Why is Thanksgiving Eve a big bar night?
November 21, 2007 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Is the night before Thanksgiving a big bar night all across the country, or is it a regional thing? Why is it such a big deal?

I'm in Michigan, and it's been a well-known fact as long as I can remember that the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest bar night of the year. I've participated in my share of pre-Thanksgiving drunkenness, but never really figured out if this is just a Michigan thing or if it's all over the place? Does anyone know why it's such a big night to go out boozing?
posted by slyboots421 to Grab Bag (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Same everywhere. Last chance to drink with your friends before suffering through the family stuff for a weekend.

Der.
posted by Aquaman at 9:43 AM on November 21, 2007


It's like that where I'm from. I always go out because all my old friends are in town visiting their families. It's a good time to catch up with friends and get ready for the madness that is the family the next day.
posted by studentbaker at 9:45 AM on November 21, 2007


Mostly because you don't have to get up for work tomorrow?
posted by genghis at 9:46 AM on November 21, 2007


I don't know about all across the country, but certainly where I used to work in Massachusetts -- biggest bar night of the year, for the reason that Aquaman said. It was something of a homecoming for people who'd grown up there and then moved on to other parts of the world. They met up with their old friends on that night, before returning to their families for Thanksgiving.
posted by lassie at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2007


I have noticed that as well. (Not in Michigan).

I think that for a lot of people Thanksgiving can be a time where you spend a little too much time with your family; I know quite a few people who find it stressful because the family dynamics don't always allows for a smooth holiday where everyone hangs out happily and there's no confrontation of one kind or another. And so, they drink and party.

I guess you could say the same thing about Christmas, it being a family holiday and all, but I suppose there's something a little less jarring about blitzing yourself the night before Thanksgiving than on Christmas Eve. Could just be me, though!
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:48 AM on November 21, 2007


Is your region one where lots of people who grew up there and left tend to come back for Thanksgiving? I'd think that the appeal of going to a pub in your hometown would be obvious, where you will undoubtedly run into others from your past who you haven't seen in a year or more -- many of whom have moved to other locales as well. A mini-reunion of sorts.

Plus, everyone needs a little bit of time away from their family, and they're not going to get it on Thursday.

At least, that's why I tend to end up in Atomic Billiards in DC a few hours after sundown on December 25th. I tend to be the one who cooks for and hosts Thanksgiving, so I'm usually busy for this hoilday.
posted by toxic at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2007


Because tradition is something people like?
posted by ORthey at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2007


I also live in Michigan (sort of) and my little sister contends that this is the case, but I think it's completely ridiculous. I think it's predicated on a rumor that was started by advertising agencies who aired it during an episode of Dawson's Creek or something. Because it is complete and utter nonsense. The very idea that "the day before Thanksgiving" somehow even comes close to rivaling St. Pat's in sheer volume of alchohol comsumed is ludicrous. I won't even bring up New Year's, when even Methodists have been known to drink.

Yet my little sister persists, endlessly it seems, and she becomes quite animated and offended if I attempt to correct her folly. It is as though she has some social capital invested in the idea of "the day before Thanksgiving" being the greatest drinking night of the year.

I should add that she was a member of a greek social organization during her undergraduate studies and they may have organized some sort of ridiculous event involving porch-crawlers and keg-stands around this concept.

To me, the entire idea reeks of "sweetest day" and "cinco de mayo" and any of the other meaningless holidays that are invented to drive young people into the bars. Rubbish! *puffs on pipe, sips brandy*.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2007


I think it has to do with everyone coming home that day and wanting to see their friends. I know that the bar by my parents' house was so packed one year that you could only go in when people came out!
posted by radioamy at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2007


It's true. We went out last year and had to try 5 or 6 different bars before we found one that wasn't crammed full of people.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2007


Everyone is traveling to a place they haven't been to in a while. They could be also on the receiving end of it, seeing people they haven't in a while.

The second is my contribution to the big bar night. A few friends are coming in from far away to see their families.

So I agree with everyone.
posted by thetenthstory at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2007


(and me)
posted by thetenthstory at 9:56 AM on November 21, 2007


Baby_Balrog -- sounds like your little sister is getting on your nerves. Maybe stop off for a couple of beers tonight to get in a better head before Thanksgiving?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:56 AM on November 21, 2007


(seeing me) sorry... wtf...
posted by thetenthstory at 9:57 AM on November 21, 2007


In Massachusetts and it's the same here. It's sort of like a high school reunion night because everyone's home visiting family and can go out. Also it's the night where the age of people in the bar (at least the one I go to) ranges from 21 to 65, all seeing old friends.
I haven't gotten the impression that it's people escaping their families--more seeing as many people as they can who have moved away.
posted by jdl at 9:57 AM on November 21, 2007


I was starting to think the same thing as Baby_Balrog and it's just a silly thing that got overblown over the years. The same things about avoiding families and seeing old friends ARE true for Christmas, or New Year's, or what have you. Most people don't work on Memorial Day either, but that doesn't mean the night before is regarded as the biggest bar night of the spring. Or whatever.
I was just curious. I live in an area people try to leave but always come crawling back to, and even people who have never moved and never plan on it are emailing me right now asking "What are you doing for BIG BAR NIGHT?!?!" We see each other all the time; this is no special thing. But since it's BAR NIGHT, it has become special. Maybe I just hang around too many alcoholics.
I was just curious. Thanks for the input!!!
posted by slyboots421 at 9:59 AM on November 21, 2007


it's like a friday, except it's on a wednesday.
posted by bruce at 10:06 AM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Indeed. She sorely vexes me at times. And, to make matters worse, she has invited me to accompany her to a rather frattish establishment this very evening, thus providing her with ample opportunities to defend her flawed thesis regarding the superiority of particular bar nights.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:12 AM on November 21, 2007


This isn't a rumor at all. I spent a couple years working at an Irish pub in central NJ in 1995 and 1996, and a few years after that hanging out there. The night before Thanksgiving (and the whole weekend, in fact) was a big moneymaker. The reasons are exactly as stated here: A lot of people are coming home from far away, and 1) they want to get out and see if anyone else they know is in town, you know, show off their new look/boyfriend/job, and b) they want to get out of the house where they have been having an intense family experience. Most of this extra bar activity is due to people in their 20s wanting to get out and about and have a reunion/time away.

People romanticize how it feels to be around your family. Particularly when you're in your 20s and becoming used to being an independent adult, that homecoming of Thanksgiving can be an odd time. You chafe a bit against the home environment and want to get out.

Anyway, it's a big bar weekend all around - it's not marketing hype. There is a festivity to any holiday weekend that is reflected in increased bar attendance, but it's not surprising that effect should be particularly notceable on a weekend where many people have four days off, heavens' sake. You know you can sleep a late night off. It inaugurates the holiday season, so there's that excitement added. People feel more open and cheerful. Or the opposite; they feel more lonely and want company, light, sound, and activity.

I'll be going out tonight. I'm in my late 30s now, but I love the community, festive feel of being out and about in a convivial place during a holiday.

At our pub, the evening of Christmas day was not as busy, but drew a really quality crowd for some similar reasons (getting out of the house, going beyond family to share festivity). Some lovely memories; that was such a nice neighborhood place, in its day.
posted by Miko at 10:14 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Addendum: if it is a bigger deal now than it used to be, taking on a "big bar night" shared concept, then I blame Gen Y. There are just a freaking lot of 'em and whenever they start to do something, it becomes well known and much talked about. Kinda like another generation I can think of.
posted by Miko at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


The very idea that "the day before Thanksgiving" somehow even comes close to rivaling St. Pat's in sheer volume of alchohol comsumed is ludicrous

No, it's not. It's a question of averages. St. Patrick's Day is a much more localized celebration than you'd think. Entire swathes of the country take little or no note of it, while other places make it a central point of the year. Thanksgiving, though, takes place everywhere, in most ethnic groups in some form or another, and is tied to returning home. It's easy to see why it's a more widespread phenomenon than drinking on St. Pat's. Also, St. Patrick's Day often falls on a weekday, which dampens alcohol sales by orders of magnitude.

I'm not saying there aren't a lot of BS concepts to push drinking - the idea of bars celebrating Cinco de Mayo is particularly puzzling - but the Thanksgiving phenomenon is a completely authentic one. It's been going on for years, and as I said just about, if it's any bigger now it can only be because the generation now in their early 20s is four times the size of the generation that went before it.
posted by Miko at 10:19 AM on November 21, 2007


Indiana here. Above average bar night? Sure, for all the reasons listed above. Biggest of the year? I don't think so--at least I don't remember it being ultra-crowded in years past. Less so than for, say, a Colts game (at least at the sports bar where I tend to hang out). I'm out in the suburbs, though, so it may be different in the bar-heavy areas where twenty-somethings tend to go. Also, I reserve the right to revise my answer pending data collected tonight.

The same things about avoiding families and seeing old friends ARE true for Christmas, or New Year's, or what have you.

In fairness, Christmas tends to be more "spread out." Families don't get together precisely on Christmas the way they do on Thanksgiving--some do on Christmas day, some on Christmas eve, some the weekend before or after; some people celebrate Christmas on one day with one family and one with another family. So there's no universally good day around Christmas to get together with friends the way there is the night before Thanksgiving. Also, Christmas falls on different days of the week, so you can't say that two days before Christmas is the universal getting-together-with-friends days, because it depends what day of the week it is. New Year's, most people go to private parties rather than bars. (I still don't think the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest bar night of the year; this is just to explain why it's bigger than days around Christmas or New Year's.)

Also, let's keep in mind that for every crowded hometown bar on the night before Thanksgiving, there's a bar near a college campus which is virtually empty.

Most people don't work on Memorial Day either, but that doesn't mean the night before is regarded as the biggest bar night of the spring.

Here in Indianapolis, two nights before Memorial Day probably is the biggest bar night of the spring. Yes, even more so than St. Patrick's Day. But that's because the 500 is the next day, so I wouldn't expect that to apply in other areas.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2007


I drive a cab in New Orleans, and for us the bigger night for bar traffic is Thursday night. I always assumed it was because by Thursday evening you'd been stuck in a house with your relatives for about 24 hours. Christmas night is pretty busy for us, too, and for probably the same reason.

(Personally, I can't imagine back in college getting home on Wednesday and telling my mom I was immediately going out and would be hungover and grouchy for Thanksgiving.)

Neither Wednesday nor Thursday come close to being the Biggest Bar Day Of The Year for us. Obviously Mardi Gras and JazzFest skew the results, but I can think of a handful of non-New Orleans holidays that are many orders of magnitude more lucrative than the night before Thanksgiving: New Year's Eve, Halloween, and St. Patrick's Day, for a start.

Frankly, it hadn't even occurred to me that it might be busier than usual tonight until I woke up this morning.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:42 AM on November 21, 2007


I just have to say b_b that you are forgetting to mention that it is also your sisters birthday today.

DUH.

;)
posted by janelikes at 10:45 AM on November 21, 2007


completely irrelevant.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:49 AM on November 21, 2007


(Oh, and you know what cab drivers and bartenders call all of these 'Biggest Bar Night Of The Year!!!' candidates? Amateur Night.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:50 AM on November 21, 2007


I actually live in a heavy bar area and tonight is probably one of the few nights where I can count on there being parking (there are 4 bars within a block of my apartment, and roughly 20within 10 blocks).

This is probably more because I live in an area that is a huge college neighborhood than because it's not a big drinking night.

When I was in college though, everyone would meet up at the bar after spending time with their family.
posted by drezdn at 11:10 AM on November 21, 2007


In central NJ it is the biggest bar night of the year, this is mostly because people come home for Thanksgiving are getting geared up for high school reunions. I actually only found out about this only last year. I met up with a fellow Brit and his Canadian girlfriend in a bar quite and we were all quite oblivious to this fact (although for a few days before Mrs ob who is American kept on saying: "Are you sure you want to go out on the night before Thanksgiving?"). We got there early and there was no-one around. Within an hour the place was heaving and the walls were sweating. Mrs ob was very gracious with her 'I told you so's'.
posted by ob at 11:22 AM on November 21, 2007


I played in an Irish punk rock band for 10 years (well before Dawson's Creek), and without exception, the day before thanksgiving ALWAYS set bar records for attendance and alcohol sales, second only to St. Paddy's Day.

That's a pretty observable and consistent "rumor", albeit based on a slightly biased dataset.

I always assumed it was because if you're going to be grumpy and surly during the family get-together, you might as well have an excuse.
posted by Aquaman at 11:37 AM on November 21, 2007


old friends who moved back for the holiday getting together and looking to recreate that high school feeling of crawling into their folks house slightly crocked.
posted by jeffe at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2007


In my hometown it's Christmas Eve after Mass until the bars close.
posted by yeti at 12:04 PM on November 21, 2007


(Personally, I can't imagine back in college getting home on Wednesday and telling my mom I was immediately going out and would be hungover and grouchy for Thanksgiving.)

Yeah... the reasons given above would make it seem like the Friday after thanksgiving would be a big bar night, rather than the Wednesday before... I had never heard this rumor before this year - someone mentioned it last night (not as -the- biggest, but as a big bar night) and I was surprised by the assumption. But I don't have data.

I also live in NYC, which means lots of folks have left town for thanksgiving, and where we have so many other big celebration days (i'd add gay pride and big sports events like the world series / superbowl / world cup to those mentioned). People who do come to town are sometimes coming to see the parade, so have to be out there at like 9am, so I imagine they won't stay out getting plastered..
posted by mdn at 12:20 PM on November 21, 2007


would make it seem like the Friday after thanksgiving would be a big bar night

It is.
posted by Miko at 1:17 PM on November 21, 2007


I have also heard it is a huge night for going out to eat, mainly because people don't want to cook the night before.
posted by hazyspring at 5:49 PM on November 21, 2007


Yeah, the gay bars I've been in are usually most hopping on holidays *after* the queers have spent a little time with their relations.
posted by mediareport at 6:45 PM on November 21, 2007


Just got back to this thread from an evening at a bar in NYC where I went to test my hypothesis that the rule under discussion in this thread is different for cosmopolitan areas (all I can say on this issue prior to publication of my paper is that my n equaled one bar, which seemed to deviate from the rule). However, I felt compelled to respond to Ian A.T.'s comment up above about "amateur night." My memory from seven years in the bar business is that "amateur night" and "rookie night" both refer to nights like St. Patrick's Day, or New Year's Eve, which brought out hordes of unaccustomed drinkers. The night before Thanksgiving, though, is a much more seasoned drinkers night, and we used to make a buttload of money because of the sense of camaraderie that prevailed among old friends who were seeing each other for the first time in years.

But it could be different in the New Orleans cab driving business. ;) Agree with Ian A.T. on this point though -- I used to work all the holidays (since I celebrate none of them), and Thanksgiving and Christmas nights were big for us too, later in the evening when people felt they could reasonably excuse themselves from familial obligations.
posted by lassie at 6:55 PM on November 21, 2007


I was chatting with an SF cab driver last week who seemed to think the same. Anecdotal, certainly, but if anyone would know, I'd think it'd be a cab driver.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:52 PM on November 21, 2007


"amateur night" and "rookie night" both refer to nights like St. Patrick's Day, or New Year's Eve, which brought out hordes of unaccustomed drinkers.


Confirming that fact.
posted by Miko at 10:03 PM on November 23, 2007


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