17 percent of shoppers plan to take advantage.
Happy Thanksgiving, time to celebrate at your local Walmart. Black Friday kicked off around 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving—excluding the online sales, some of which also started on Thursday. Walmart and Toys R Us both opened at 8 p.m., as did Sears, which will be open from 8 p.m. Thursday until 10 p.m. Friday, and Target opened its doors at 9 p.m. Thursday. Overall, about 17 percent of shoppers are expected to take part in the Thanksgiving sales, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey. But expect some problems on Friday: Walmart workers are planning to protest the Thanksgiving hours.
Confidential records went airborne.
Can’t sweep this case under the rug. Confidential police documents including Social Security numbers and incident reports somehow ended up among the confetti dropped during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, according to Manhattan’s WPIX. The papers, which seem to have come from the Nassau County Police Department, even include details about Mitt Romney’s motorcade to the first presidential debate, according to the station. Nassau County police spokesman Kenneth Lack said he is “very concerned about this situation,” and Macy’s said that it had nothing to do with the very public shredded-document leak.
This author is thankful for friends, family—and spending the holiday at the home of a famous comedienne dressed in a black gown with a feather ruff.
This Thanksgiving, several weeks post-Sandy—after my electricity and heat were finally turned back on—I prepared to go to Thanksgiving at Joan Rivers’s house.
Joan Rivers attends Benefit Cosmetics & Joan Rivers Host The E! Fashion Police Fashion Week Wrap Party at Benefit Boutique Soho on Sept. 12, 2012, in New York City. (Jeff Schear / WireImages via Getty Images)
It’s an annual thing. My parents are in Ohio and, frankly, I hate traveling on Thanksgiving. It’s like swimming upstream in a sea of mud, and you get to pay double for the pleasure. About five years ago, my friend Caroline Waxler started inviting me to her Aunt Joan’s for Turkey Day. I’ve been going ever since.
Most people know Joan from her stand-up or TV career, or from the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I’m lucky enough to know her from her family. Over the years I’ve become friends with her daughter Melissa (whose son Cooper is quite possibly the best company anyone could ever ask for, seriously) and always love hanging out with Caroline and her husband, Michael. I also look forward to the motley crew of orphans Joan assembles at her 35–40-seat table each year.
There are the regulars: her writer, Larry Amoros; publicist Scott Currie; writer Nancy Collins; neighbors Cynthia and Fred Maltese; and gossip grande dame Aileen Mehle. (Here’s a hint: always try and score a seat next to Aileen. The woman knows everyone and everything.) And there are the people who make appearances every other year, like Blaine Trump, Amir and Tas Dossal, who work for the U.N., or the occasional Broadway actress or singer.
It’s always interesting, and this year was no different. After crowdsourcing what to wear on Twitter (I chose a red dress), I showed up at Joan’s Upper East Side enclave only to be faced with a reality crew—Joan and Melissa were shooting this year’s feast as part of their WE TV show Joan Knows Best—that was crowding the Versailles-themed living room and dining room.
Cocktails are served from 5:30 to 6:30. The dinner, which many people eat at 3 p.m., starts so late as Joan spends the day every year delivering food for God’s Love We Deliver. Joan’s comedian friends Tony and Lynne, who are featured on Joan Knows Best and notoriously don’t get along, spent that part of the evening on opposite sides of the room while Joan exhorted the more outgoing guests to interact with the shyer ones. (It is everyone’s duty at Joan’s dinners to make everyone else feel interesting and exciting.) And then Joan, dressed in a black sparkly dressing gown with a feather ruff—literally—rang the dinner gong.
This year I was sat at Joan’s end of the table. I’m usually with Caroline near Melissa’s end—they bookend it. Aileen reminisced about Ari Onassis and Maria Callas, Joan talked Donald Trump, and if I was still a gossip columnist I could have filled the column for weeks. But the best part of the evening is always the annual tradition where everyone has to stand up and say what they are thankful for, with one caveat from Joan: “No thanking me for being at this table or being invited! That’s bullshit—not allowed!”
Largest public event since Sandy.
Millions of New Yorkers and tourists lined the sunny city streets for the 86th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade—the city’s largest event in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. “As it has during turbulent times in our history, we hope the Macy’s Parade serves as a beacon of hope for all those who tune in and gather with friends and family to give thanks this season, as they continue to heal from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” the parade’s executive producer, Amy Kule, said in a statement. Macy’s also provided 5,000 seats for Sandy’s victims, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city will be donating 26,500 Thanksgiving meals to those affected by the storm. And scandal-plagued Elmo even made an appearance, albeit with a different puppeteer.
Watching football on Thanksgiving is more than just plunking down on the couch in a food coma! Avoid embarrassing yourself with Tim Tebow comments and questions about what ‘Redskins’ really means with our cheat sheet.
Like that one pilgrim who led the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock, Chad Kroeger will try to snap an eight-year losing streak and ferry the Dallas Lions to Turkey Bowl victory.
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the game on Nov. 18, 2012, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)
Wait, that’s not right at all.
The estimated 30 million who will tune in for football this holiday aren’t fooling anyone. Nobody really cares about the NFL’s Thanksgiving Classic games. As one hardcore football aficionado chatted to me, “the teams blow, so really who cares.” And without expensive commercials, palpable stakes, and a Puppy Bowl, casual fans are left wondering why they should bother.
That’s exactly why the biggest story at this time last year was how singer Kroeger and his band, Nickelback, fended off an inspired movement to stop the Canadian rock/grunge group—and frequent butt of jokes—from performing at the halftime show of the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers clash.
It wasn’t always like this. Long after the pilgrims made their voyage, Yale and Princeton’s football teams squared off in a Thanksgiving grudge match in 1876. And who can forget the Buffalo Prospects’ 0-0 thriller with the Rochester Jeffersons in 1919’s New York League duel?
When the NFL launched, the Lions quickly turned into regular host of the tradition in the early ’30s. The Dallas Cowboys followed as cohosts in 1966. And in 2006, a third wild-card night game joined.
Since this tradition is more than just plunking down on a couch in a tryptophan-induced haze to watch big men in tight pants vie for the elusive “Turkey Leg ” or “Galloping Gobbler,” the day’s unofficial and seemingly useless most valuable player trophies, here’s a guide to the games.
That 45-minute nap on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner? That doesn’t have to happen! Kent Sepkowitz explains why the ‘the tryptophan in turkey means sleep’ trope persists, despite multiple debunkings.
Thanksgiving is the one comfy American holiday. There are no gifts or tips of the hat toward some complex religious custom. Participants are expected simply to wander in and chat with relatives they suddenly can tolerate, to smile at in-laws, to play or watch or actively avoid football. And to eat—this is the holiday for people who like to eat and eat more. It’s expected. It’s demanded.
Roy McMahon / Corbis
Given its limited agenda, Thanksgiving has few myths or stories that surround it. Grandpa doesn’t talk about his first Thanksgiving in the New World; no one discusses the miracle of the one yam that fed 300 people on a mountain somewhere; there are no songs to be sung or heroes to be noted. It’s all business, really—the business of overeating.
Indeed, the only myth about Thanksgiving, not counting our averred friendliness toward Native Americans, is an odd one: that the Thanksgiving meal, alone among other pig-out sessions, can make a person sleepy. Yep, not only does Thanksgiving give the green light to overeating, it also signals two thumbs up to those who need to catch a 45-minute nap on the couch right after the meal.
The “turkey means sleep” trope has been with us a while and has been debunked for just about the same duration but is still worth reviewing. The premise is this: turkey is chock-full of a soporific essential amino acid, tryptophan, one of the 22 essential amino acids. These amino acids are “essential” because our body cannot synthesize them; to maintain a blood level, we have to ingest tryptophan daily. So tryptophan at pretty big doses is a routine part of being a human on planet Earth. Despite this relatively stable homeostasis, a dose of turkey is somehow said to be enough to tip the scales of tryptophan toward hypnotic, dream-laden sleep.
To be sure, tryptophan as a white pill, not a slab of white meat, is used by some as a sleeping aid. Few studies, though, demonstrated efficacy, and the medical dose given is way above what even a total slob would choke down at the Thanksgiving table. But this is only one of the many bits of faulty reasoning in the trypto-myth. One of the clearest debunkings of turkeys-‘n’-sleep, from last year, features the comparative tryptophan content of various foods and points out that cheese and ham pack as much trypto-wallop as the big bland bird.
A more complete list of tryptophan content in food is even on Wikipedia, which notes the dose in everything from dried cod (0.7 grams of tryptophan per 100 grams of food) to soybeans (0.59 grams) and cheddar cheese (0.32 grams). Each is more potent than turkey (0.24 grams); indeed, chicken, beef, and salmon all have about the same amount as turkey, though a nice chicken dinner has never been associated with sleep. Praying for sleep, perhaps, but the right to conk out near the table? No way. For those who need the myth not only scientifically disproved but ground cruelly into the pavement, try the Mythbusters show from this week, “Trypping Out.”
So why do we persist in observing the tryptophan and turkey and sleep version of the Thanksgiving? After all, Thanksgiving is the great American holiday, the perfect Rockwell moment, as American as apple (or the odious pumpkin) pie. Aren’t we strong enough to handle the truth, especially on this the day of gathering together to ask the Lord’s blessing? Probably not—the tryptophan story provides us with the perfect cover for the real reason we so love the holiday.
What’s it like to be an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-bred chef cooking the most American of holiday meals? The Top Chef Masters star dishes on all things Thanksgiving.
Marcus Samuelsson is a global chef with an American soul: born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, he cooked his way to stardom at the helm of the three-star haute Scandinavian temple Aquavit, and more recently has wowed crowds at his wildly popular ode to the American South, Red Rooster Harlem. The Top Chef Masters winner and author of the memoir Yes, Chef shares his favorite way to spend Turkey Day—and it involves lingonberries, exotic spices, and lots of mulled wine.
Marcus Samuelsson attends the 18th Annual City Harvest Bid Against Hunger Tasting Event at the Metropolitan Pavilion on October 16, 2012 in New York City. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images)
The Daily Beast: Is the holiday a busy time for Red Rooster Harlem?
Samuelsson: I love to head over to Red Rooster and see my guests. A lot of people like to come by the restaurant and just grab a drink at the bar and tell stories from their Thanksgiving meal. It’s bustling at the restaurant because people have just spent the whole day in the kitchen, so the restaurant becomes a great place to just relax and enjoy the holiday.
What are you planning on cooking this year for the holiday, at home or at your restaurant?
Always at home. If people are coming over, I like to do the turkey, but I encourage my friends to bring over whatever side dishes and desserts are traditional for them.
You grew up in Ethiopia and Sweden—does this whole Thanksgiving tradition seem bizarre to you, or is the holiday growing on you?
I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that is centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me. It’s such a great time to reflect on the year and reach out to those who are not as fortunate, and I encourage my friends to do their part.
At one of the main volunteer centers in the Rockaways, workers are learning fast as they race against hunger and dropping temperatures, reports Matthew DeLuca.
It won’t be an easy Thanksgiving in the Rockaways, where too many Queens families had their homes washed away in the surging tides of Hurricane Sandy. As the government has struggled to respond, amateurs have learned fast at the ad hoc Hurricane Sandy recovery center in the parking lot of St. Francis De Sales Parish of Rockaway Park. They have had to.
Donations are stored and distributed in the Saint Francis de Sales school gymnasium in the Rockaways, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)
It started with neighborhood moms and dads who took in donations that were sent from as far away as Seattle, but volunteers quickly swelled the relief ranks as the waters receded and it became clear in the close-knit neighborhood of Irish-Catholic families that surrounds the parish that the damage spread far beyond their own streets.
The church and its adjacent school building sit on Beach 129th Street, about halfway down the spit of land that juts out below Brooklyn and ends in Breezy Point, where 100 homes were reduced to embers. The Belle Harbor parish seemed well-placed to collect supplies and then distribute them throughout the area. Nestled amongst homes where the ideal of service rings with the carefully preserved names of local firefighters and police officers who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the church has become one of several critical outposts of aid dotting the peninsula.
It’s the parking lot across the street from the church that’s developed its own congregation in the past three weeks—a raggle-taggle group of people from across the city and the country who have worked to get food, cleaning supplies, and clothes to some of the areas neediest residents.
The group is racing to expand its operation—a task easier said than done in neighborhoods where piles of discarded furniture and appliances still litter the streets, cars rendered useless by sea water remain where the water took them, and police officers directing traffic wear construction masks to keep out the dust every passing vehicle kicks up.
Residents of the Rockaways gave thanks on the holiday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday announced a free temporary subway line, the H, running from Far Rockaway at the eastern end of the peninsula to Beach 90th Street, about halfway down its length. Getting volunteers to some of the hardest hit areas, and transporting supplies to the areas where residents are scrubbing encroaching mold from their walls with donated bleach, remain difficult tasks, volunteers at St. Francis de Sales said, and restoring some mass transportation may help add to their ranks.
From Seinfeld’s parade sabotage to the ‘Peanuts’ football fakeout and ‘How I Met Your Mother’s’ ‘Slapsgiving,’ The Daily Beast serves up some favorite Turkey Day TV moments. WATCH VIDEO.
Boy Meets World: Turkey Day
Aiming to share the stuffing they won in a contest, Corey and Shawn try to orchestrate the first ever Hunter-Matthews Thanksgiving dinner—but their parents are less than pleased. The trailer park–dwelling Hunter family has concerns about “mixing the classes,” as the Matthews have more money. But after watching their kids share a Thanksgiving meal without prejudice over who’s got more money, Shawn and Corey’s parents are inspired to give their cross-class-boundaries Turkey Day dinner another go.
Roseanne: Home Is Where the Afghan Is
Caterers, a silent dishwasher, and the kind of fridge you see on The Price Is Right?! The Conner family steps it up for this ninth season Thanksgiving episode after Roseanne wins the lottery, but that doesn’t stop the drama. Roseanne and Jackie’s mother, Bev, is outraged at the idea of a gay couple adopting children and, in the middle of a dinnertime diatribe, accidentally outs her own attraction to women.
Friends: The One With All the Thanksgivings
New York’s Penn Station shuts down.
The long slog to grandmother’s house just got longer. The first nightmare stories from one of the busiest travel days of the year have started to roll in, with airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare airport forced to cancel more than 140 flights and delay over 500 more due to a dense fog that caused zero visibility. In New York City, train service in and out of Penn Station was shut down completely for about an hour due to switch problems, cutting off Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and Long Island Railroad service. Throngs of waiting passengers crowded the streets outside Penn Station while waiting for service to resume—which it has with crippling delays.
Dreading talking to your Tea Party dad? Or nutty uncle? Not to fret—The Daily Beast breaks down the talking points that will keep things civil while eating your turkey.
At a loss for how to steer the conversation while jammed around a table of all your favorite archetypal family members? Take a deep breath and keep this cheat sheet of talking point strategies handy.
Bettmann / Corbis
Is your conservative dad still wearing his “clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose” Romney bracelet, licking his wounds over the election? And you’ve just decided it’s time to start showing that “Hope” tattoo off again? While President Obama’s victory seems further and further in the past, there are still those staunch conservatives who deny Obama won. To avoid having the sweet potatoes thrown as your father calls you a “pinko,” try bringing up the lighter aspects of the election, like Donald Trump’s insane, revolution-encouraging tweets, Nate Silver’s show-stealing mathematical genius, and Karl Rove’s election night denial attempts. Might be best to stay away from mentioning Chris Christie.
If your mother has one too many glasses of pinot grigio, there’s one topic that’s sure to entice all: the never-ending Petraeus scandal. There’s something in it for everyone: Did his biographer, Paula Broadwell, know classified information? Why did she tell other-other-woman Jill Kelley to back off? And what about Kelley’s 30,000 pages of emails with General Allen? Wait, why do we care again? Poor Holly! This is something you’re going to want to know a lot about, and luckily, there’s a never-ending stream of news stories at your disposal to browse through before you delve into the fallen general’s mess of an affair.
Weird, Argumentative Uncle
Try to avoid him at all costs. He probably wants to talk about nukes. To prep for conversation with him, here’s a little background: with pressure mounting on Iran to cease its nuclear production, the slightest provocation could get everyone talking about their rumored upcoming “one on one” talks with the U.S. Some neutral conversation topics include the upcoming Mayan prediction of the end of the world on Dec. 21, which he probably has his own, um, interesting theories about.
Desperate to boost sales, retailers are pushing the start of the holiday shopping season to Thanksgiving Day. That’s inspiring a backlash.
It’s hard to keep the days straight in the Christmas shopping season. First there was Black Friday. Big stores would open early the day after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday shopping binge—and get their books out of the red and into the black. Then the e-commerce industry brought us Cyber Monday, which required no camping out and inspired little trampling. There’s also Small-Business Saturday, a designated day to patronize Main Street retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, 147 million Americans are planning to shop Thanksgiving weekend, which “traditionally” starts at the stroke after midnight on Friday morning. The NRF projects sales will rise 4.1 percent this year.
Tents lined up in front of a Best Buy in California Monday afternoon. Tents started showing up on Sunday to be first in line for Black Friday sales. (Alex Horvath / The Bakersfield Californian-ZUMA Press-Corbis)
And now … Gray Thursday?
Target is planning to open its stores at 9 p.m. on Thursday, with Walmart, Sears, and Toys ’R Us opting for 8 p.m. This year Sears will offer 26 straight hours of shopping, from 8 p.m. Thursday until 10 p.m. Friday. Walmart and Toys ’R Us both broke the Thursday barrier last year, opening at 9 and 10 p.m. respectively. For their part, Macy’s and Best Buy are staying traditional: both retailers plan on opening at midnight Friday morning.
The further encroachment of the holiday shopping season into Thursday, a national day of rest, is inspiring angst, and labor unrest. Walmart workers at 1,000 stores have announced plans for protests on Friday. The planned actions are part of a campaign among labor organizers and Walmart workers to put pressure on the company for better wages and benefits. Last week, workers at a warehouse contracted by Walmart walked out, demanding better working conditions.
The retail behemoth has more than 4,500 locations and 1.4 million employees, and will have one million working for the weekend. In September, the company announced that it would hire over 50,000 seasonal workers for the holiday-shopping crunch along with extending hours for its current workforce.
The company filed a complaint last Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board trying to prevent OUR Walmart from carrying out its planned Black Friday protests. Walmart alleges that the group is union-sponsored and is violating union-organizing rules. And some Target employees aren’t happy either. One Target employee in California, who has worked there for six years, started a petition on Change.org, asking Target’s CEO, Gregg W. Steinhafel, to “take the high road and save Thanksgiving” and reject “Thanksgiving creep.” Casey St. Clair wrote in the petition that she “thought it was interesting the first year I worked the 4 a.m. opening” but that even “opening at midnight was pushing it.” The planned 9 p.m. opening, however, was just too much to ask of the company’s retail workforce, she argued, writing that it should be one of the few days they are able to spend entirely with their families.
St. Clair hand-delivered the petition signatures to Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis and told local TV reporters that “she always felt it was a respectful company” and that “she was disappointed in their decision to follow their competitors.” St. Clair’s petition is one of the dozens hosted on Change.org, but it is the one that has garnered the most attention by far.
While sparing Cobbler, a 40-pound turkey from Rockingham County, Va., President Obama gave a shout-out to the predictor-in-chief, Nate Silver. "He predicted these guys would win,” Obama said.
What’s it like to be an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-bred chef cooking the most American of holiday meals? He talks to Katie Baker.
Kent Sepkowitz explains why the ‘the tryptophan in turkey means sleep’ trope persists, despite debunkings.
Sujay Kumar on how to avoid embarrassing Tebow comments and questions about what ‘Redskins’ really means.
From Adam Sandler to Green Day, Kevin Fallon runs down the best Thanksgiving tunes—and the turkeys.
The former New York Times restaurant critic on how to make easy and delicious cranberry sauce and roasted cauliflower with bread crumbs.
Holiday spending is projected to grow, but not as much as last year. Matthew Zeitlin looks at the numbers.