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Black Friday. A day that people either love or loathe. Look forward to or cringe at the ads. Prepare for weeks, planning even months in advance or wait for the passing flurry of people to reduce to a quiet gathering of bargain hunters. Black Friday has turned into Brown Thursday.

I remember growing up and admittedly, looking forward to the possibilities of waking early the morning after Thanksgiving to accompany my mom to the store. She’d have her list, as well as a fistful of ads colorfully luring shoppers to their store with myriad suggestions for “him” and “her” gifts. Advertising captivated my attention at age 8, and especially as thoughts of Christmas and Santa Claus roamed closer my gift list greedily turned longer. I am no longer 8 and understand consumerism a bit better (as well, I do not have someone offering to buy me a bagel and apple cider at 6am as early morning compensation). The holiday that is known as Black Friday has now become a cause for slight concern, strong bewilderment, and my own disapproval. I peer at these ads with their times and openings and sales that no longer reflect a shopping day beginning at the crack of dawn, but now retailers are inviting shoppers to start their spending the eve before Black Friday — also known to many as…Thanksgiving.

I tried to think about the benefits of this and its relationship, if any, to having a meaningful Thanksgiving. Many working people are granted two days off. Right, doctors, nurses, those in health care professions and trained workers servicing those whom are dependent do not receive such a holiday. Policemen, firefighters, etc. Okay, so many individuals still are working. But for those who are not, the masses of people who have two days off to, presumably, spend doing whatever they want now have the option to shop. Great! What a valued American past time that we’ve never had the opportunity to experience! Now I’m not trying to make decisions for people or proselytize, but unless there is some must-have sale that human kind has never before seen, offering iPods, iMacs and Kindle Fire’s on sale for 75% off the manufacturer’s price…why do we have to begin shopping mere hours earlier? Why can’t we have one day off where we aren’t totally consumed by consumerism? By shopping and commercials…where we can be tempted but have no opportunity to act on it other than online shopping. Where we can simply think of the wonderful goods we want to buy like a dream bubble in our mind…?

I get it. I understand that by offering consumers the option to begin their holiday shopping on Thanksgiving day evening, say 10pm, it’s technically allowing retailers the opportunity to make hundreds or thousands of dollars more than if they opened at 5am. We’re addressing the economic woes the United States is facing, we’re stimulating growth and by chasing consumers with discounts they couldn’t resist it’s preventing businesses from digging themselves into a deeper debt. But please, just one day where work can cease and we can rest on the thoughts of what Thanksgiving is about — perhaps that is an idealist speaking though. An equation of Thanksgiving no longer looks like this:

turkey + football = Thanksgiving

but this,

turkey + football + Target = Thanksgiving

I have no problem with Black Friday. It’s a part of our culture, traditions are created around this day and for those that do enjoy embracing the crowds, generally speaking, the sales can be very buy-worthy and save families A LOT. But what I fear happening is that by opening the doors of retailers Thanksgiving Day, post-turkey, it’ll not only take place this year, but next year and for years to come. It will become a new part of our Thanksgiving culture. Instead of relaxing post-meal to hearty conversations and cheesy/classic holiday movies like Home Alone or A Christmas Story, families will be mapping out what stores offer what deal, at what time, and configure their route so all bargains at all five stores can be bought. Wal-Mart is offering a 1opm discount on various merchandise, but a 10pm discount this year will be an 8pm sale in 2016 and a pre-dinner sale in 2021. I love America – its absurdity, its obsessions and all of the turkey trimmings – but is this what makes America…America? Are these our values? Drowning ourselves in a consuming culture when we’re already doing so in debt? Starting a habit of opening stores on Thanksgiving evening with sales that cannot be beat will, and does create a change in our cultural values and norms. If the Martinez’ next door went to Best Buy at 10pm to get a 30% discount off of a total sale, and the Paulson’s hear about it, next year they’re quite possibly going to rush to next years door busters. It’s a domino effect that will move faster over time.

Perhaps I’m speaking with haste, but I believe this is how cultures change and traditions fade from actual experiences to photographers wanting to document the few remaining celebrations. My only hope is that the turkey remains, mashed potatoes always find a place on the table, and that these musings are simple thoughts that will never come to fruition.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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2 thoughts on “Turkey + Football + Target

  1. Sue, I am so with you. I was disgusted that stores have invaded a day in which we’re supposed to reflect on what we have that we’re THANKFUL for (hopefully with a focus on family, health, and basic needs met), to turn the focus on more and more “I want, I must have, I ‘need.'”

    But it’s not surprising, I mean, they’re setting up Xmas decorations before Halloween has even come and gone nowadays.

    We’ve turned into a culture of grabby, elbowing, pushing materialists. Never satisfied with what we’re blessed to have, but always on the hunt for more more more. Do people ever stop to reflect on why that is? What’s the void they’re trying to fill with more and more goods?

    PS- know this post is a good month+ since you blogged, just catching up on some on some of my reading 🙂

  2. I always appreciate your thoughtful replies, Crystal — thank you for being a steady reader!! It is slightly sickening to think about how much time we spend shopping, consuming, and being a part of the material world. I can’t imagine us saying, “Oh, the happiest moments of my life were while shopping at the mall.”

    Those are good questions to ask and while I do think some people ask themselves these very things, I don’t think they absorb the answers or really observe their behavior. In my mind, a cultural shift needs to happen and as we continue to advertise ourselves as the land of plenty, with toys/cars/meals gaining mass, and consumers who are happy with a sale, I fear we will remain on this straight and narrow path toward a decline of cultural values.

    And if money did buy happiness, according to the rate we spend and what we do with our purchases, wouldn’t we be the happiest nation in the world instead of Bhutan, which only legalized television in 1999? We need to learn something from them; you need to visit 🙂

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