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The holidays: extra shopping or extra kindness?

Thanksgiving and Christmas are as far apart as they ever get. But instead of being a time for extra shopping how about a time for extra kindness?

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Two shoppers joke around while sitting with their bags of merchandise at the Los Cerreitos Center mall on Black Friday in Cerritos, Calif., Nov. 23. Black Friday, the day following the Thanksgiving Day holiday, is traditionally the busiest shopping day in the United States.

Bret Hartman/Reuters

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Thanksgiving Day in the United States came early this year – in fact on the earliest possible date (Nov. 22) on the calendar that it can occur.

That means Americans are now in the midst of the longest possible shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 32 days. Next year, when Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 28, will offer only 26 days between the holidays.

Seasonal shopping has gotten off to a solid, if not spectacular start, retailers report. In recent years a new calendar filled with "shopping holidays" has sprung up to encourage ever more spending. This year Black Friday, the shopping day after Thanksgiving, oozed backward, with some stores open on the Thanksgiving holiday itself. Then there's Small Business Saturday (which encourages spending at local stores) and Cyber Monday, the day to look for bargains online.

Whether these new traditions, and the extra days before Christmas this year to spend shopping for gifts, will add to the total amount of holiday spending remains to be seen. In the early 1940s President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November, hoping to spur holiday buying by adding a week to the season. But many Americans resisted the change to their traditional holiday. After little effect on sales was seen, Thanksgiving soon returned to the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains.

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