Thanksgiving/Day of the Dead in Cicely, Alaska (Northern Exposure, 1992)

The good people of Cicely, Alaska enjoy their eccentric, Day of the Dead-inflected version of Thanksgiving in this scene from Northern Exposure (1992).

As explained by Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles), the indigenous people of Cicely do not regard the orthodox Thanksgiving as a day of celebration. In fact, they carry a lot of ancestral anger towards white people, albeit ceremonially and playfully expressed in the Cicelian custom of throwing tomatoes on Thanksgiving Day – because “they look like blood, but they don’t hurt”.

Explaining the mythic origin of the festival, she continues:

Death, like the white man, wasn’t happy in his own land. He didn’t think his kingdom was big enough. He wanted more. One night, when the Good Spirit was asleep, Death attacked the world. He killed a lot of people, and he took the Chief’s prettiest daughter as his bride. She pretended to be a good wife, but one day she secretly fed him a pumpkin seed. The pumpkin grew and grew inside Death. Finally, he exploded, and a million pumpkin seeds covered the earth.

A lot of people died, but a good thing came out of it, too – pumpkins.

It’s the same with white people. They cleared the forest, they dug up the land, and they gave us the flu. But they also brought power tools and penicillin and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

It’s all in good, soulful fun and after a day of tomato throwing and decorating the main street in a festive combination of Fall colors, skulls and “death’s head pumpkins”, the townspeople gather for their annual parade, followed by a delicious community feast at the Brick tavern.

Not bad, Cicely. Not bad at all.

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