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What the heck is Thanksgiving? Our grinch’s guide to the American holiday you know nothing about


Today is Thanksgiving. What is it? From these shores, it’s a mystery – a mini Christmas four weeks before the real thing? What's that all about?! But to millions of Americans, it’s a very special day, and has been since the Pilgrims entered the New World in the 17th century.

So, what can the movies tell us about this uniquely American day? Here’s our guide to the holiday that we know nothing about!

It’s celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November

So that means it’s cold. Most American movies set during Thanksgiving are virtually indistinguishable from Christmas movies. It’s easy for us over here to see Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Grumpy Old Men as Xmas flicks what with their snow-coated locations. But they’re not – they’re November-set Thanksgiving movies!

It’s a nightmare to get home on a national holiday

No film shows the nightmare of attempting to travel at Thanksgiving better than Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In it, Neal Page (Steve Martin) is trying to get from New York City, where he’s been for a business meeting, back to his family in Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. But with everyone else in the country planning the same thing, and with blizzards stopping airplanes and blocking roads, he discovers that getting home will be a nightmare he'll never forget.     

It’s all about the dinner

For most Thanksgiving flicks, it’s all revolves around the dinner. But, according to the movies, the Thanksgiving meal is not the happy ritual we might expect it to be. Whether it’s April (Katie Holmes) entertaining her dysfunctional family in indie drama Pieces of April or when Paulie (Burt Young) flings a turkey angrily out of the window in the first Rocky, it’s clear that Thanksgiving dinners are often more trouble than they’re worth.

Americans love a turkey

Essentially, Americans' Thanksgiving dinner is the same as our Christmas one (except they tend to prefer mashed potatoes to roasties). And yes, it’s the turkey that's at the centre of it all. Hopefully though, most Thanksgiving dinners this year will go by with less carnage than the one in black horror comedy Thankskilling (great title, lads) when the dinner is interrupted by the turkey slaughtering everyone around the table. (Yes, it's that classy.)

Say goodbye to your inhibitions

Thanksgiving isn’t always about party crackers and boozy bonhomie. For some families, like the Hoods of Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, it can be two days of drug taking and wife swapping. Perhaps not quite the thing that President Lincoln had in mind when he proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

It’s not as bad as this Thanksgiving

During Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double bill, there’s a fake trailer for a fake movie titled Thanksgiving. Directed by torture-porn horror maestro Eli Roth, it’s about a serial killer who stalks victims while dressed as a pilgrim and looks so terrifying we’re actually happy it’s never been made! 

We wish our American cousins well! If you've got a favourite Thanksgiving movie, tweet them to us @Cineworld.

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