Hailee Boston’s Thanksgiving traditions have taken a nose-dive.
The 27-year-old St Paul resident won’t be traveling to her hometown of Milwaukee for the annual family feast. She won’t be seeing her old gang for drinks the night before, either.
“We went off to different cities for school or jobs and everyone is back in town on that Wednesday night. It’s become an unspoken tradition to meet up,” she said. “There are people that I see once a year — on this night. We catch up about jobs, relationships, our other friends. It’s all on the table.”
Known as Drinksgiving among the younger set, the night before Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest drinking nights of the year at the nation’s bars and clubs. It’s defined as “the night before actual Thanksgiving where you drink and have fun with your friends because you’ll have to endure family the whole next day,” by the Urban Dictionary.
But not this November.
Even before Gov. Tim Walz temporarily closed Minnesota bars, Boston wasn’t going out.
“With the pandemic, I don’t go to bars at all. And even if I was going home, it would feel weird to risk exposure before a holiday with your family,” Boston said. “This is the year we don’t do what we normally do.”
Although it had likely been around for years, the alcohol-infused reunion got tagged with the Drinksgiving term in 2007. Since then, it’s been targeted in advertising, promoted with drink specials, and, in some cities, spawned programs offering free rides home similar to those on New Year’s Eve and St Patrick’s Day.
Last year, Upserve, a restaurant management platform, surveyed data from about 10,000 bars and found a 23% hike in sales on Drinksgiving compared with other Wednesdays in November.
“Thanksgiving is about friends and family and socialization,” said Emily Moquin, an analyst who studies food and beverage trends for consumer research firm Gartner. “This Wednesday night lines up well for reunions because it’s really the only night of the year when everyone has a reason to be in the same place and on the same schedule. Not everyone celebrates Christmas and people have other holiday traditions that occupy them.”
This year, however, bars and restaurants in the state will be closed and informal gatherings, especially larger ones where drinking is involved, are discouraged.
“Drinking has the potential to lower inhibitions. People speak louder in a crowded space,” Moquin said. “Most young people realize that it’s not safe or smart to go out and then see their grandparents and other relatives the next day.”
Most of Mary Krowka-Ansberry’s childhood friends won’t be back in Cold Spring, Minn., for Thanksgiving this year. In recent years the 27-year-old elementary school teacher, who now lives in Rochester, has spent the night before Thanksgiving at the Side Bar and Grill in Cold Spring with her pack of gal pals, catching up and plotting their traditional Black Friday shopping expedition.
“It’s very disappointing. I definitely enjoy it. We make it a point to see each other,” she said. “We might do a Zoom call instead.”
This year, Drinksgiving looks to be one more tradition that gets remade or ignored entirely.
“People are planning online toasts or virtual happy hours, but it’s not the same for young people,” said Moquin. “This is the group that got a sign in their front yard instead of walking at graduation. Not being able to come home and see your friends is one more social and emotional loss for this generation.”
Kevyn Burger is a Minneapolis-based freelance broadcaster and writer.