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Thanksgiving Episode
The Americans have established a Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers reached America. The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day; to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England.
G. K. Chesterton, Sidelights (1932)

A Thanksgiving Episode is a story or an episode within a larger series that focuses on the holiday of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. Canada also has a Thanksgiving holiday on the second Monday in October. For more information about the history of the holiday, see UsefulNotes.Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving stories fall into two basic categories. The first category consist of stories that relate to the origin of the holiday. Traditionally, the holiday is dated back to a feast given in 1621 by Pilgrims of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts to offer thanks to God for their survival past the first harsh year of the settlement. They invited the local Wampanoag tribe, who had been key to that survival, to share the feast with them — whence the traditional Thanksgiving iconography of steeple-crowned and bonneted Pilgrims alongside buckskin-clad Native Americans. Optimistic portrayals focus on the event as a time of inter-cultural cooperation and celebration . More cynical portrayals will place more emphasis on the long-term negative effect of colonization in displacing the Native Americans.

The second category is stories that revolve around the celebration of the holiday in latter years. As with Christmas, Thanksgiving stories tend to be very family oriented, with characters either going to visit relatives or hosting large gatherings of the extended family. Such gatherings are generally intended to be joyous times of celebration, but can also be times of tension and internal family conflict. Often groups will take time to help those less fortunate than themselves.

The major focus of the holiday on the Thanksgiving meal, which traditionally includes turkey, potatoes, pies, cranberry sauce, yams, and various vegetables. Preparing the turkey is a big deal, and an inexperienced cook seeking to prove him/herself by cooking a perfect meal will often find themselves making various amusing blunders. Even experienced cooks will find themselves challenged by the expectations placed upon them. Health minded cooks may try to create healthier alternatives to the traditional fare, which will almost certainly not be well received.

Other activities include the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, watching marathons of TV shows, and watching or even playing American football. If the main character is a cartoonist, they might have the honor of their character being a balloon in the Macy's parade.

Thanksgiving stories will often muse on the true meaning of the holiday — family, thankfulness, thankfulness for family, etc. — by having characters enjoying each other's company despite stress, interpersonal conflicts, or inedible turkeys.

See Christmas Episode, Halloween Episode and Valentine's Day Episode.

Examples

Film (Live Action)
  • Gleefully mocked in The Addams Family Values, where Wednesday pointed out just how badly Native Americans got screwed over.
  • Eli Roth's fake trailer Thanksgiving from Grindhouse, a parody of holiday horror flicks.
  • Hannah And Her Sisters begins at a Thanksgiving dinner party and follows the characters for a little more than a year. The ending is a semi-epilogue set at Thanksgiving a year after that.
  • Home for the Holidays
  • Home for Purim was transformed into this to make it appeal to a wider audience.
  • Miracle on 34th Street actually begins on Thanksgiving with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in need of a Santa Claus performer (in Real Life, the parade always ends with a Santa's sleigh float, and thus Santa).
  • The film Planes, Trains and Automobiles is all about a guy trying to make it home for Thanksgiving.
  • In his Little Movie Glossary, film critic Roger Ebert notes that "Of all the holidays on the calendar, Thanksgiving is the one most often chosen by the movies to show dysfunctional families in meltdown. The title card 'Thanksgiving' is a guarantee that shameful secrets, towering rages and massive depression will be presented, along with alarming alcohol abuse." Examples include Home for the Holidays and The Ice Storm.
  • The House of Yes is a movie set during Thanksgiving. As mentioned with the Ebert quote above, there are plenty of dark secrets on display but with a heavy dose of Black Humor.
  • The original Rocky film has a plot length that spans several holidays, the first of which is Thanksgiving. Made memorable in the scene where Paulie throws Adrian's roast turkey into the alley and tells her to go eat it there.

Live-Action TV
  • All in the Family's Re Tool Archie Bunker's Place had a Thanksgiving episode that was notable for being the last time that all four original cast members from All in the Family appeared together.
  • The Bob Newhart Show had two Thanksgiving episodes. The second one, involving Emily going out of town and leaving Bob to share a drunken holiday with his pals over Chinese food, leads to one of the show's Crowning Moments of Funny.
  • The Brady Bunch: Despite airing a full month before Thanksgiving, the Season 2 episode "The Un-Underground Movie" (where Greg makes a movie about the First Thanksgiving for a class assignment) clearly has a Thanksgiving theme, and as such is frequently aired in the United States on or very close to Thanksgiving.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a Thanksgiving Day episode during which Xander was cursed by a Native American spirit with the diseases brought over by Europeans.
  • Both Bob! and Caroline In The City featured the balloons of the main character's cartoon characters getting loose during their debut parades.
  • Cheers has a Thanksgiving episode that culminates in a no-holds-barred Food Fight among the cast.
  • Community: Jeff goes to visit his estranged father, while the others spend the day with Shirley and her extended family. Jeff ends up Calling the Old Man Out, while the rest try to escape Shirley's overbearing relatives in an extended The Shawshank Redemption homage.
  • On Everybody Loves Raymond Debra decides to 'shake things up' by serving fish instead of turkey.
    • And, who can forget the "Tofurkey" episode.
  • Frasier had two episodes: the first involved Frasier and Lilith desperately attempting to get Frederick into a prestigious school and making things worse while Frederick suffers all sorts of Amusing Injuries in the care of his grandpa and uncle, the second had Frederick seemingly attempting to get his parents back together in a Batman Gambit to get them to buy him a moped.
  • Friends has a Thanksgiving episode in all but one season.
    • The second season episode happened at Thanksgiving, but didn't feature a Thanksgiving dinner, like all the rest.
  • On Gilmore Girls, Lorelei and Rory attend four different Thanksgiving dinners in the episode A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving.
  • How I Met Your Mother had three episodes - two Slapsgivings and a Blitzgiving.
  • Mad About You had multiple Thanksgiving episodes over its run. Perhaps the most famous is "Giblets for Murray", where Paul and Jamie have to deal with overbearing parents trying to take over the meal, then having to replace the turkey multiple times after Murray (the dog, if you remember) eating the first one, without anyone finding out (everyone finds out eventually, but the parents don't tell the couple that they know).
  • A M*A*S*H episode has a subplot about most of the camp getting sick from the black-market Thanksgiving turkeys Klinger acquired.
  • The Middle has had a Thanksgiving episode in all three of its seasons so far.
  • Modern Family: "Punkin Chunkin".
  • The Munsters had one, "Low-Cal Munster." Herman has to lose 100lbs to fit into his old uniform to go to an Army reunion, forgetting that the last day of the diet was Thanksgiving. He makes it (by using Grandma's old corset.)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been tied in with the holiday ever since its debut onTwinCities TV station KTMA on Thanksgiving Day in 1988. After it became a national sensation, Comedy Central would run several Thanksgiving Day marathons of MST3K episodes over the years, dubbed "Turkey Day" to reference both the holiday and the film "turkeys" highlighted by the series. Many marathons featured special Thanksgiving-themed episode introductions with the show's characters, and an entire set of alternate Thanksgiving-themed host segments were created for the debut of Night of the Blood Beast; in reruns, they were replaced with the standard segments.
  • Reba had not one, but two, Thanksgiving episodes.
  • Roseanne had several Thanksgiving episodes throughout the show's run.
  • In an episode of Seinfeld, Mr Pitt desperately wants a place under the Real Life Woody Woodpecker balloon.
  • Spin City did a few. The most remembered one is when the staff tried to do a live on-air special for New York. But one disaster after another keeps happening such as the mayor having bad blood with his father, Mike getting his hand stuck in the turkey and the staff constantly arguing with each other. Ironically the in-universe viewers loved it cause it's exactly how most Thanksgivings go down.
  • Small Wonder had an episode in which Jamie falsely asserted that his parents were separated, so he and Vicki could get into a Thanksgiving camp for latchkey children.
  • On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Thanksgiving was the aliens' first Earth holiday. The episode also marked the first appearance of Mrs. Dubcek's daughter Vicki, who would became a recurring love interest for Harry. Unaware of Black Friday, Sally mentions in The Tag that tomorrow she will "spend a nice peaceful day at the mall".
  • 2 Broke Girls had a combined Thanksgiving/Christmas episode: "And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving".
  • WKRP in Cincinnati had the infamous "Turkeys Away" episode, often regarded as the series' Crowning Moment of Funny.
    As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!
  • The West Wing episode "Shibboleth" laid on Thanksgiving very thickly in multiple plot threads that include both uses of this trope: President Bartlet invokes the original Thanksgiving as justification for freeing Chinese Christians fleeing persecution, and invokes the familial side of modern observance when he gives his body man Charlie (who has no parents) a priceless family heirloom originally made by Paul Revere as a gesture metaphorically adopting Charlie into his family.
    • Also parodied early in the episode, when Sam and Toby are working on the President's Thanksgiving proclamation:
    Sam: Well, over three and a half centuries ago, strengthened by faith and bound by a common desire for liberty, a small band of Pilgrims sought out a place in the New World where they could worship according to their own beliefs...and solve crimes.
    Toby: Sam...
    Sam: It'd be good.
    Toby: Read the thing.
    Sam: By day, they churn butter and worship according to their own beliefs, and by night, they solve crimes.
    Toby: Read the thing.
    Sam: Pilgrim detectives.

Music
  • Radio stations have been known to play the 18-minute song "Alices Restaurant" on Thanksgiving to mark the transition from regular music to Christmas music — and to give hungry DJs a chance to gobble some turkey.

Web Original
  • Homestar Runner featured holiday 'toons fairly frequently, and Thanksgiving is no exception. From the token short-shorts "Happy T!" and "Some Stupid Turkey" to an episode of Strong Bad Emails centered around the alleged story of Strong Badia's colonization, to the full-length shorts "Let Us Give TANKS!", "Toikey TV", and "Twenty THAN Xty Six". They even even spoofed the Macy's Parade with "the firty-tirst annual Fall Float Parade" featuring balloons, bizarre floats, a marching band, and twin clones of Homsar dressed as Shriners driving tiny cars.

Western Animation
  • The Cleveland Show Thanksgiving episode has the blended family struggling to get along, not entirely helped by the appearance of "Auntie Mama", an eccentric advice dispenser.
  • The Fairly Oddparents storybook In a Tizzy over Turkey! has Timmy refusing to eat Thanksgiving dinner with his parents because his mom made tofurkey (turkey-flavored tofu) instead of real turkey. Cosmo and Wanda eventually grant his wish for the perfect dinner, but he learns a lesson about the true meaning of the holiday from, of all people, Vicky.
  • Garfield had a Thanksgiving Day special, centered on Garfield being put on a diet by his vet shortly before Thanksgiving. Said vet comes to dinner that day, keeping the cat from pigging out as he wants.
  • The Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
  • One story arc in Underdog has Simon Barsinister go back in time to sabotage the founding of Plymouth Plantation so that there will be no Thanksgiving. Why? Because his plan to conquer the city depended on him accessing a certain device at a certain time, which he couldn't because the Thanksgiving Day Parade was blocking the street. Given that he had a time machine, there were much simpler ways to solve the problem (such as going back in time to earlier that morning and crossing the street before the parade started), but he never considers them.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Bugs' Bonnets'', when Elmer Fudd is suddenly crowned with a steepled hat, he explains to an arresting officer that he was "just twying to shoot a tuhkey fow the fuhst Thanksgiving dinnuh"; Bugs, suddenly bedecked with a feather headdress and pair of braids, seizes Elmer's rifle and attempts to shoot him!
  • In an earlier Looney Tunes short, "Tom Turk and Daffy", Porky Pig is the P-p-p-pilgrim attempting to hunt the eponymous Tom.
  • The Merrie Melodies short "Holiday For Drumsticks" has Daffy tricking a barnyard turkey destined for Thanksgiving dinner into dieting and exercising while the duck stuffs himself with all the fattening food meant for the turkey.
    Daffy: It's too bad you can't have duck for Thanksgiving dinner...
    (The formerly deadpan farmer suddenly grins maniacally.)
    Daffy: (gulps) ...or can ya?
  • In the Rankin/Bass Productions holiday special The Mouse on the Mayflower, a mouse named Willem is among the Puritan founders. He makes friends with the native mice, and together the Indians and Pilgrims, human and murine, celebrate the first Thanksgiving.
  • The 1972 Hanna-Barbera special "The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't" focused on a squirrel rescuing a pair of lost boys (one a Pilgrim, the other a Native American), with the squirrel as a result becoming the guest of honor at the first Thanksgiving dinner.
  • The Simpsons' Season 2 episode "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" has been a favorite for years.
  • Hey Arnold! had Arnold and Helga leave their home due to respective family problems, then decide to visit their happy-go-lucky teacher Mr. Simmons, figuring that his holiday at least has to be pleasant. It turns out his holiday guests are worse than either of their families, but Mr. Simmons say he has to try to enjoy the holiday with them, because they're family. The two get the hint that they need to be thankful for their loved ones, no matter how screwed up they are.
  • Recess had "The Great Can Drive", where the Recess Gang try to beat the Ashleys in the Thanksgiving canned foods drive. Later released as part of the Direct-to-Video Christmas movie.
  • Pac-Man had "Happy Pacsgiving", in which Pac-Baby's grandmother read a story about the Pac-Pilgrims and the Ghost Monster Indians.
  • A short on The Huckleberry Hound Show titled "Grim Pilgrim" involved Huck's pursuit of a turkey, hindered by an Indian.
  • Rocko's Modern Life had one called "Turkey Time," involving all the Thanksgiving turkeys in O-Town taking refuge at Rocko's house.
  • CatDog: A turkey meant for Rancid Rabbit hides at CatDog's house, and they end up protecting it.
  • King of the Hill had Thanksgiving episodes on three consecutive seasons.
  • Bob's Burgers - Bob's landlord offers a generous deal on the rent if the Belchers pose as his family and Bob cooks Thanksgiving dinner to impress a romantic prospect.
    • In a second episode, the turkey Bob is preparing ends up in the toilet, and the same thing keeps happening to all the replacement turkeys. The culprit turns out to be Bob himself; under the effect of allergy pills, he sleepwalks while dreaming about toilet training Tina, picks up the turkey thinking it's baby Tina and...
  • Tex Avery did a one-shot cartoon "Jerky Turkey" where a big schnook of a pilgrim hunts a wise-guy turkey modeled after Jimmy Durante.
  • The Tom and Jerry short, "The Little Orphan", took one of the basic concepts of "The Milky Waif" (always-hungry orphan Nibbles appears at Jerry's doorstep), and turns it into a Thanksgiving story by showing that Jerry had volunteered to host an orphan mouse for the holiday. Less lion-roaring Papa Wolf Jerry, more Food Fighting.
  • The first season of Jackie Chan Adventures has "Enter the Viper" which has Jackie and Jade in New York City to retrieve the Snake Talisman (for the second time) by taking it out of a museum. The third act features the big parade in New York with the titular character fighting ninjas on top of a balloon float.
  • Regular Show in its fifth season gives us The Thanksgiving Special, which begins with Mordecai and Rigby messing up worse than they -ever- have before...and ends with one of the sweetest, most sincerely happy moments in the show's history.

The Real Life Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • A Real Life tragic incident involving The Cat in the Hat balloon knocking over a lamppost and injuring a woman resulted in new wind restrictions for the balloons, and new size restrictions for their designs, which in turn forced the retirement of many longtime favorites, including The Pink Panther and Woody Woodpecker. A similar incident involving a balloon of the M&M's characters less severely injured a little girl, who notably pleaded that Macy's not retire it on her account. It was, however, gone by the next year's parade anyway.
  • Probably the franchise most represented in the parade over the years would be Peanuts, usually Snoopy (with or without Woodstock), but also for a few years represented by two balloons, one of Charlie Brown, the other of the elusive football he's trying to kick. Most likely various Muppet based balloons (Kermit, Grover, Big Bird) would be next, followed by Disney (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Buzz Lightyear, various one-year balloons celebrating upcoming Disney films).
    • Balloons of Underdog and Bullwinkle were also long-running features of the parade in the past; both balloons were referred to in, among other places, The Simpsons.
  • This Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad, featuring a competition between a fictional Stewie Griffin balloon and a re-creation of the classic Underdog balloon. The Charlie Brown balloon is the one who emerges victorious.
  • One of the first (if not THE first) meta references on The Simpsons involved the real life 1990 debut of the Bart Simpson balloon.

Thanksgiving DayHoliday TropesCrappy Holidays
Halloween EpisodeEpisodesValentine's Day Episodes
Exactly What It Says on the TinRecap/Family GuyStewie Griffin: The Untold Story

alternative title(s): Thanksgiving Day; Thanksgiving Day Story; Thanksgiving Day Special
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