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18 Epic Facts About Dances With Wolves

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The prevailing logic in Hollywood 25 years ago was that Westerns, while long on history and sometimes successful, were not a genre moviegoers were clamoring to see. Any filmmaker who did get the green light would need to keep the project within budget, under two hours, and, of course, keep all the dialogue in English. Dances With Wolves defied all of that.

Directed by and starring Kevin Costner, the 1990 epic about a disillusioned Civil War lieutenant who travels west and befriends a tribe of Sioux Indians clocked in at three hours long, came in millions of dollars over budget, and included a cast full of unknown Native American actors speaking a language most audiences had never heard. In the end, the film—“a journey movie,” as Costner has called it—won seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and grossed more than $400 million. On the 25th anniversary of its release, here are a few things you might not know about Dances With Wolves.

1. IT STARTED AS A NOVEL THAT NOBODY WANTED TO PUBLISH.

Inspired by books he’d read about the Plains Indians, screenwriter Michael Blake (who died earlier this year) pitched Costner on the idea for Dances with Wolves. Costner told Blake, whom he’d met in a Los Angeles acting class, to write a novel instead of a screenplay, reasoning that a novel could generate studio interest more effectively than a cold script. So Blake spent months writing and sleeping on friends’s couches (including Costner’s). “I wrote the entire book in my car, really,” Blake said in a behind-the-scenes feature. Once finished, Blake submitted Dances with Wolves, to numerous publishers, all of whom passed on his manuscript. Finally, after more than 30 rejections, a small publisher called Fawcett accepted it.  

2. IT BECAME THE FILM THAT NO STUDIO WANTED TO FINANCE.

Turned down by American studios, Costner looked abroad for help, eventually securing startup funds from a handful of foreign investors. With only a fraction of the movie’s $15 million budget secured, he began filming. Orion Pictures eventually stepped in with $10 million, but Dances with Wolves ended up going more than $3 million over budget. Costner covered the overage out of his own pocket.

3. COSTNER AND HIS SCREENWRITER HAD A COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP.

Before Blake began working on Dances with Wolves, Costner tried to get work for his friend by arranging numerous interviews with studio representatives. But as Costner told Tim Ferriss on a recent podcast, Blake spoiled every opportunity by arguing with the reps. “I really started to lose patience with him,” Costner said. The two became increasingly at odds, culminating in a physical confrontation that had Costner pinning Blake against a wall. “I said, ‘Quit pretending you want to be in Hollywood,’” Costner told Ferriss.

Blake stayed with Costner while writing Dances with Wolves, all the while pestering Costner to read his work in progress. Costner refused, and Blake quickly wore out his welcome. He eventually moved down to Arizona, where he washed dishes at a Chinese restaurant for $3.35 an hour. He called Costner asking for money, so Costner mailed him a sleeping bag and a portable stove. Blake pestered Costner again to read the book, which he’d since finished. After months of refusing, Costner finally gave in and was stunned. “It was the clearest idea for a movie that I’d ever read,” Costner recounted.

4. COSTNER TRIED TO FIND ANOTHER DIRECTOR BEFORE TAKING THE JOB HIMSELF.

After deciding to go ahead with the project, Costner gave the script to three prominent directors (he won’t name names, unfortunately), hoping that one of them would be a good fit. But each of them had parts they wanted to cut that Costner considered crucial. “Some wanted to get rid of the opening Civil War sequence,” Costner told Tim Ferriss. “Some thought it was too long. Somebody thought it shouldn’t be a white [love interest], that that would be cliché.” So the actor decided to step in and do the job himself.

5. A COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHER SERVED AS THE FILM’S DIALOGUE COACH.

More than a quarter of Blake’s script had to be translated into the Sioux Lakota dialect. This was admirable, considering most Westerns made Native American actors spout their lines in English. But there was one problem: Few people could speak Lakota, much less translate it. Costner heard about a teacher at South Dakota’s Sinte Gleska University named Doris Leader Charge, who taught the Lakota language and culture. He sent the script to her and got it back three weeks later, fully translated.

“I’d never even seen a script before then,” the then-60-year-old teacher said in the behind-the-scenes feature. Since none of the actors spoke Lakota, Costner brought Leader Charge onto the set for further guidance and even offered her a speaking role as Pretty Shield, the wife of Ten Bears. Leader Charge initially declined, saying she needed to return to work. So Costner called up the president of the college and got her stay extended.  

6. THE LOGISTICS WERE DAUNTING.

In addition to filming at more than 30 locations throughout South Dakota and Wyoming, the shooting script called for 3500 buffalo, three dozen teepees, 300 horses, two wolves, and a small army of Native American extras. Add in budget headaches and complications with the weather, which ranged from 20 degrees to over 100 degrees across the July-to-November shoot, and it’s a wonder the film got made at all.

7. THE BUFFALO HUNT WAS PARTICULARLY COMPLICATED.

There were no trick shots or CGI wizardry behind the film’s centerpiece: That really is a herd of 3500 buffalo storming across the prairie. The crew got only one shot at filming the stampede each day, since the animals had to first be rounded up and then, once they started running, would go for miles before stopping. “The trucks began herding the buffalo at five o’clock in the morning in hopes that they would be in position by 11,” producer Jim Wilson told Entertainment Weekly. Capturing the sequence took eight days and involved 20 wranglers, a helicopter, and 10 pickup trucks with mounted cameras.

8. NEIL YOUNG AND OREOS HELPED COMPLETE THE SEQUENCE.

Filming required a few domesticated buffalo for close-up shots. So the crew turned to singer Neil Young, who loaned them “Mammoth,” and to a South Dakota meat manufacturer, whose mascot “Cody” played the buffalo that charged a young brave who had fallen off his horse. To get Cody to run at the camera, his handler enticed him with his favorite treat: Oreos. “You could be 100 yards away, pull out an Oreo, and he’d take off like a bullet straight for you,” Wilson told Entertainment Weekly.

9. COSTNER DID MOST OF HIS OWN STUNTS.

Wilson estimates that Costner did 95 percent of his own riding, shooting, fighting and wolf-dancing in the film. All of which was impressive, but also kept the crew on edge. During the buffalo hunt sequence, a rider veered in front of Costner’s horse, throwing the star from his mount. “I was in the copter and all I heard was ‘Kevin’s down, Kevin’s down,’” Wilson recounted. While the crew held their breath, the star got up, dusted himself off, and hopped on his stunt double’s horse to finish the scene.

10. THE WOLVES WERE DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH, NATURALLY.

The crew employed two wolves—Buck and Teddy—to play Two Socks, the wolf that Costner’s Dunbar befriends. But even with trainers, so called “trained” wolves are notoriously temperamental. Lots of patience and meat scraps were required to get Buck and Teddy to cooperate. The filmmakers weren’t above humiliating themselves to get the shots they needed, either. Behind-the-scenes footage shows Wilson and Costner trying to get the wolves to howl by belting out their own calls of the wild.

11. COSTNER WANTED AN ACTRESS “WITH LINES ON HER FACE” TO PLAY STANDS WITH A FIST.

Going against the trend of pairing a leading man with a much younger love interest, Costner said he wanted a mature, more experienced actress to play Stands With a Fist, the white woman adopted by the Sioux tribe as a child who helps John Dunbar integrate with her people, and eventually falls in love with him. They handed the role to Mary McDonnell, a then-37-year-old stage actress who learned her Lakota lines quickly and deftly handled her character’s re-learning English. Her performance garnered an Oscar nomination—plus lots of compliments about her wind-blown hair.

12. HOLLYWOOD INSIDERS REFERRED TO IT AS “COSTNER’S LAST STAND.”

Hollywood insiders smelled blood after hearing about the film’s production difficulties. Some called the risky bet  “Costner’s Last Stand,” while others dubbed it “Kevin’s Gate,” in reference to Michael Cimino’s wildly over-budget Western flop Heaven’s Gate. In the end, they were all humbled by the film’s nearly $425 million box office haul.

13. THE STUDIO TAILORED SEPARATE MARKETING CAMPAIGNS TO MEN AND WOMEN.

Part of Dances With Wolves’ success was due to its appeal to both male and female moviegoers. To stoke interest, Orion took a unique step at the time by cutting separate trailers and print ads that played up different aspects of the film. The female-focused marketing played up the movie’s love story, while the male-focused campaign emphasized the gun-slinging, Wild West elements of the film.

14. IT BECAME THE HIGHEST-GROSSING WESTERN OF ALL TIME.

Over the course of six months in wide release, Dances with Wolves took in $184 million domestically, rocketing it past Young Guns, Silverado, and other Westerns to become the highest grossing film in the genre. Twenty-five years later, it’s still at the top of the chart, just ahead of 2010’s True Grit. Interestingly, in all its weeks in theaters, Dances With Wolves never topped the box office charts.

15. THE MOVIE GAVE ORION PICTURES A TEMPORARY BOOST.

The company that distributed RoboCop, Platoon, and Caddyshack rolled out a string of poor performers in the late 1980s. By the time Dances With Wolves came to theaters, Orion’s stock was down 50 percent and the company was $500 million in debt. “We needed a hit,” David Forbes, Orion’s president of marketing and distribution, told Entertainment Weekly. Unfortunately, not even the combined success of Dances with Wolves and Silence of the Lambs (which came out the following year) was enough to recoup Orion’s losses. A year later, the company filed for bankruptcy, emerging briefly in the mid-1990s before MGM bought it. In 2014, MGM released The Town That Dreaded Sundown under the Orion label.

16. THE FILM HAS ITS CRITICS.

More than a few reviewers wrote that the film was overly sentimental and romanticized the lives of the Sioux Indians. David Sirota, writing for Salon, recently called Dances With Wolves an example of a “white savior film” that tells a familiar story about a white hero who swoops in to save a helpless tribe from destruction. Native American actor and activist Russell Means, meanwhile, called the film Lawrence of the Plains, meant as a derogatory reference to Lawrence of Arabia, and pointed out that the film’s Lakota dialect is almost all wrong. “The odd thing about making that movie is, they had a woman teaching the actors the Lakota language,” Means told High Times. “But Lakota has a male-gendered language and a female-gendered language. Some of the Indians and Kevin Costner were speaking in the feminine way. When I went to see it with a bunch of Lakota guys, we were laughing.”

17. THE SIOUX NATION ADOPTED COSTNER AS AN HONORARY MEMBER.

Criticism aside, the Sioux were pleased with a portrayal that focused on the peaceful, day-to-day life of their tribe. So they honored Costner with official membership. The induction ceremony included tying an eagle feather in his hair and giving him a hand-woven quilt. A few years later, though, Costner lost some of those good vibes when he bought several hundred acres in South Dakota’s Black Hills—a land considered sacred by the Sioux—and announced plans to build a resort. Development proved difficult, however, and Costner finally abandoned the plan in 2013.

18. THERE’S A SEQUEL.

A sequel to the book, that is. In 2001, Blake published The Holy Road, which continues the story of John Dunbar, now a full-fledged Sioux warrior, as he tries to protect his tribe from encroachment by white settlers. Critics praised the novel for the ways it portrayed westward expansion and the plight of Native Americans without coming off heavy-handed. There have been rumblings about a possible miniseries, but nothing is confirmed at this time.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which premiered on this day in 1975, won critical acclaim, box office success, and a shelf full of Oscars. But even if you love the complex exploration of life inside a 1960s psychiatric hospital, there are a few things you may not know about its behind-the-scenes story. 

1. CUSTOMS NEARLY DOOMED THE PROJECT. 

Despite the middling success of the 1963 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel starring Kirk Douglas, Hollywood legend Douglas was dead set on adapting the story for the screen. Douglas contacted Czech director Miloš Forman about the project, promising to send Forman a copy of the book for his perusal. 

Douglas mailed Forman the novel, but the package was confiscated by Czechoslovakian customs and never reached the director. Unaware of the parcel’s fate, the filmmaker resented Douglas’ broken promise, and Douglas thought Forman rude for never bothering to confirm receipt of the novel. It took a decade to sort the mess out, and things only cleared up when Kirk’s son Michael Douglas took another crack at production and contacted Forman once more. 

2. ONE STUDIO WANTED TO CHANGE THE ENDING.

When producers were shopping the picture to studios, 20th Century Fox was interested, but with a catch. Fox would distribute the film, but only if the filmmakers would agree to rewrite the ending; the studio wanted McMurphy to live. Producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas wisely considered this a deal breaker, and United Artists eventually distributed the film.

3. JACK NICHOLSON AND LOUISE FLETCHER WERE NOT THE FIRST CHOICES FOR THEIR CHARACTERS. 


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When Kirk Douglas spearheaded the first attempt to bring One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to life on the big screen in the 1960s, he had intended to play the Randle Patrick McMurphy role himself, just as he had on stage. When production began in earnest 10 years later, Douglas was too old for the part, leaving director Forman to consider and contact the likes of Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and (his personal favorite) Burt Reynolds before finally settling on Jack Nicholson.

A number of different actresses were considered for the role of Nurse Ratched, the film’s central antagonist, as well: Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, and Angela Lansbury were all in the running, before Louise Fletcher ultimately got the part. 

4. LOUISE FLETCHER CHANGED FORMAN’S VIEW ON THE CHARACTER. 

Forman’s original view of Nurse Ratched was as “the personification of evil,” a characterization that made Louise Fletcher a bad fit for the part in the filmmaker’s mind. As Fletcher pressed for the role, Forman’s perspective of Ratched evolved: “I slowly started to realize that it would be much more powerful if it’s not this visible evil,” he said. “That she’s only an instrument of evil. She doesn’t know that she’s evil. She, as a matter of fact, believes that she’s helping people.” This new take on the character paved the way for the official casting of Fletcher. 

5. SEVERAL OF THE FILM’S STARS WERE NOT ACTORS. 

Following the production team’s decision to use Oregon State Hospital as its shooting location, the producers hit on the idea of casting facility superintendent Dr. Dean Brooks as Dr. John Spivey, the doctor charged with assessing R. P. McMurphy’s psychological health. Brooks agreed to play what turned out to be a sizable role, though it would be the only acting job he would ever take. He also helped secure employment for many of his hospital’s patients as extras and crew members during production. 

Mel Lambert, another non-actor, was wrangled to play the harbormaster who protested McMurphy’s ad hoc fishing trip. What’s more, Lambert—a respected area businessman who had a strong relationship with the local Native American community—introduced the production team to Will Sampson, the 6-foot-5-inch-tall Muscogee painter who would make his acting debut as the major character Chief Bromden. 

6. THE STARS LIVED ON THE WARD DURING PRODUCTION. 


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All of the actors who played patients actually lived on the Oregon State Hospital psychiatric ward throughout production. The men personalized their sleeping quarters, spent their days on campus “get[ting] a sense of what it was to be hospitalized” (as actor Vincent Schiavelli put it), and interacting with real psychiatric patients. 

7. MANY SCENES WERE SHOT WITHOUT THE ACTORS’ KNOWLEDGE. 

To complete this realistic immersion, Forman led his performers in unscripted group therapy sessions in which he directed the actors to develop their characters’ psychological maladies organically. He would often capture footage of the actors, both in and out of character, without explicitly mentioning that the cameras were rolling. The film’s final cut includes a shot of a visibly irritated Fletcher reacting to a piece of direction fed to her by Forman. 

8. FORMAN AND NICHOLSON HAD A TREMENDOUS SPAT OVER THE FILM’S PLOT. 

While the intensity of the turmoil varies from rumor to rumor, reports from the set were consistent on one fact: The star refused to speak with Forman for a large chunk of the production process. Nicholson took issue with Forman’s suggestion that the hospital inmates would be an unruly bunch upon the initial arrival of McMurphy. Instead, the actor insisted that such disavowal of the medical staff’s authority should only begin after the introduction of McMurphy into their lives and routines. 

Although the version of the story that we see in the film today is more closely associated with Nicholson’s alleged reading, suggesting that Forman ultimately took his advice, Nicholson refused to interact with his director from that point forward. When the star and Forman needed to communicate with one another, they used cinematographer Bill Butler as a middleman. 

9. DANNY DEVITO CREATED AN IMAGINARY FRIEND DURING PRODUCTION. 


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Emotionally strained by a demanding shooting schedule that kept him 3000 miles from his future wife, Rhea Perlman, DeVito developed the coping mechanism of an imaginary friend with whom he would have nightly chats. Concerned that his own sanity might be slipping away, DeVito sought the advice of Dr. Brooks, who assured him that there was no reason to worry as long as DeVito could still identify the character as fictional. 

10. THE CREW WAS WORRIED ABOUT THE SANITY OF ONE CAST MEMBER.

While Dr. Brooks had no concerns about DeVito, he echoed the rest of the cast and crew’s apprehensions about the psychological state of Sydney Lassick, who played Charlie Cheswick. Lassick exhibited increasingly unpredictable and emotionally erratic behavior during his time in character, a pattern that culminated in a tearful outburst during his observation of the final scene between Nicholson and Sampson. Lassick became so overwhelmed during the scene that he had to be removed from set. 

11. FLETCHER TOOK OFF HER CLOTHES IN ORDER TO GET FRIENDLIER WITH HER CO-STARS.

Envious of the camaraderie her male costars had forged, and hoping to dispel any associations with her tyrannical character, Fletcher surprised the cast one evening by ripping off her dress on the crowded ward. Years later, the actress laughed about the display, saying, “‘I’ll show them I’m a real woman under here, you know.’ I think that must have been what I was thinking.” 

12. THE FISHING TRIP SCENE BARELY MADE IT INTO THE FILM. 

Initially, Forman was vocally opposed to including a scene that took place beyond the grounds of the hospital out of concerns that a temporary liberation would undercut the dramatic force of the film’s ending. In the end, Zaentz convinced Forman to shoot the fishing trip sequence. It was the final scene filmed and the only piece shot out of chronological order. 

One thing to look for in the fishing scene: A very subtle Anjelica Huston cameo. Huston, who was dating Nicholson during production, has a nonspeaking role as one of the spectators on the dock as McMurphy and his fellow patients steer the stolen boat back to shore. 


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13. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST WAS THE FIRST FILM TO WIN ALL “BIG FIVE” ACADEMY AWARDS IN 41 YEARS.

Not since 1934's It Happened One Night swept the Oscars had a film walked away with awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took home the lot, with Nicholson and Fletcher winning the top acting awards. The feat would not be matched again for another 16 years, with Silence of the Lambs becoming the next (and last to date) movie to earn the distinction. 

14. THE FILM ENJOYED ONE OF THE LONGEST THEATRICAL RUNS IN MOVIE HISTORY. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was revered worldwide, but Swedish viewers developed an especially soft spot for the film. Cuckoo’s Nest remained a regular option for Swedish moviegoers through 1987—11 years after its initial release. 

15. KESEY REFUSED TO SEE THE FILM (BUT MAY HAVE BY ACCIDENT). 

The poster child for the “the book was better” movement, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Kesey disapproved of a big screen adaptation of his novel as soon as he found out that the filmmakers had abandoned the use of Chief Bromden as the story’s narrator. Kesey never intended to see the movie, but one story says he inadvertently caught a few moments during a bout of channel surfing one evening. Once Kesey realized what he was watching, he promptly changed stations.

According to fellow novelist Chuck Palahniuk (who has famously praised director David Fincher’s adaptation of his novel Fight Club, plot changes and all), Kesey once stated privately that he did not care for the material.

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The Origins of 10 Thanksgiving Traditions
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There's a lot more to Thanksgiving than just the turkey and the Pilgrims. And though most celebrations will break out the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, there are a number of other customs that you might be less aware of (and some that are becoming too ubiquitous to miss).

1. THE TURKEY TROT FOOTRACE

Many towns host brisk morning runs to lessen the guilt about the impending feast (distances and times vary from race to race, but the feel-good endorphins are universal). The oldest known Turkey Trot footrace took place in Buffalo, New York, and has been happening every year since 1896. Nearly 13,000 runners participated in the 4.97 mile race last year.

2. THE GREAT GOBBLER GALLOP IN CUERO, TEXAS

During their annual TurkeyFest in November, they gather a bunch of turkeys and have the "Great Gobbler Gallop," a turkey race. It started in 1908 when a turkey dressing house opened in town. Early in November, farmers would herd their turkeys down the road toward the dressing house so the birds could be prepared for Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, this was quite a spectacle—as many as 20,000 turkeys have been part of this "march". People gathered to watch, and eventually the first official festival was formed around the event in 1912. The final event of the celebration is the Great Gobbler Gallop, a race between the Cuero turkey champ and the champ from Worthington, Minnesota (they have a TurkeyFest as well). Each town holds a heat and the best time between the towns wins. The prize is a four-foot trophy called "The Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph."

3. FRANKSGIVING

From 1939 to 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up by a week. In '39, Thanksgiving, traditionally held on the last Thursday of November, fell on the 30th. Since enough people would wait until after Thanksgiving to start their Christmas shopping, Roosevelt was concerned that having the holiday so late in the month would mess up retail sales at a time when he was trying hard to pull Americans out of the Great Depression. It didn't entirely go over well though—some states observed FDR's change, and others celebrated what was being called the "Republican" Thanksgiving on the traditional, last-Thursday date. Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas all considered both Thanksgivings to be holidays. Today, we've basically split the difference—Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday of November, regardless of whether that's the last Thursday of the month or not.

4. THE PRESIDENTIAL TURKEY PARDON

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The story goes that since at least Harry Truman, it has been tradition for the President of the U.S. to save a couple of birds from becoming someone's feast. Records only go back to George H.W. Bush doing it, though some say the tradition goes all the way back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son's pet turkey. (Lincoln is also the President who originally declared that the holiday be held on the last Thursday of November.) In recent years, the public has gotten to name the turkeys in online polls; the paired turkeys (the one you see in pictures and a backup) have gotten creative names such as Stars and Stripes, Biscuit and Gravy, Marshmallow and Yam, Flyer and Fryer, Apple and Cider, and Honest and Abe last year.

5. THANKSGIVING PARADES

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Everyone knows about the Macy's Parade, but for a more historically accurate parade, check out America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth. The parade starts with a military flyover and continues with floats and costumed people taking the parade-goers from the 17th century to the present time. There are nationally recognized Drum and Bugle Corps, re-enactment units from every period of American history, and military marching units. And military bands play music honoring the men and women who serve in each branch: the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard.

6. BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday, of course, is the day-after sales extravaganza that major (and minor) retailers participate in. Most people think that the term comes from the day of the year when retail stores make their profits go from red to black, but other sources have it originating from police officers in Philadelphia. They referred to the day as Black Friday because of the heavy traffic and higher propensity for accidents. Also, just because you hear that it's "the busiest shopping day of the season" on the news, don't believe it. It's one of the busiest days, but typically, it's hardly ever the busiest, though it typically ranks somewhere in the top 10. The busiest shopping day of the year is usually the Saturday before Christmas.

7. CYBER MONDAY

Black Friday is quickly being rivaled in popularity by Cyber Monday. It's a fairly recent phenomenon—it didn't even have a name until 2005. But there's truth to it—77 percent of online retailers at the time reported an increase in sales on that particular day, and as online shopping has continued to grow and become more convenient, retailers have scheduled their promotions to follow suit.

8. BUY NOTHING DAY

And in retaliation for Black Friday, there's Buy Nothing Day. To protest consumerism, many people informally celebrate BND. It was first "celebrated" in 1992, but didn't settle on its day-after-Thanksgiving date until 1997, where it has been ever since. It's also observed internationally, but outside of North America the day of observance is the Saturday after our Thanksgiving.

9. FOOTBALL

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It's a common sight across the U.S.: parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles passed out on the couch watching football after dinner. Well, we have the first Detroit Lions owner, G.A. Richards, to thank for the tradition of Thanksgiving football. He saw it as a way to get people to his games. CBS was the first on the bandwagon when they televised their first Thanksgiving game in 1956. The first color broadcast was in 1965—the Lions vs. the Baltimore Colts. Since the 1960s, the Dallas Cowboys have joined the Lions in hosting Thanksgiving Day games, and the NFL Network now airs a third game on that night.

10. NATIONAL DOG SHOW

Of course, if football isn't your thing, there's always the National Dog Show. It's aired after the Macy's Parade on NBC every year. Good luck telling your dad that he'll be enjoying Springer Spaniels instead of the Lions or Cowboys, though.

A version of this story originally published in 2008.

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