Maybe it’s because the Pilgrims drank beer.
Maybe it’s because nobody likes watching the Detroit Lions.
But whatever the reason — cranberry sauce or Uncle Ed — alcohol gets drunk around Thanksgiving.
So much alcohol, in fact, that the day before has has earned a string of booze-soaked nicknames: Drunksgiving. Drinksgiving. Blackout Wednesday.
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Pre-turkey binges can bring a harmful and even fatal outcome, prompting safety groups to advocate for holiday behavior with a more puritanical flavor.
“The best part of Thanksgiving isn’t what’s on the table; it’s who’s at your table,” says a message from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which said more people have died in car crashes around the last five Thanksgivings than any other holiday. “If you want to make sure that the people you love arrive to your table safely, urge them not to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs this Thanksgiving holiday.”
At WakeMed in Raleigh, Dr. Graham Snyder said the emergency room sees an uptick in alcohol-related patient visits of as much as 25 percent on Thanksgiving Eve.
“There’s a bit of a different flavor to it,” he said in a phone interview. “The combination of alcohol and large amounts of food can bring in people with diarrhea. Car crashes. Unstoppable vomiting. Then dangerous conditions like pancreatitis or atrial fibrillation.”
The pseudo-holiday has a murky origin. Google Trends tracks it as far back as 2004, but the terms “Blackout Wednesday” and “Drinksgiving” both peaked last year. To combat this, the NHTSA adopted its own anti-alcohol hashtag: #boycottBlackoutWednesday.
The trend has grown enough to become a tipsy marketing tool. The Pour House in Raleigh advertised its Wednesday-night show featuring Nick & The Nomads with a #blackoutwednesday hashtag on Twitter.
Wake County ABC stores sold $1.4 million in liquor on Thanksgiving Eve 2016, then $1.8 million last year, Bryan Hicks, assistant general manager of Wake County Alcoholic Beverage Control, said in an email. It’s one of the top days of the year for the stores.
Nationally, the restaurant industry Web site Upserve analyzed data from roughly 3,000 restaurants in 2016 and saw alcohol sales shoot up 23 percent on Thanksgiving Eve from the previous Wednesday.
A restaurant supply retailer, webstaurantstore.com, suggested its patrons swap plastic cups for glass, post taxi companies’ numbers and cut off customers on the blackout road.
“The key takeaway from these findings is that Blackout Wednesday seems to be living up to its name,” Upserve reported.
Blackout Wednesday’s reputation has intensified to the point that Mothers Against Drunk Driving has teamed up with Uber to provide free rides in and around Boston on Thanksgiving Eve. Staten Island has come up with a similar safe-drinking Uber offer, and Lyft is toting besotted drivers home in Philadelphia.
Graham said there isn’t much holiday advice he can offer rather than resisting the temptation to overindulge. Hangover cures don’t exist, he said, though drinking with food will at least slow alcohol’s effects.
“It won’t prevent you from tripping and falling,” he said. “It won’t prevent you from crashing your car.”
Remember the Pilgrims drank beer because they had no access to safe, fresh water. Seltzer makes a refreshing holiday beverage, and there’s always the tap.