You remember why you left your hometown, right? To get away from the burnouts and flunkies who are still living in their childhood bedrooms; to find culture; to have access to a good bar and restaurant scene; to grow as a human. And then Thanksgiving comes and you decide to ignore all of that in order to participate in the ritual that is Blackout Wednesday.
Blackout Wednesday, a.k.a. “Drinksgiving,” a.k.a. “The drunkest night of the year,” is that insufferable evening before Thanksgiving when everyone not old enough to rent a car heads to one of their shitty hometown’s shitty bars to get shitty with a bunch of shitty people they grew up with. Whatever you call it, the pseudo-holiday has only officially arisen in the last decade or so. Google Trends tracks the term back to 2004, but it doesn’t really gain steam until 2012 (and “Drunksgiving” doesn’t pick up until 2014). But you don’t need evidence of a funny nomenclature to know Blackout Wednesday has surely been around a lot longer.
Its rise to fame admittedly stems from a certain degree of logic. No one works on Thanksgiving except the Detroit Lions (and they barely do). Meanwhile, there’s nothing to watch on Thanksgiving eve that’s enjoyable for all demographics present, and who honestly wants to stay cooped up with their relatives ’til bedtime? So why not head to the bar to get obliterated on well liquor and pitcher specials while playing “remember when” with former high school classmates?
“In the suburbs, [Drunksgiving] is absolutely the biggest night of the year," Drew Zuccarini, a bar manager, once told the Wall Street Journal. Ken Henricks, who co-owns four Chicago-area bars, told the same reporter that “for a certain demographic (Black Wednesday) has become an institution.”
Not surprisingly, it's an institution that is revered by college kids and early-twentysomething “adults,” of which I was once one. I’m not just an Internet crank; I used to be a Drinksgiving participant too. One year in my mid-twenties, my luggage got lost en route to my parents’ and the only clothes I had clean was my workout gear, which I wore out for the night. Even in a dirty sweatsuit, I was one of the better dressed people at Henry Hudson’s Pub. I last celebrated Blackout Wednesday at the too-old age of 31, when a friend and I crammed into his Westchester county hometown’s top bar and stayed until last call. We spent that night sleeping on his uncle’s condo floor. Not the most Norman Rockwellian way to wake up for turkey day, but it could have been worse: MADD reports that Blackout Wednesday produces more drunk-driving fatalities than even New Year’s Eve and July 4th.
“Bar owners, particularly in the suburbs,” noted the Chicago Sun Times in 2011, “say the Black Wednesday crowds rival and in some cases exceed those partying on New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day.”
“Drinksgiving has become the minor leagues of New Year's Eve, a training ground for the kind of single-A-level bozos who think it fun to cram into all the joints in town everybody already hates, turning them into college bar pop-ups for the night.”
Like those aforementioned holidays, Blackout Wednesday is idiotic because all holidays that are just excuses to get drunk are idiotic. St. Patrick’s Day is full of bozos covered in punny green t-shirts attempting to barf before nightfall. Independence Day is a chance for America’s dads to binge-drink lite beer while trying not to create any grill-related disasters. And New Year’s Eve has long been called “Amateur Night,” the one night of the year that even the non-skilled drinkers head out to booze heavily.
Blackout Wednesday is one step down from that—a scheduled party night for those knuckle-draggers who can only aspire to one day make it to the Big Leagues that is December 31. Drinksgiving, therefore, has become the minor leagues of New Year's Eve, a training ground for the kind of single-A-level bozos who think it fun to cram into all the joints in town everybody already hates, turning them into college-bar pop-ups for the night. Bad music! Pitcher deals! Sexual deviance! If the pilgrims could see them now...
The holiday is flawed, but not entirely bad. You ain’t gonna find those $2.50 gin and tonics in the cool, urban city you currently live in. And, sure, it might be fun to flirt with the cute guy or gal who once sat next to you in Algebra, but waking up in their childhood twin bedroom with the N’Sync or Kobe Bryant posters still on the wall will certainly make for an awkward start to Thanksgiving day.
Either way, you probably won’t listen to me. By the time you get back home to mom and dad’s you’ll have forgotten this missive. You’ll be bored after dinner and watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving in the family room won’t cut it. You’ll check your parents’ fridge and liquor cabinet with your siblings—maybe find a dusty bottle of Dewar’s or a few expired Miller Lites. You’ll eventually get a text from an old friend in the same situation as you and soon enough you’ll be knocking down some Coronas at a Ruby Tuesday’s that’s now acting as an impromptu class reunion.
As for me, I’m a veritable old man by now, a 37-year-old with a wife and a kid, a dude who actually likes to help prep the Thanksgiving meal. On Blackout Wednesday, I’ll be sipping a few drams of something expensive, probably chopping up some shit in the kitchen in preparation, and hitting the hay early. So please don’t make too much noise on your drunkstumble home from the Drunk Wednesday. Because by then it will be Thursday—and that’s now my day to drink until I blackout.