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Thanksgiving: Pop culture's forgotten holiday (sort of)

Sure, Halloween and the winter holidays get all the movies and songs. But Thanksgiving has gotten a few famous places in pop culture, from the Peanuts to Steve Martin trying to get home.

By Staff Writer / November 22, 2012

Steve Martin and John Candy try out all the forms of transportation in the movie's title to get home for Thanksgiving dinner, while Charlie Brown finds himself hosting a meal for his friends despite only being able to cook 'cold cereal and maybe toast.'


It’s almost Turkey Day, and so obviously it’s time to turn on those… Thanksgiving… movies and play all those Thanksgiving… songs?

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Staff writer

Molly Driscoll is a Books and the Culture staff writer.

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Okay, so compared to the winter holidays and even Halloween, Thanksgiving, sandwiched in between, gets short shrift in pop culture. In terms of holiday movies, most of America would probably recognize the Peanuts singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or the Grinch stealing presents (and that’s just the animated movies), and even Halloween has gotten some Disney movies that are beloved by many ‘90s children such as “Hocus Pocus,” “Halloweentown,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” to say nothing of frightfests centered around the holiday such as the cannily titled “Halloween.”

While Thanksgiving may bring to mind turkey dinners and family gatherings, it doesn't have a lot of pop-culture recognition. However, while it’s lagged far behind its fellow fall and winter holidays, the celebration and its turkey-laden tables have served as the focus for a few movies, some classic TV episodes, and even a couple of songs. Here are a few you may have forgotten about.


–The most well-known is probably the 1987 film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” which finds a frantic Steve Martin (playing the straight man, mostly) trying to get home for Thanksgiving and meeting a friendly but disaster-prone fellow traveler (John Candy). The movie also features a turn by “This Is Spinal Tap” actor Michael McKean as a state trooper and a cameo by Kevin Bacon, whose character snags a taxi ahead of Martin.

–“Pieces of April,” which was released in 2003, stars Katie Holmes as April, a Manhattan resident trying to cook dinner for her estranged family in her tiny apartment as the family deals with April’s mother (Patricia Clarkson)’s breast cancer.


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