Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Infamous Black Friday Shopping Day

What in the world has happened to our sacred Black Friday shopping day? To the tradition that signaled the beginning of the Christmas season?

Thanksgiving has come and gone and so has the infamous Black Friday shopping day—the day THEY say marks the moment retailers have covered their expenses for the balance of the year and are operating totally in the black. Or at least that's what it originally meant…in days gone by.

Since Thanksgiving is always on Thursday, for the majority of people living in the U.S. that equates to a four day holiday weekend. In the past, the long holiday weekend has marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, commencing Friday morning. It also signaled the time to drag out the holiday decorations, gift wrapping paper, and turn our thinking to the jolly ho-ho-ho mode.

But it seems that everything is different now. Somewhere along the line it has become an almost bizarre ritual bordering on an event type of display.

Rather than stores opening a couple of hours earlier than normal as it used to be, each year for the last few years they are opening earlier and earlier. People waiting in line outside for hours in the cold so they could be the first ones to rush inside the moment the doors were unlocked at 3:00AM. Television news crews would do live reports from some of the larger stores showing hundreds of people with their lawn chairs, sleeping bags, and some even had tents. Earlier in the evening it's a party type of atmosphere. By the time the store unlocks the doors, it's a lot of very cold and tired people. I suspect they want inside from the cold as much as to make that race to their desired bargain.

This year where I live, the temperatures were much warmer this year than they were last year. However, those warmer temperatures were accompanied by strong winds. If someone didn't have their lawn chair anchored down, it would blow away. Several stores opened their doors at midnight this year. Then there were a couple of them that opened Thanksgiving morning and never closed.

Black Friday sales have now evolved to include shopping on the Thursday Thanksgiving holiday. And you know how that goes…once it happens, it becomes tradition.  :)

I think the biggest boost to the concept of Black Friday bargains has been the internet. Shopping via the internet rather than actually getting in the car and driving to the mall has been growing by leaps and bounds. And this year so many internet shopping sites were offering the same Black Friday sale prices as their brick and mortar stores and as their competitors including additional incentives such as free shipping. No standing in line for hours in the cold in the middle of the night. Now those bargains are only a mouse click away. You get a good night's sleep and Black Friday is available for pursuits other than elbowing your way through throngs of holiday shoppers. Personally, I find that a preferable alternative. :)

So, who braved the weather, lost sleep, and jostled your way through crowds to snag those bargain prices this year? And how many of you have now completed your holiday shopping?

And speaking of holiday shopping…how many of you noticed how early all things Christmas were out and on display this year? I encountered Christmas items prominently displayed even before Halloween.

How many of you preferred to stay home, click the mouse, and enjoy all those Thanksgiving dinner leftovers while watching football?

And now I have a confession. I did venture out to a store on Black Friday morning about 7:30AM, but not for holiday shopping. I had to go to the office supply store because I was out of printer ink. There were a few people there, but not many. However, 4 doors north of the office supply store Kohl's had a very full parking lot.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Facts and Myths…And Those Naughty Pilgrims

I have some Mayflower myths to share with you, then we'll talk about those naughty and sexy pilgrims!

Myth: The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the pilgrims celebrated it every year after that.
Fact: The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition. In fact, it wouldn't have been called Thanksgiving because to the pilgrims a thanksgiving was a religious holiday. That feast in 1621 was a secular celebration and would not have been considered a thanksgiving in their minds.

Myth: The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact: The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was a three day celebration based on the English harvest festivals. In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, a decision fraught with controversy. The date was approved by Congress in 1941.

Myth: The pilgrims wore only black and white clothing with buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
Fact: Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century. Black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions.

But what about the actions and activities of those naughty pilgrims?  How did Hester earn that scarlet A?  As with so much in life, there's the fa├žade and then there's the reality. :)

Although not liberal in their thinking or lifestyle, the pilgrims were not as uptight as history would have us believe. They tried to create a strict religious society, but had an understanding and mercy unusual for their time. As time passed, intolerance grew and was reflected in their laws as demonstrated by the notorious Salem witch trials.

Men were not the only offenders in Plymouth colony. The prim women weren't always so pious either. Women were often caught with the evidence of their dalliances: babies. The records of the times are filled with one out-of-wedlock child after another. Babies showing up just a few months after marriage were also evidence of wrong doing. Pre-marital sex was severely punished. Fines were levied even for making passes, for appearing to have a lascivious carriage in public, or partying in mixed company at an unseemly time of night.

Sex outside marriage, even between two unmarried consenting adults, usually meant a whipping and fines. If the woman became pregnant, the man had to either marry her or pay for the child's upbringing. The man was usually placed in the stocks and whipped while the woman was made to watch. Sometimes mercy was granted as in the case of a servant, Jane Powell. Following years of hard servitude, she was destitute and had agreed to having sex in the hopes of marrying the man. Apparently the court found her plea convincing and she went unpunished.

Even though the pilgrims imposed strict punishment for crimes, they also understood human temptations. In 1656, Katheren Aines and William Paule were sentenced for committing adultery. William was whipped and forced to pay the costs of his imprisonment. Katheren was whipped, imprisoned and forced to wear a letter on her shoulder designating her as an adulteress. (Calling Nathaniel Hawthorne!) However, Katheren's husband, Alexander, was also punished. Alexander had left his family for some time and treated her badly during their marriage. The pilgrims viewed him as guilty of "exposing his wife to such temptations." Alexander was required to pay for his wife's imprisonment, and sit in the stocks while William and Katheren were whipped.

This Thanksgiving as you sit down to your turkey dinner, it might be a good idea to take a moment to be thankful that you aren't a pilgrim. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Turkey Trivia…Just In Time For Thanksgiving

It's almost that time of year again…the fourth Thursday in November. In less than 2 weeks we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. Americans cook approximately 45 million turkeys each year for Thanksgiving. So, in honor of the holiday, here are a dozen known and not so well known bits of trivia about turkeys.

1) All turkeys do not taste the same. The taste has to do with their age. An older male is preferable to a younger male (the younger tom is stringy). And the younger female hens are preferable to the older ones. Hmmm…that older man and younger woman syndrome?  :)

2) A turkey less than 16 weeks old is called a fryer and a turkey 5 to 7 months of age is known as a roaster.

3) Turkeys are a type of pheasant and are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.

4) Wild turkeys are able to fly for short durations attaining speeds up to 55mph. Domesticated turkeys raised on farms for food are too fat and meaty to achieve flight.

5) We've all heard that Benjamin Franklin argued in favor of the turkey as the national symbol of America rather than the Bald Eagle.

6) The first turkeys to be domesticated were in Mexico and Central America.

7) The male turkey makes the gobble sound and the female clucks.

8) A mature turkey has about 3,500 feathers, which is a lot of plucking before it can be cooked.

9) The most turkeys produced annually come from Minnesota and North Carolina.

10) The skin that hangs from a turkey's neck is called a wattle. The fleshy growth on the base of the beak is the snood.

11) Each year 90 percent of Americans have turkey for thanksgiving compared to 50 percent on Christmas.

12) The most turkey consumed per capita is not eaten by Americans. Israel holds that honor.

One thing that's marvelous about the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is all the terrific leftovers! Anyone out there having something other than the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Did Butch Cassidy Survive?

I read an interesting article a couple of months ago, which brought to mind a documentary I saw (I think on the History Channel), about Butch Cassidy and speculation about what really happened to him.

We've seen the Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, where they supposedly die in a shoot out with the Bolivian army in 1908. At the end of the movie, they rush out of the building with guns blazing and are surrounded by soldiers unleashing a barrage of bullets. The scene freezes with them still on their feet and the closing credits roll across the screen. We never actually see them die, but it's alluded to much like the real life story of Butch Cassidy alludes to him having died in South America.

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, perhaps the story of his death was greatly exaggerated.

For decades rumors have persisted that Butch survived the shoot out, returned to the United States, and lived in quiet anonymity in Washington state under an assumed name for nearly thirty years after his death.

And swirling at the center of the controversy is a 200 page manuscript titled Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy written in 1934 by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane, Washington, in 1937. Utah book collector Brent Ashworth and Montana author Larry Pointer believe that the manuscript is not a biography of the famous outlaw, but actually an autobiography and that Phillips was really Butch Cassidy. Ashworth and Pointer insist that the manuscript contains details that only the real Butch Cassidy could have known.

As with all speculative versions of history, there are always detractors to the theory, historians who claim the manuscript is not an accurate portrayal of Cassidy's life…or at least his life that is known.

Everyone basically agrees that Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866 in Beaver, Utah. He was the oldest of 13 children in a Mormon family and robbed his first bank in 1889 in Telluride, Colorado. He served a year and a half in the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie followed by most of the next 20 years spent robbing banks and trains with his Wild Bunch gang.

Cassidy historian Dan Buck disagrees with Ashworth's and Pointer's conclusions. Buck suggests that the reason Phillips knew so many details about Butch that others wouldn't have known was because the two men actually knew each other back then.

In 1991 Buck and his wife helped dig up a grave in San Vicente, Bolivia, reputed to contain the remains of Butch and Sundance. DNA testing revealed that the bones did not belong to the two outlaws. However, Buck still insists his research confirms that Butch and Sundance died in that 1908 shoot out in Bolivia.

There are stories about the Sundance Kid living long after his time in South America, but they are outnumbered by the many alleged Butch Cassidy sightings. A brother and sister of Butch Cassidy insisted that he stopped in for a visit at the family ranch in Utah in 1925. Phillips' adopted son believed that his stepfather was the real Butch Cassidy. Since Phillips was cremated following his death in 1937, there's little possibility of being able to obtain any type of a DNA match.

So the mystery continues…