The Spirit of Christmas gets a lot of attention nowadays, so today I want to talk about a lesser-known spirit – the Spirit of Thanksgiving.
There aren’t three ghosts that go with this one, nor Ebenezer Scrooge, holiday trees, or a cartoonish old guy with presents. Nope, the best the Spirit of Thanksgiving can offer are little kids wearing hastily glued construction paper Indian feathers and pilgrim hats. And cornucopias…although the black metal cornucopia in Hunger Games will probably have kids in art classes everywhere messed up for years.
Thanksgiving is a time for counting our blessings and spending time with family. And as we all know, Thanksgiving is followed by a day called Black Friday.
I’m not sure when the rules changed exactly, but somewhere during the past several years – very recently – the rules for Black Friday have shifted. Black Friday used to mean that stores simply opened early – 6 or 7 a.m. – so shoppers could get a head start on their holiday shopping. Then a few stores started sneaking the hours up to 4 or 5 a.m. in an effort to be the only thing open. Then advertisers started getting tricky by advertising electronics at ridiculously low prices, but only stocking limited quantities. (There used to be only televisions, VCRs and sound systems to line up for, but a boom of computers, laptops, Nintendos, Wii, iPods, iPads, iPhones, Kindles and Blue Ray players have made this stakeout in the wee hours of the morning all the more necessary for the competitive shopper.)
Stores act like they’re doing the consumer a favor by running such low prices, but in reality, this threw the consumer over a barrel, as no one in their right mind really wants to be forced to get up at 2 a.m. to stand in line at Best Buy. And this is where people started getting accidentally trampled outside Wal-Mart and other strip malls across the country.
Last year someone got the bright idea to start opening stores at 12 a.m. – as in, don’t go to sleep Thanksgiving night and go straight out to do your shopping. And people inevitably started lining up around 8-9 p.m., shivering in the cold for such sales. I’ll never forget my surprise last year when driving back from an event with family to see the line outside our local electronics store winding around the building and out of sight. People who should have been in front of an open fire roasting chestnuts or something, who were instead camping out on the cold, roach-ridden pavement.
Because nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like standing in line to buy more stuff.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, stores like Wal-Mart, Sears and Target have announced this year that they will actually be opening at 8-9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.
This is the first year they ‘ve ever attempted this, and the answer for the consumer is simple. If stores go through all the time, manpower and advertising to open their doors on Thanksgiving night and no one shows up, you can guarantee this will be the last year they try that. If, on the other hand, we all show up like lemmings and give them the best sales numbers they’ve ever had, they will do it every year afterward.
And don’t think Christmas won’t be next, because it certainly will.
They’re getting away with this because they can. And to that end, I have written an open letter to retailers like Wal-Mart:
I won’t be shopping at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night in your store. And I won’t be in line with strangers waiting for your store to open either. I will be at home with my family, thanking God for how my cup runneth over, not how he might bless me with 45% off an Apple iPad2. Yes, I do want to support the economy, especially during a time of recession, but I will do it during normal hours on Black Friday morning. You’ll thank me one day…and so will your employees.
It’s time to take back Thanksgiving from the hands of the marketers…And this is the year that will make or break the tradition.
Because if Thanksgiving ever gets drowned in a tide of commercialism, known simply as “the day we watch the Macy’s Parade, then all go out and shop,” that really will be a Black Friday indeed.
If you support The Spirit of Thanksgiving, please feel free to share!
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence…for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness…for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and..in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications..[We] beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws…to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”
George Washington, 1789