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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

An App for a New Kind of Holiday

In 2009, while watching the closing credits of Invictus, the film about Nelson Mandela’s first years as South African president, I heard Yollandi Nortjie sing “9000 days were set aside / 9000 days of destiny / 9000 days to thank Gods wherever they may be.”  Mandela spent 9,000 days in prison (about 24.7 years).

For some reason, I started thinking about the power of expressing the passage of time in alternative incremental units, and after playing around on Excel, I figured out that my spouse and I would soon have the opportunity to celebrate our “ten millionth marriage minute” (a little over 19 years). 

It struck my fancy that this was a length of time worthy of observing in some way – even if just as an excuse to share a nice bottle of wine.  For whatever reason, I loved discovering these additional, arbitrary moments of celebration and I decided it would be pretty easy to alert people when an unusual holiday was about to occur. 

Christmas in China

I spent 12 days in China with my family over Christmas this year, a whirlwind tour that took us to seven different cities, including the birth-cities of my two adopted daughters.  In a series of blog posts this week, I recount a few observations from the trip.


Last I heard, the Communist Party in China wasn’t that enthusiastic about Christianity.  You never would have known it spending Christmas there with my family a few months back.

We arrived in the Beijing airport to the sounds of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer playing in the background.  Pretty much the only music we heard the whole trip was Christmas music.  This was true not just in places frequented by tourists, but also in shopping malls and restaurants as far-flung as Nanchang and Zhenjiang  — two cities where we didn’t see a single American in two days.

Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas (Ep. 105)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.) 

It’s the latest in our annual series of explanations about how economists can take all the fun out of the holidays. In the past, we’ve looked at gift cards, deadweight loss, and gift registries.

This year, we have one simple mission: ask economists how they go about shopping for the holidays.

A Memorial Day Post

It’s a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, marked at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands by American and Dutch flags on the graves.  There are many visitors, almost all Dutch, on this solemn occasion, with the only Americans apparently us and the U.S. military personnel here for the occasion. 

The site brought to mind the commonality of culture and purpose that prevailed in America during World War II, and that many Americans seemed to feel again after 9/11.  The role of a common culture and mutual trust in facilitating the operation of markets by lowering transaction costs cannot be overestimated. Their effect on the civility of political discourse is also crucial.  It’s sad that we moved away so rapidly from that commonality so quickly after 9/11.

Portugal's Budget Cut: Public Holidays

The BBC reports that Portugal will be cutting 4 of its 14 public holidays as an “austerity measure”:

Two religious festivals and two other public holidays will be suspended for five years from 2013.

The decision over which Catholic festivals to cut was negotiated with the Vatican.

It is hoped the suspension of the public holidays will improve competitiveness and boost economic activity.

Are Greeting Cards a Thing of the Past?

This year, we emailed an electronic letter reporting on our family events and offering best wishes to all the friends and relations to whom in the past we had snail-mailed Jewish New Year greeting cards. We felt guilty about switching away from the time-intensive activity of buying, signing and addressing snail-mail cards, and worried that the email would signal others that we viewed our time as too valuable to spend on a card. We don’t.

Are Economists Cheap? Or Do We Just Believe in Comparative Advantage?

The front page of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal tells us that “Economists are cheapskates.” The article by Justin Lahart is hilarious, recounting the foibles of those of us who sometimes take our classroom lessons about economizing a step too far – particularly when it comes to economizing on time.

What to Get an Economist for Christmas?

Christmas and economists go together like – well, like drinking and walking. Joel Waldfogel, the economist who is famous for highlighting the deadweight loss of gift-giving, has a new book out called Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays.

A Gut Yontif for L.A. Drivers

This was no fluke; there’s a big improvement in the Westside traffic situation every year on the Jewish high holidays. To many, this seems mysterious. True, West L.A. and the southern San Fernando Valley have large Jewish populations, but not that large.

How To Measure Rosh Hashanah Services

My wife and I were speculating on how long last Friday’s Rosh Hashanah service would last. We both figured on two hours, but my wife said, “Services always last longer than you expect.”

FREAK Shots: The Upside of Cooking Dangerously

Turkey fryers are fixtures at southern holiday parties. As I watched my friend’s husband gleefully fry his turkey in a big vat of boiling oil this Christmas, I became a bit concerned for his and my safety … and rightly so. Underwriters Laboratories has refused to put its label of approval on turkey fryers out of concern that “backyard chefs . . .

Puzzling Over the Invisible Economy

Last week I did something that felt very 1990’s: I purchased a compact disc. The CD wasn’t for me; it was a Christmas present.

As I wrapped the CD, I pondered the silliness of the whole enterprise. After all, the recipient — like most of us these days — listens almost exclusively to MP3 files. In fact, I’m not even sure if he has a CD player beyond his laptop, which he will use to convert his disc-shaped gift into a more useful set of MP3 files.

Our Daily Bleg: What Do You Get an Economist?

Freakonomics reader Presh Talwalkar, author of the Mind Your Decisions blog, wonders why there’s no holiday-gift guide for economists: I see many practical applications to such a list. It could help students give gifts to professors, businesses give gifts to hired economists, etc. Perhaps this list would reduce the “deadweight loss” of Christmas gifts. The problem, of course, is that . . .

Why Roast a Turkey?

Photo: cobalt123 According to this collection of turkey statistics, “more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving.” In a country of some 300 million people, that’s one whole turkey for every 6.67 people. According to this report, the average Thanksgiving gathering has about 11 people. So that’s nearly two whole turkeys on every single . . .

A Not So Romantic Valentine’s Day

As a Valentine’s Day present to my wife, Jeannette, I flew her to romantic Council Bluffs, Iowa, and bought her an entry into the High-Heeled Poker Tour event being played there over the weekend. These are women-only events, with the winner taking home the coveted “high-heel” necklace. Just so she understood that this truly was a Valentine’s gift to her . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Get free anti-virus software with your Valentine’s Day flowers. And you’ll need it, if you open the wrong Valentine’s e-card. Are Internet-savvy patients changing medicine? (Earlier) The professor’s dress code.

Is There a January Late-Fee Spike?

If I am someone who profits from other people paying their bills late — a big landlord, perhaps, who charges a 5 percent late fee on rents — I would have to think that January is my favorite month. Why? So many people are traveling during late December, or having their schedules otherwise interrupted, or are perhaps afraid to open . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Study shows black Americans still receive inferior cancer treatment. How many people went out for Chinese on Christmas? Could more sun actually be good for you? Ordering at restaurants: a behavioral economist’s take.

Economics and New Year’s Resolutions

In recent days, we’ve introduced a pair of regular guest bloggers, Ian Ayres and Sudhir Venkatesh. We are happy and proud to now introduce a third, a terrific addition and no stranger to readers of this blog: Justin Wolfers, an economist at Wharton and a great explorer of everything from racial bias in N.B.A. refereeing to the decline in women’s . . .

Where Do You Give Charity, and Why?

This is the time of year when a lot of people give to charity, in part because of the holidays and in part because of year-end tax considerations. Below you will find a few loosely connected observations about charity and then, at the end, some questions for all of you. It is probably not fair that I am not answering . . .

The FREAK-est Links

A New York guide to holiday tipping. Researchers discover the surefire way to win at Rock, Paper, Scissors. (Earlier) An economic case for predicting no recession. Monkeys exhibit the same addition skills as college students.

Just in Time for Christmakwanzaakkah

After overcoming some technical difficulties, we seem to have perfected the process by which we send out free autographed Freakonomics bookplates. This allows you to turn a common, mass-produced object into an autographed common, mass-produced object (and, thereby, a cherished keepsake). While we are not making any promises, there is a good chance that if you order a bookplate in . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Can a future of Internet gridlock be avoided? Corporate prediction markets conference kicks off in Kansas City, Mo. A breakdown of Halloween spending. Expert debunks myths about current U.S. wages and productivity.

A Good Halloween Costume for Fathers

I hadn’t worn a Halloween costume in many years until last night, when my kids — Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and a man-eating shark, respectively — encouraged me to do so. I tried to think of something that would take almost no time, effort, or money. The idea came to me in a flash. With my kids, I . . .

The FREAK-est Links

The Long Tail author comes down on press release emails. New breed of mega-pumpkin creates market for carvers. Just how big is the American League advantage? Halloween fun facts: 90 percent of parents steal their kids’ candy. (HT: SugarShockBlog)