One of those Facebook pops of wisdom (via someecards.com) showed up on my wall the other day. Normally these are quirky and satirical observations that most of us can relate to, but this one spoke to me in a different way.
It stated, “Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”
The crazy consumerism that tends to wrap itself around Christmas season is overpowering not only the magical and beautiful parts of the season, but now it is overpowering Thanksgiving and even Halloween. Stores and manufacturers have had to deal with a significant decline in sales over the last several years due to the recession, and in an effort to curtail the losses, they are rolling out the Christmas shopping season earlier and earlier. This year ribbons and bows showed up in commercials as far back as late September, Christmas music sporadically plugged up the airwaves since early November, and holiday displays sat side-by-side with 75%-off Halloween products.
And the day that usually sounds the sirens for the Christmas season to begin—Black Friday—has now bled into Thanksgiving Day as stores tested our tolerance three years ago by opening on midnight on Thanksgiving Day. This must have been successful, as two years ago several stores were advertising insanely great deals beginning on Thanksgiving evening, as in 8:00 p.m. on turkey night.
Are We United in Buying Things, or Are We United in Thanks on Thanksgiving Day?
Paul has wanted to purchase a flat screen television for two years now. I have to admit that I have no real desire for one. There are two things that I like about flat screen televisions: the amazing definition and vibrancy of colors on Planet Earth, Blue Earth, and other neat shows, and being able to mount the unit on a wall so that they take up less space. But these two positives are not enough for me to choose to prioritize a large chunk of money towards the purchase of one. However, Paul has diligently and patiently waited for two years, prices have dropped since 2005, we are both gainfully employed, we’ve built up a fully stocked emergency fund, and we are out of non-mortgage debt—who am I to say no now?
I still do not want to pay full price for one and thought I had found the perfect deal to be able to surprise Paul on Christmas day: a 40” Toshiba LCD HDTV for $380 at Best Buy. But when I reached the store it turned out that I had missed the sale by a few days. The sales associate felt bad about it, and with a wink and a nudge-nudge he confided to me that at midnight on Thanksgiving Day I could grab a flat screen television for an incredible $199. He even suggested that I stand in line at about 8:00 p.m. to increase my odds of scoring one of the coveted 30 his store will have. I thought about it for a moment, me leaving whatever warm and cozy home I am in surrounded by family to stand outside on the cold cement sidewalk with the glow of Best Buy’s fluorescent lights on my face. It took about half of that moment to figure out that there was no way I would do that. I thanked him and left.
There is a growing trend in consumerism that is making me uneasy: the Black Friday selling and buying frenzy is encroaching on Thanksgiving Day. Instead of each of these days getting their own time to shine—a day centered around friends, family, and food, and then a day centered around incredible deals—an evening of full bellies, love, and laughter could now be spent standing in a line with hundreds of other cold, impatient people to try and score a flat screen for $199. This year Best Buy, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Target will be opening at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. True, midnight is technically the next day, but in order to score the incredible deals people will need to do something crazy—like eat Thanksgiving meal, watch a football game, gather in a living room for an hour, and then haul off to stand in line at around 8:00 p.m. when all of the other people trying to score a deal will be out and about. If the stores continued to open at 4:00 a.m. or so on Black Friday, then at least everyone would get the entire evening to spend with family and friends. This trend appears to only be getting worse; as one competitor announces it will be opening its doors at midnight, the others must follow suit to not lose consumer dollars.
With more stores rolling out Black Friday deals at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, I thought I should ask: are we united in buying things or are we united in Thanks?
There are a growing number of people who are fed up with this over-commercialization of the holidays. I have shopped once on Black Friday back in college with my mother, and admittedly had a great time. But now that we might start seeing Santa and elf costumes (the jolly kind, not the kind that have come back from the dead) during Halloween, I feel the need to reclaim the season for what it actually is and for what it means to me.
Here are some ways we can all do this:
Share What We are Thankful For
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. A nice tradition is to take a few minutes to go around the table or the room and have each person share something they are thankful for. These could also be written down on paper, put into a container, and read one-by-one at a gathering.
Teach the Next Generation How to Cook a Family Dish
There may not always be time to cook with children and teenagers during the work week, so why not carve out some time on the one day a year that is centered on food and family. While you are making the meal, choose a family recipe or any recipe and teach it to the next generation. If you have time, photocopy or handwrite the recipe and take this opportunity to pass it on.
Make a Wish
If you like the tradition of breaking the wishbone to see who gets the “lucky break”, perhaps alternate year to year of who gets to play the game.
Play a Game Together
For many of us, Thanksgiving is one of the few opportunities per year that a lot of our family is under the same roof. We might as well take advantage of it! Why not play an indoor or an outdoor game? With a yard and enough players, someone can bring a football to start a casual game. Later at night when everyone is stuffed and feeling good, starting a board game can be a lot of fun. My favorites are Monopoly, Uno, and Jenga.
Watch Something Together
The Macy’s Day Parade and football games are popular things to watch together throughout the day. My own personal tradition is to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation sometime during Thanksgiving weekend.
Gather for a Great Leftover Meal/Snack
The main cook may not wish to cook again for the rest of the day, or the next several days for that matter. But it could be fun to have someone else assemble some leftovers to gather for a second, more casual meal or snack. These could be turkey sandwiches (try ‘The Moistmaker’ that Monica makes Ross on the television series Friends or turkey enchiladas…or just seconds!
I would love to hear about your personal traditions that make this holiday special and grounded in what means the most to you. Let’s share with everyone so we can help keep these sentiments alive!