Was this you, this past Thursday night?
Thanksgiving, for me, has always been family time. A day when we come together with all our noise and laughter, our love and enjoyment of just being together in a world where far too often, the demands of school and job take us away from family. All the traditional holiday dishes are prepared, the best china dragged out of the cabinet and the silver polished. And then we sit down to a table laden with turkey and all the fixin’s, and thank God for the blessings we far too often take for granted. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade entertains before dinner and football afterward. Sometimes played out in the yard in the crisp fall air while the grandparents nod off in the living room after dinner. There’s always at least one game on TV that the adults, even those who rarely watch football, sit around and enjoy together. When I was in high school and marched with the band, football was local, in the morning against our arch-rival. And the house, when we returned, enveloped us in the scents of roasting turkey and apple pie and happy chatter.
But things change and while most of us cling to at least some of the Thanksgiving traditions of our youth, we give ever more ground to encroaching materialism. When I was a child I never saw Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. Then the music and the sales began after Halloween. And now they barely let school get underway in the fall before we are inundated with the lure to buy, buy, buy. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to be appalled by the changing face of Christmas, but that’s a topic for another day.
I also remember when most of the world returned to work on Friday as usual. But as families became more mobile and moved away from each other the idea of having a long weekend to allow for travel so we could still be together on the holiday began to take root. More and more companies gave their employees Friday off as well as Thursday. And of course, the opportunity to turn that extra day into a sale day to kick off what merchants hoped would be a banner year of holiday sales or a way to end a bad year on a high note was not to be missed. I think I must have shopped on Black Friday once upon a time, because I avoid being in the stores on that day like the plague now. I find the rude, pushing and shoving crowds to be the last place I want to be. I know quite a few people who love the idea of getting all their shopping done in a single day and especially love the idea of saving a ton of money at the same time. And I’d be happy for them, if Black Friday had remained Black FRIDAY.
But it didn’t. In an effort to be first to open their doors, shops began opening at 5:00 am for the early bird specials. Then it was one minute past midnight. And now it’s come down to shopping at 8:00 pm on Thursday night. Folk are willing to spend the entire night curled up in a sleeping bag in a line of hundreds to be first into the stores. I suppose if you have no family you might as well spend your time doing this sort of thing, but what about the rest of us? Instead of sprawling in the living room with their waistbands unbuttoned, laughing and sharing and just enjoying the leisure of being with our families, we are encouraged by sales-hungry merchants to suck in our bellies, button up our pants and warm up the credit card. And for the most part, to spend more money than we can really afford for things we probably don’t really need.
One of my favorite recent series on TV is Blue Bloods and the thing that most appeals to me about that show is the family aspect. Every week, at some point all four generations sit down to dinner together, offer thanksgiving to God and share a meal. I wonder what the Reagans would think of Black Friday and the scramble to begin it on Thursday night? What do you think? I know there are two sides to every story, so I’m really interested in your ideas, even if they oppose mine. (Click on the word comments below to share your thoughts.)