A 2020 Thanksgiving

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Pumpkin with a Medical Face Mask

(mikeledray/Big Stock)

Thanksgiving usually means we’re going big — way over the top. Twice the size bird we could possibly eat; more side dishes than the table can hold; and, of course, so much pie. But so many things will be different this year because of the pandemic. Our celebrations will be smaller, and our travel plans limited. We’ll try to be grateful for what we have, while feeling the pain of all we have lost.

On this special episode of The Pulse, we explore the traditions of Thanksgiving through a scientific lens and discuss how the coronavirus will impact the holiday. We hear stories about the neuroscience of gratitude — and how it can help us through grief, how the pandemic has impacted our food systems, and what people are doing to stabilize the supply chain. We also make a visit to a multi-generational cranberry farm and hear about a tough decision over whether to cross state lines — not for turkey, but for love.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Jacqueline Mattis of Rutgers University researches positive emotions, and she says making time to feel gratitude is especially important this year.
  • To travel or not to travel — that’s the dilemma facing millions of Americans ahead of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday. Health officials are urging the public to stay put, but as Alan Yu reports, the decision of whether to travel has become an agonizing one for people across the country.
  • Overeating is a Turkey Day tradition — but what exactly does it do to our bodies? To find out, we talked with Atlanta gastroenterologist Earl Campbell III about the nuts and bolts of digestion … from one end to the other.
  • The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in our food system. Nate Mook of World Central Kitchen talks about the symbolic meaning of a hot plate of delicious food, and connecting the dots to get meals from people who produce it to those in need.

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