National Holiday: Trips (and costs) rise for Thanksgiving

Basting a Thanksgiving turkey. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24: Americans can brace for a sharp rise in Thanksgiving travel this year, news reports say. You will feel the crowds—and you’ll also feel a pinch in the wallet! The Los Angeles Times reports an average 11-percent jump in the cost of air travel over last year. Hotel rates are up 5 percent and gas for your car will average more than 66 cents over last year. Think you can save by staying home? The LA Times says the cost of an average grocery trip for Thanksgiving dinner is up 13 percent this year, as well.

Just how big is the traffic jam we can expect?
The Associated Press reports that 42.5 million Americans are hitting the road—the highest number of people since the start of the recession. That’s good news, right? More Americans feel confident about traveling to join their families and give thanks. Most of us—9 out of 10—plan to drive, despite the high cost of gas.

One special group soon will be traveling halfway around the world: U.S. troops in Iraq. However, according to reports from Iraq, our service men and women already ate their 2011 Thanksgiving dinner. Bases are closing down major operations in preparation for the departure of troops by the year’s end.


PRESIDENT OBAMA pardons the White House Thanksgiving turkey. White House photo in public domain.No one knows for sure when the first harvest feast was held in what is now the United States. The cultural instinct to gather, as a community, and give thanks before winter storms arrive has been a strong pull across the Northern Hemisphere. Early Spanish arrivals in North America may have had such feasts. But the widely celebrated “first American Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 at Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. Wikipedia has a detailed overview of Thanksgiving practices in Canada and the U.S.

If you’re looking for more Thanksgiving fun online, ranging from pictures to stories about Thanksgiving history, the Plimoth Plantation website is a great starting point. This high-quality historical site is endorsed by the Smithsonian Institution. Looking for dinner ideas? You’ll find plenty of recipes at AllRecipes, table decoration inspirations from HGTV and themed kid crafts at Kaboose.

Why does the President “pardon” the White House turkey? In recent years, a national educational program focuses on the White House turkey. School children name them and learn about Thanksgiving customs. After the pardoning, the turkeys become part of the Mount Vernon Christmas-themed display. Later, they live at Mount Vernon in its ongoing agricultural exhibit. The First Family and friends dine on dressed turkeys shipped to White House chefs for the holiday.


Want some gee-whiz Thanksgiving facts to share? National Geographic provides a long list of holiday facts and historical footnotes to share over dinner. Compiled for Thanksgiving 2010, the detailed article still is fascinating. Do you know which state produces the most turkeys in the U.S.? Minnesota, followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana and Virginia. And do you know whether the story of “tryptophan” in turkeys making us sleep is truth or myth? It’s actually a myth, National Geographic reports. Mostly, it’s the sheer calorie intake (plus alcohol in many households) that sends folks off to nap.


The OurValues section of RedTheSpirit, written by nationally known sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker, reports on an unusual experiment Baker has been conducting about gratitude. Can you predict the outcome? Also, Baker is inviting readers to share your own stories of gratitude. Please stop by and join in the project.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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