Black Friday vs. Holiday Spirit

Black Friday is officially out of hand; the retail revelry of day-after-Thanksgiving sales is now bleeding into Thanksgiving itself.

This goes far beyond the early Christmas Creep that Rod Dreher pointed out.

For the last several years of Black Friday bonanzas, tent encampments tended to pop up in the evening,  but only after Turkey left-overs had been shoved in the fridge. I recall my days as a sales associate at Circuit City back in 2006 — we didn’t open doors until Friday, 5 a.m on the mark, though the lines would start building around midnight. Not this year. An excerpt from the L.A. Times article linked above:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, will for the first time launch its holiday sale kickoff at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, joining Toys R Us Inc., Kmart and other chains that have already thrown their doors open while holiday turkeys are still warm.

Other big retailers — including Target Corp.Best Buy Co.,Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. — have decided for the first time to open at midnight.

With tents often springing up at Midnight before Black Friday openings, what will happen now? It’s dreadful to imagine some will skirt celebrating Thanksgiving traditions and their closest relationships in quest of new material possessions — but I’m certain it will happen. While Christmas Creep annoys a lot of us, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be going away anytime soon.

Growing up in a mostly-functional Southern family, I still had a healthy exposure to holiday tradition. On Thanksgiving, we’d pray together, before stuffing ourselves with carb-laden comfort foods; after our homemade feasts, we would head into the field behind our house for family baseball games. Each Christmas, I’d visit both sets of grandparents — along with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We’d have a silly string fights in my Grandmother’s backyard, after exchanging presents with family members. Granted, for a 10-year-old boy, Christmas morning was toy time (the old people always got me clothes — kids never like that). I was more concerned with button-mashing away at The Legend of Zelda, than talking about the birth of Christ. But I still went to Christmas Eve services, and at Thanksgiving, my parents made an effort to convey the meaning behind the holiday.

Are the parents of my own generation going to do the same? Or are they more likely to spend Thanksgiving Day in the confines of a tent, ranting to their impressionable, young children about Playstation 3’s superiority over X-Box 360? I cannot imagine that the cultural impact of excess Christimas-time consumerism will be a positive one. To echo Rod Dreher’s post earlier today, the decline of family meals is disturbing. Even for the non-religious in my circle of acquaintances, atheist and agnostic alike, Thanksgiving has been a day of friendship and family — things the American tradition cherishes.

At least some of the store employees are speaking up:

As family time gives way to commerce, annoyed employees and supporters have taken to Facebook, Twitter and online petitions to vent. Employees at both Best Buy and Target have created online petitions at Change.org urging their companies to open later so workers can “break bread with loved ones.”

Inevitably, some silly news outlet will insinuate a Christmas-gift spending binge as a positive sign for the economy, even as main street still struggles. Phil Giraldi suggested that buying gifts from local establishments, and supporting American-made products, this might be a good way to keep money within local economies.

Perhaps the best way to honor the spirit of Christmas and Thanksgiving, is to intentionally start boycotting this retail madness. I think I will be skipping out on Occupy Best Buy this year, even if I do still plan to play the newLegend of Zelda on Christmas morning.

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