Black Friday. That ominous day for some, a thrilling adventure for others. Every Thanksgiving we made the eternal long drive to my aunt’s house in Redding. In reality the drive took three hours. We spent several days there. Thanksgiving was spent cooking, sitting around, eating, watching professional and college football. That evening, individuals waded through the thick packet of advertisements and joked about what ridiculous toy they would go after, just for the hunt. Friday morning, more ads were gone through. The gentlemen left early for the hunting ground, returned, and lounged around the house. Later on the ladies left and went to departments stores, a discount store with a little bit of everything, and lunch. It was relaxing, fun and not too expensive. We’ve lost most of our traditions but Black Friday, for me, remains a day, stress-free and nostalgic, with deals to be had.
But that’s easy for me to say. I’m an extrovert. I like the crowds, feeling like I’m in the wild, and I like the sentiment it brings me: the memories, the mess of ads on the dining table Friday morning along with turkey leftovers for lunch. It’s like that for a lot of people.
But Black Friday can be an ugly day. It sounds like an ugly day, named after Black Tuesday and the stock market crash. Who would want to join in that? So stores began the rumor that it is named “black” because the stores “go into the black” aka, go out of debt. Myth! No, it’s a day that many feel demonstrates what is most regrettable about American culture: materialism, madness, greed.
Now Black Friday encroaches on our whole weekend. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday (which I whole-heartedly support), Cyber Monday, and, what-to-call-it, throw-out-tradition Thursday? I feel that retailers have an amazing amount of power in American society, through advertising, through the raging desire to score a deal. Thanksgiving, once a day of family feasting, once a day of revelry, once a day of sitting around a television watching football, once a day of traditional gender roles (women in the kitchen, men around the aforementioned TV), once a day of mythological pilgrims and Indians and Mayflowers (remember that one?), retailers do their best to usurp every opportunity possible to “make a buck, make a buck.”
So social media groups start up, boycott this, boycott that. Because we couldn’t just…stay home that day, right? We have to throw out the entire thing. I love point made that movie theaters have for ages been open on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day, as are drug stores, hospitals and all kinds of organizations and businesses. So regarding the complaint about employees being with families, is it fair to complain now when so many other employees have been through it for ages? I’m not saying Thanksgiving should become a shopping day, I don’t think it should be, but we should look at the big picture.
I do often wonder if we only perceive society coming to this. I mean, communities used to be driven by communal groups within their community. So what you knew is what your neighbors knew and what the banner across Main street said. Now, what do we know? We know what we choose to read online (social media, carefully selected new sites that align with our views or at least do not wildly offend them) and whatever is advertised. Speculation of the number of advertisements the average American is exposed to each day varies widely. Needless to say, it is a lot, especially with widespread advertising online. We are again and again picking up messages that shopping and sales are where the activity is at on Thanksgiving, no longer at dinner. For myself, I think this impression is caused more by the uproar over stores opening on Thanksgiving than the stores themselves. For good or ill, social media is a powerful thing.
I prefer the positive fight. How about, instead of “Boycott Black Thursday,” ending the day with a block party? Imagine if we connected more deeply with our communities with big family celebrations, church gatherings or, as I mentioned already, block parties. Is it simple? No. Are our gatherings set up for it? Likely not. But it’s a good idea, right? I’m sure it would help if family lived nearby or something. We’re so huddled into our little homes in our little suburbs that we rarely see what happens outside. So we see advertisements and group after group lamenting the loss of American culture through shopping, evil materialism at every turn. It’s a problem, but there is a vacuum in our society and retailers are just making the most of it. We have to build up society if we want to save it. We can’t do it if we won’t sit outside a spell and see our neighbors.
So take it to the front porch this year (if it doesn’t snow). I hope you won’t be sorry. God bless you and your November. Let the holiday madness begin!