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Why People Shop on Thanksgiving Day

Stocks in this article: M TGT WMT SHLD KSS

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Now that we've finally arrived at Thanksgiving, can we place some sort of moratorium on complaining about the holiday shopping that happens on Thanksgiving night?

We've already gone into the hypocrisy of wailing about the commercialism of Thanksgiving shopping while watching floats and balloons paid for by toy companies, retailers and and movie studios parade down Sixth Avenue with Santa Claus in tow. If you watch the Macy's (M) Thanksgiving Day Parade, you tacitly agree with Macy's position that the holiday shopping season starts once the corpulent red-suited sleigh driver hits Herald Square. That puts Thanksgiving Day shopping at Target (TGT), Wal-Mart (WMT), Kohls (KSS), Sears (SHLD) and elsewhere on the table right next to the can-shaped cranberry sauce and that larded Midwest casserole dish monstrosity crowding the turkey.

We've also delved into the audacity of Americans who yell about the erosion of family holiday tradition with volume usually reserved shouting at the screen during 12 consecutive hours of the National Football League's Thanksgiving coverage. Remind us again how lengthy video reviews and a href="">even lengthier explanations of the intricacies of the game to your football-illiterate relatives are time-honored Thanksgiving traditions.

The fact is that in the United States, a nation of 320 million people, it's statistically impossible for everybody to spend the holiday the same way. During my earliest days in this industry, I spent most of my Thanksgiving holidays behind the screen of a copy desk at various New Jersey and New York newspapers getting the ad-heavy Black Friday edition ready for the presses. While serving as assistant news editor at one of those papers, my colleague and I put together Thanksgiving potluck dinners, with everyone bringing a dish. From homemade empanadas to store-bought cookies, it was a huge spread that was about the best we could ask for with the restaurants closed and family dinners miles away.

In 2013, those newsroom dinners don't seem nearly so unorthodox. A CareerBuilder survey found that roughly 14% of U.S. workers plan to spend Thanksgiving at work. The retail workers manning the Thanksgiving sales account for 29% of that total, but 36% of leisure and hospitality workers will also be on the clock. Meanwhile, 23% of health care workers will be on hand in case someone chokes on a bone or burns themselves on a biscuit pan. It gets tougher by geography, as roughly a third of workers in both Atlanta and Denver will spend Thanksgiving with their coworkers.

Even if you have the day off, that's no guarantee you'll spend it with family. When family members live huge distances away and aren't exactly jet-setting members of frequent flyer clubs, they sometimes have to pick their holidays carefully. Though 43.4 million people told AAA they plan to travel 50 miles or more this thanksgiving, that's down 1.5% from last year's 44 million. Of those making the trip, only 67% are doing so to be with family and only 56% are in it for Thanksgiving dinner.

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