Over the years, I've written four different columns on Thanksgiving. "Thanks and Giving" (two words); "Thanksgiving - Don't Complain"; "Thanksgiving, Food and Hunger." If you're interested, they're in my books. My favorite of these is "Thanksgiving - Holiday - Holy Day - Everyday." Thanks giving is a daily thing; we should be thankful everyday - and for every day.
This column, however, is much different. It's about Black Friday. Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving. On this day most major retailers open early, often as early as 4 a.m. and offer promotional sales to kick off the Christmas shopping season. It's the busiest shopping day of the year.
Black Friday got its name from frustrated police in Philadelphia, who used the term to describe the heavy, disruptive urban traffic the day after Thanksgiving. Later, others offered another explanation that Black Friday was the day on which retailers began to turn a profit: the day on which the accountants' books went from red to black.
For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6 a.m. on Friday, but in 2011 several retailers including Target, Macy's and Best Buy, for the first time opened at midnight. And this "Thanksgiving Creep" continues. This year Walmart announced it would open its doors for Black Friday discounts at eight o'clock Thanksgiving evening. Black Friday, believe it or not, is now Black Thursday! Other stores, given Walmart's role as a retail trendsetter, are likely to do the same.
The Black Thursday opening at 8 p.m. probably won't interfere with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner (although obsessive shoppers might be taking their pumpkin pie to go), but it might inhibit watching some evening football on TV. I admit that this shopping is a lot like hunting. What motivates shoppers is the thrill of the pursuit; the pursuit is more important than the kill. And, like hunters, chatting and bragging about it afterwards has much to do with it.
But what about those poor employees who have to work Thanksgiving Day - sometimes for multiple shifts? They too will be away from their families. I understand these workers have initiated a petition and that some Walmart employees are threatening to strike in opposition to this Black Friday Creep.
I know there are some tempting deals for those willing to forgo turkey, football and family time, but shoppers should ask themselves what's really important?
And talk about Black Friday creep, Amazon is offering a Black Friday WEEK. That's right, it began a week ago and last year Amazon rolled out a string of Black Friday deals 24 days before Black Friday. Black Friday is no longer a day, it is a #@%&* MONTH - or at least 24 days. Something is dreadfully wrong here.
And I haven't even mentioned Cyber Monday. That's the Monday following Black Friday to get people to shop for bargains online. Online retailers say their sales increase dramatically on Cyber Monday. According to comScore, in 2010 consumers spent over a billion (that's billion with a "B") on Cyber Monday.
This is materialism on steroids. We're in danger of becoming a nation of mere consumers. We are manipulated by seductive advertising and jerked around by alluring deals, but isn't there more to live for besides shopping for stuff?
And why do we need all those trendy Christmas gifts anyway? Do our children, grandchildren - or Aunt Maggie need the latest craze? Do they even want them? I know the commercialization of Christmas is another topic, but it's intimately related.
Wouldn't handcrafted, homemade, personalized gifts be better? Or how about plain old cash? That would let folks buy what they need and save us a lot of running around or surfing the Web. More importantly, it would give us more time for the things that really matter.
Don't allow Black Friday or Cyber Monday to darken your lives - or your holidays. And the same goes for another advertising come-on: Boxing Day on the day after Christmas.
Me thinks the Pilgrims (Thanksgiving) and Jesus (Christmas) are wondering, "What happened? What have they done? How could they have screwed it up so royally?" Good questions for this holiday season.
Daniel O'Rourke lives in Cassadaga. His column appears on the second and fourth Thursday each month. A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest. His new book, "The Living Spirit" is a collection of previous columns. To read about that book or send comments on this column visit his website www.danielcorourke.com/