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Culture Cafe

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.

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–“Home for the Holidays” is a 1995 film starring “The Incredibles” actress Holly Hunter as Claudia, a single mom who decides to spend Thanksgiving with her parents and siblings. Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft played Mom and Dad, while Robert Downey Jr. was the brother who tries to set up Claudia with a friend of his.  

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Staff writer

Molly Driscoll is a Books and the Culture staff writer.

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–The Peanuts gang, welcome at any time of year, celebrated the holiday in two separate specials. 1973 saw “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” which first aired on CBS and includes Lucy pulling that pesky football away, Charlie Brown suddenly finding himself hosting a holiday dinner for some of the other kids, and Snoopy and Woodstock in Pilgrim costumes. As part of the series “This is America, Charlie Brown,” the Peanuts gang tagged along with the Pilgrims for the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth in an episode titled “The Mayflower Voyagers,” which first aired in 1988.

TV episodes:

–The longrunning NBC sitcomFriends,” which ran from 1994 to 2004, became well-known for its Thanksgiving episodes. Memorable escapades included all six playing a touch football game which brought up old sibling rivalries between brother and sister Ross and Monica, Chandler spending the holiday in a cardboard box to make up for kissing his roommate’s girlfriend, and star Jennifer Aniston’s then-husband Brad Pitt guest-starring as an old high school classmate.

–“Cheers,” which aired from 1982 to 1993, featured a Thanksgiving dinner that ended up airborne when the cast went to Carla (Rhea Perlman)’s house for a badly cooked dinner which turned into a food fight.

Songs:

–Many classic rock radio stations still play the 1967 song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” recorded by Arlo Guthrie, at noon (or occasionally other times) on Thanksgiving Day. The anti-draft song is 18 minutes long and considered a Turkey Day song because the main character, Arlo Guthrie, is arrested for littering after the town dump being closed on Thanksgiving Day leads him and his friend to throw their trash elsewhere.

–Though people who only know the beginning may be confused by its association with Thanksgiving, the song “Over the River and Through the Wood,” written by Lydia Marie Child in 1844, is often now sung for Thanksgiving because of the end of its second verse, which states “We would not stop for doll or top/For ‘tis Thanksgiving Day.” (The last line mentions pumpkin pie, too, but that could be for either Thanksgiving or the later holidays, we guess.)

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