Thanksgiving: Are you traveling for the holiday?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
AAA Thanksgiving Day travelers

Click on this graphic to visit AAA’s website where you can read the entire report about holiday travel.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, an official federal holiday with roots in early harvest festivals, especially the one observed by the Pilgrims in 1621.

What are your plans for the holiday? Are you traveling this year to visit family and friends, or staying at home?

I’ll tell you our plans: We’re staying home for the first time in years.

What are other Americans doing this year? More Americans are traveling this Thanksgiving than last year. More than 46 million Americans will travel 50 fifty miles or more from home to spend time with family and friends, according to estimates from the American Automobile Association. This is 4.2% higher than last year, and it’s the highest volume since 2007.

Almost nine of ten travelers (89%) will go by car, according to AAA’s estimates. This is a 4.3% increase over last year. More than 3.5 million Americans will fly—the highest volume since 2007.

Thanksgiving is a popular holiday, but have you noticed that advertisers appear to have skipped it? We’re well into the (secularized, commercialized) Christmas season. The local Starbucks is decked out with colors, symbols, and slogans associated with the Christmas season—but they had nothing about Thanksgiving. The TV ads by car companies also appear to skip over Thanksgiving.

What, no money to be made hawking Thanksgiving?

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Are you traveling for the holiday—or staying at home?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

Thanksgiving: Is “mutant turkey” on the menu?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Turkeys in a turkey farm

A TYPICAL TURKEY FARM—This photo from Wikimedia Commons shows a flock of “Broad Breasted Whites,” the variety of modified turkeys that comprise the majority of Thanksgiving turkeys sold these days.

At the Thanksgiving table, what’s your choice: White or dark?

How about: Mutant?

Many Americans prefer white meat, and the nation’s poultry producers have learned how to breed large, fast-growing turkeys with lots of breast meat. In fact, today’s turkey is a giant compared to turkeys of yesteryear, reports Mother Jones.

In the 1930s, the average turkey weighed 13.1 pounds. This year, the average turkey weighs 29.8 pounds—and some male turkeys can weigh as much as 50 pounds.

That’s a lot of white meat!

Before the 1950s, the turkeys that found their way to the Thanksgiving dinner table were pretty much the same as wild turkeys. Since then, poultry farmers have breed turkeys to favor genetic traits for large size and fast growth. This results in more white meat, which consumers desire, but also produces birds that are so heavy they can’t support their own weight. Today’s giant turkeys are bowlegged and stooped. They are so big that natural reproduction isn’t possible and artificial insemination must be used.

What’s your opinion of factory farming?

To what extent do farming methods influence your consumption?

What choices do you make regarding Thanksgiving dinner?

Care to read more?

Each year, journalists report on the fate of turkeys nationwide. From an environmental perspective, you might want to read Mother Jones magazine’s first report this autumn, headlined “Butterball Goes ‘Humane for Thanksgiving. Really?“as well as the magazine’s more recent story, “Look How Much Bigger Thanksgiving Turkeys Are Today.” For an even deeper look into the farming and marketing of turkeys—with a stronger environmental slant—check out this story in the environmental magazine, The Grist, headlined “Calling Fowl: How to pick the most humane turkey for Thanksgiving.”

This is sure to spark conversation among family and friends, so … please …

Share this with friends!

You can share this with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

Thanksgiving: Is the holiday cheaper this year?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Vox website charts Thanksgiving inflation 2014

Click on this chart compiled by Vox to visit the Vox website and read the entire story about the relative cost of Thanksgiving dinner.

Gas prices are down, so if you’re driving this year, you’ll be spending a bit less on gas for your vehicle.

What about food? Is the cost of Thanksgiving dinner higher, lower, or about the same this year as last year?

It depends on what you’re having for dinner. Butter and margarine are a lot more expensive now than last year—16% higher, according to CPI data compiled by Vox. Steak and bacon are more expensive, too.

But a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year is less than 1% higher than it was last year. Compared to the cost of Thanksgiving dinner in the past, this year is about average. The lowest cost for Thanksgiving dinner occurred in 1987, about 15% cheaper than it is this time. Expensive years include 2011, 2007, and 1989.

Despite these holiday fluctuations, there’s been a long term decline in food spending over the decades, according to data by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Americans spent a much bigger share of their disposable incomes on food in the 1930s, 19040s, and 1950s than they do now.

Cheaper food doesn’t mean that millions of Americans are not going hungry. Over 49 million people lived in food insecure households in 2013, according to Feeding America. This includes almost 16 million children.

Are you spending less, more, or about the same on Thanksgiving this year, compared to last?

What’s happening in your community to alleviate hunger this season?

Share this with friends!

You can share this with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

Thanksgiving: Should we boycott Black Thursday?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Take the PBS poll on whether stores should open on Thanksgiving

CLICK on this PBS logo to take the poll on whether retailers should open on Thanksgiving. (NOTE: This poll may be another example of what I describe as “United America.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, many Americans are enjoying food, family, and friends, but some will be going to work. Big-box retailers like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy are open today. Do you think stores like these should be open on Thanksgiving? Or, should they be closed so employees can spend the holiday with their families? (There’s a poll you can take below.)

A few states ban stores from being open on Thanksgiving. Even without a ban, some big-box stores refuse to be open today: Costco, Marshalls, Barnes & Noble, GameStop, T. J. Maxx, and several others.

But other stores will be open: Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, Sports Authority, and more. Many of these open at 5 PM or 6 PM today, but a few open bright and early.

Some shoppers like Black Thursday; some employees like the opportunity to earn holiday pay. But there’s also a social movement afoot to boycott stores that are open today. One of the most popular is “Boycott Black Thursday: Put Employees and Families First” on Facebook. It has over 80,000 fans. Its mission is clear: “On November 27th, boycott any retailer that chooses to extend massive Black Friday sales into Thanksgiving Day. Protect the employees, protect the family.”

I hop you will take the poll, courtesy of PBS: “Do you think retailers should remain open on Thanksgiving?”

Your options are:

  • “No, employees should be able to spend Thanksgiving at home.”
  • “Yes, it’s nice to have another option to Black Friday sales.”
  • “Unsure.”

Do you plan to go shopping today?
Do you think retailers should be banned from being open on major holidays, like Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving: Know the “Three and Out” Gratitude Rule?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Ari Weinzweig Managing Ourselves from Zingermans

Click this cover to visit Zingerman’s webpage for the book.

Yesterday was a traditional day of giving thanks, but we’re surrounded by opportunities to express gratitude every day—if only we look for them.

For example, do you know the “three and out” rule?

Thanksgiving is our theme this week. So far, we’ve discussed how more Americans traveled yesterday than at any time since 2007, the rise of gigantic “mutant turkey” on the Thanksgiving menu, the cost of the holiday, and whether we should boycott big-box stores that were open Thanksgiving.

Today, we end the week with a positive practice about thankfulness. This positive practice comes from Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In his latest book, Managing Ourselves, he recounts the rule:

“When I feel my energy sliding into the negative realm, I find someone around me—whether in person, on the phone, or via email, and I thank them. Sincerely. For something that they’ve done that I honestly do appreciate. I always get back positive energy. Then I immediately find someone else and do it again. Bingo. I get back more positive energy. Within a matter of minutes, I repeat my act of appreciation a third time. Voila! More positive energy.”

Psychologists who study happiness uniformly report that the expression of gratitude elevates positive emotions—in the giver and the receiver. Ari’s “three and out” rule is a good way of putting that insight into practice.

Who or what are you grateful for?
Would you try the “three and out” rule and tell us what happened?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.