Thanksgiving Survival Guide — Play the Real Hunger Games

This week, I had intended to launch into another why-this-good-guy-is-actually-a-bad-guy analysis (i.e., why Katniss Everdeen shouldn’t be leading anyone’s revolution), but I decided I probably shouldn’t dismantle the motives of every subpar cultural leader from Westeros to Panem just for the sake of my own twisted amusement.

However, I will stick with the Hunger Games theme. One, because the most recent installment (Mockingjay-Part 1) opened to a 2014 box office high of $123 million; and, two, because it’s the week of Thanksgiving, and nothing says turkey time like a corrupt caste system in which people fight in the ultimate death match for totalitarian leftovers. (See? There’s that twisted sense of humor.)

When you think about it, Thanksgiving and The Hunger Games have a lot in common. First, once a year, America and it’s fictional, dystopian successor Panem celebrate cultural unions that promote peace and order (one through the copious dressing of a wild fowl, the other through a televised, last-man-standing battle royale).

Second, each celebration revolves around food. At Thanksgiving, if you’re not eating until you’re sick, you’re not doing it right. In Panem, Districts reluctantly offer young Tributes to the government (the Capitol) to compete in the aforementioned death match from which the winning District receives an unlimited supply of food for a whole year–which is a big deal, since many of Panem’s citizens starve on the daily.

Further analysis shows us the actual Games are preceded by a series of events that very much mimic the average Thanksgiving celebration, so let’s break it down.

The Reaping

In Panem, Tributes are chosen by lottery. The names of possible candidates are assembled and two people are chosen–one girl and one boy–to compete. In this world, the more hand-outs a person accepts from the Capitol, the more times their name is dropped into the bucket for selection.

At Thanksgiving, larger, more established families often draw straws to determine who gets to host the yearly turkey fest. Whomever is selected will likely be subject to obscure relatives descending on their place of residence to flood the kitchen, eat food, watch football, and judge under socially accepted pretenses their host’s ability to cook a bird.

Like the Games, hosting isn’t for the feint of heart. Those who volunteer to host (like those who volunteer as Tribute) are usually overestimating their abilities and will likely succumb to the elements.

Survival Tip: Don’t volunteer.

The Tribute Parade

In Panem, once Tributes are selected, they’re put on a pedestal, dressed to the nines, and treated like royalty up until the point where 23 out of 24 of them meet an untimely demise. They’re prized livestock all lined up for the slaughter.

Thanksgiving hosts (like the Tributes they mirror), will likely fall prey to all these things. First, people will be impressed by the host’s determination to win, then they’ll openly question whether the host knows what they’re getting into. As Thanksgiving day approaches, hosts might train (as Tributes train for the Games arena) in any number of physical and mental exercises (i.e., meditating, timing their potato peeling skills, baking a practice pie) to prepare for a marathon day of organized chaos. In an instant, play time will be over, and all eyes will be on the host.

Survival Tip: Remember who the real enemy is (hint: it’s not the turkey).

The Hunger Games

First, the biggest similarity between the Games and Thanksgiving is the cornucopia. On Thanksgiving, it’s a symbol of a plentiful year’s harvest. In the arena, it’s a giant weapons supply center. In neither case will the cornucopia have any helpful significance, but it’s fun to point out. The day arrives, and it’s the host against ravenous guests, who will fight for the last dinner roll or die trying.

In the Games, Tributes pick each other off by any means necessary, form deceptive alliances, and attempt to survive by hiding in trees or camouflaging. Tributes and hosts might make an unlikely ally or two. Though, allies are eventually separated to fend for themselves.

Survival Tip: Don’t get too attached.



At the end of the day, if the festivities go off without a hitch, peace and order among Districts and family members will endure. But dystopian worlds aside, Thanksgiving is legitimately about enjoying the company of loved ones under one roof. It’s purpose is also its title. It’s a day to be thankful for the books we can read freely, the cars we can drive, the Netflix accounts we subscribe to, the businesses we own, and the freedom we have to explore the world around us. It’s about remembering the good, forgiving the bad, and looking ahead.

Thanksgiving is the gateway to the rest of the holiday season and the prep day for all you hardcore Black Friday shoppers, so forget the stress and take your time. The odds are probably in your favor.


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