Thanksgiving is upon us and that means families will be gathering to celebrate the day. A key challenge of this annual endurance test is to engage in harmless banter while maintaining a modicum of sanity. 


In order to get to the finish line unscathed, it's a good tactic to enter the fray with a quiver full of inoffensive discussion topics. You may love the Weather Channel as much as the next person, but “how about this weather” gets stale after the one hundredth time. So, as a public service, please let me offer some chit-chat choices.


Normally, it's wise to steer clear of topics such as religion, but this year an interesting religious theory might be debated. Should a Pastafarian be allowed to wear a red plastic colander hat for his driver's license photo? Normally the DMV does not allow the wearing of hats for these photos, but what if it's required by your religion? A member of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster recently posed this question. 


You may chuckle, but this church dates back to 2005, cases regarding the colander as headgear have been adjudicated in Ohio, Arizona, and Nebraska, and Pastafarians can officiate at weddings in New Zealand. More about this case at:


Of course, the main focus on Thanksgiving is the holiday meal, so you might discuss eating strategy. Did you eat breakfast or are you saving your stomach capacity for dinner? Skipping breakfast may make your stomach hangry (a combination of hungry and angry), so there is a lot to be considered. 


This won't be a problem for the upcoming Christmas dinner because by then Twinkies cereal will be available. Hostess Brands says: “The sugary cereal replicates the distinctive taste and familiar oblong shape of the golden-colored snack cake.” 


Twinkies cereal will be hard to resist even at $4 a box. There is a bit of a bummer here, though. “There's no cream in the center of the cereal version.” (


While all this is going on, there will undoubtedly be Christmas music playing in the background. This leads to an obvious discussion topic. How early is too early for Christmas music? 


It turns out that Michigan is second only to Tennessee for playing the most Christmas music in November. “Based on the data of more than 20,000 tweets, which were tracked in the days after Halloween, Michigan trails only Tennessee in having the most holiday spirit well before Thanksgiving.” The top 10 early Christmas music states are: Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Alaska, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Utah, Kansas. 


Maybe it's a good thing the music has already started this season. A late date for Thanksgiving means there are only twenty-six days from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. (


Another Thanksgiving tradition revolves around watching the Detroit Lions playing football (or whatever it is the Lions are playing these days). This Turkey Day game might lead to a discussion of sports. Luckily, there is a point about which we can all agree. Detroit teams are terrible. 


Here's a statistic to toss out there. “Of the 12 states in America with at least one MLB, NHL, NHL and NBA team, Michigan's the only one without a single team above .500 in win percentage. To make matters worse, none of our four teams are even close to .500.” It's enough to make a person hangry for (even) mediocrity. (

In these parts the Thanksgiving weekend is a chance to do some deer hunting, so here's a question for the hunters in the group. How many days off does your employer give you to go deer hunting? 


If it's fewer than two weeks, consider this. The Michigan legislature is on its annual hunting break. Now, realize: “Michigan is one of ten states that currently has a full-time legislature, meaning lawmakers are compensated for a full-time position.” Then add this to the discussion: “According to the Department of Natural Resources, as of November 15, twenty-two of 148 lawmakers have purchased deer licenses for this season.” Fill in your own wisecrack. (


And here's another hunting-related question for the group to ponder. What animal would you least like to encounter while you're out in the woods? I'll bet no one says “wild pigs on cocaine.” However, this is a problem in Italy. See, drug traffickers have been burying cocaine stashes in the wild, but the feral pigs are digging them up. “Feral hogs have been proliferating in the Italian countryside, making life difficult for farmers and motorists as well as drug traffickers.” Yikes! Makes a rabid badger seem almost cuddly, eh? (


Finally, a Neff Zone tradition continues. I have put together a special Holidays Page at Here you'll find games, activities, recipes, crafts, and all sorts of family fun. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and