from The Big C’s book. The second season of Showtime’s often comedic drama ended up with a great deal of anger and misfortune for the Jamison household—Cathy’s friendship with fellow cancer patient Lee was strained when he found out she lied to him about her recovery. Paul decided to get in the crime game, stealing merchandise from his store’s storage room with Andrea’s new fiancée, who turns out just to be with her for a green card. Come to think of it, you might want to avoid this tradition.

FriendsAnything from Friends

In delving back into Thanksgivings of television past and present, I came to the surprising realization that many TV shows—especially those running today—opt not to have their characters celebrate the holiday at all. I was saddened to realize that we have never seen Liz Lemon openly express her gratitude for Cheezy Blasters over a Thanksgiving feast (comprised entirely thereof), nor have we gotten a glimpse of what the holiday is like in Pawnee, Indiana.

However, there is one show of the not-too-distant past that is an unabashed proponent of the Thanksgiving spirit: Friends. In its ten years on air, Friends gave us a surplus of memorable Thanksgivings, each with traditions to adapt for our own holiday celebrations. Taking a lesson from the series, there are many things we can do to spice up our Turkey Day:

Free the Underdog balloon, letting it run rampant through New York CityPlay a hypercompetitive game of football for the Geller cupInvite Brad Pitt over to degrade one of your closest friendsAbstain entirely from the holiday in defiance of childhood traumaTime-travel back to previous lives, when you spent Thanksgiving at warInadvertently injure your future fiancée with a knife after he calls you fatWear a Turkey on your head as a method of apologyAny of those will do.

So, as you can see, Thanksgiving is not quite as “traditional” on television as it is in our households. Maybe this is something for which we should aspire: more eventful, more chaotic, more memorable Thanksgivings filled with humor, scandal and injuries.

But then again, we don’t all get to just have things return to normal one week later. So saying thanks and eating quietly it is.