Exhaustion during Thanksgiving weekend might come from the preparation, cleanup and bloating from an elaborate meal full of rich food, but for the last several years it is also likely due to the frenzy of Black Friday, continued into Saturday, and anticipation of Cyber Monday. Where can the best deals be found, what early hours do the stores open, and what is the best logistical plan to get to all the stores? This of course has nothing to do with the holiday of Thanksgiving and recognizing our blessings like the Pilgrims in 1621. For most people, this hectic shopping which has now become a tradition is the official beginning of the Christmas season. Finding the right gift is definitely fun right up there with Santa, but perhaps it needs to be revisited when it comes to racing people to a parking space, shoving in lines and going into debt.
Good shopping sales have been around for a long time, but the origin of the term Black Friday comes from the 1960s when it was used in Philadelphia to describe the large crowds and traffic jams resulting from holiday shoppers. In large cities, this most definitely occurred after Thanksgiving Day parades. Several years later it was turned from a negative phrase to one with a positive tone because it made money for retailers with good bargains for shoppers. Even though "in the black" means profits, most businesses make profits every quarter, so it is more of a myth to claim that the term comes from not making profits until the Christmas shopping season. Whatever the origins, today it is commonly understood by most people and has spread to other countries.
In the midst of this weekend and the remaining shopping season, it is also traditional for many to enjoy and celebrate family and religious observances associated with the season. A focus other than on material goods from the store, it comes closer to the original spirit of Christmas and holds lasting memories long after the glitzy or plastic gifts are forgotten. Certainly in "yesteryears" the simple traditions and gifts were common and special.
Decorating Christmas trees is a time-honored holiday tradition.
The Christmas tree was carefully chosen and decorated, special recipes were prepared, and one or two gifts were thoughtfully selected. Perhaps it was something from the Sears catalog or handmade. In hard times, people were happy with a knitted scarf and a special candlelit meal with family. Thoughts of "Little House on the Prairie" come to mind when Mary and Laura were thrilled with red mittens and a peppermint stick. In fact, one special Christmas gift for this author was getting a hardcover book from that very series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Of course, it is the religious practices that hold the original intent of the season and for Christians, it is one of the holiest of the year with the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent wreaths to recognize the coming of Christ, humble mangers beneath the Christmas tree, and worship services all are meant to remember the true meaning of the holy season.
Having some fun on Black Friday may be a new tradition, but it is the old traditions, whether secular in nature with Santa or religious with Christ that create longer lasting memories and happiness. It is no surprise that the latter are created with family and are things that "money can't buy." A 2012 article, "Of Regrets and Resolutions," suggests some simple ideas to keep in mind about family that are particularly helpful at this time of the year. Advice from older people near the end of their lives, the first regret was wishing more time was spent with the people they loved. Being "busy" with insignificant things or "multitasking" does not develop meaningful connections with our family and friends, nor does constant attention to technological devices or parallel activities where we may be in the same room, but not paying any attention to each other. Try giving undivided and meaningful attention to those around us without getting caught up with the holiday season hype. Another common regret was not letting oneself be happier due to thinking that there is always something else needed to bring happiness. We can be happy by enjoying with gratitude what we do have here and now. Try enjoying the moments of each day and magnifying the positive things in our lives, which of course are our families, friends, and faith. The latest glitzy toy may seem nice, but it is not what people remember or talk about when all is said and done. Who can even remember what they received as gifts last year?
The next few weeks will be busy for most people with holiday traditions. Exhaustion from endless shopping with an excessive focus on material things to the point of forgetting what is really important will not create cherished holiday memories. Make it a good week and consider making some of Grandma's cookies and watching a holiday movie at home with the family. Some service to others in need is also a great way to remember what the spirit of the season is all about.
Note: Last Sunday, Nov. 18, a Fredonia resident stated in the OBSERVER's Opinion section that Civil War hero William Cushing should be honored with a statue in our village commons. Cushing was a hero considering he received a personal thank you from Abraham Lincoln and Congress for helping to turn the tide of the Civil War. He is considered by many to be the forerunner of the NAVY SEALS, is featured in the Naval Academy's museum, and of course is buried in their cemetery; a unique honor for the family because his brother is also buried at West Point. Perhaps a statue could someday be placed near his monument which is in front of Fredonia's Village Hall which was dedicated on Flag Day in 1968. Over the years, several articles including the OBSERVER, have been written about our hometown hero, some of which may be found on the internet. "William Barker Cushing A National and Hometown Hero," dated Nov. 16, 2008 highlights the dedication ceremony. "An Annapolis Adventure," dated Aug. 17, 2008 highlights a personal search for his grave on the Academy grounds, as well as his childhood and war background. "A Prominent Wedding of the 19th Century," dated March 21, 2010 highlights all the fanfare of his local wedding. Fredonia and the county have much reason to be proud.
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