Part 1: Black Friday
Let me open this with the fact that I absolutely love Thanksgiving.
I love getting together with either my immediate or extended family, helping set the table, helping around the kitchen (when my grandmother or mother allow me to, which still doesn’t happen very much at 25 years old), partaking in a gorgeous meal with my family, catching up, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (I’m a sucker for tradition), a quick nap, and board games and a drink after waking back up, followed by more wonderful sleep.
To me it is a day of being totally committed to family and being thankful for the things that we have, the things we can provide each other, and appreciating what we have. The day after, however, is a different story.
The day after Thanksgiving is affectionately called “Black Friday.” According to the Wikipedia page for Black Friday, the day’s name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. It also states that the use of the term started before 1961, and was later used outside of Philadelphia.
Alternatively, it is said to be the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are ‘in the black.” This is the day when stores thrown open their doors at unusually early hours, after hours of extra work on the behalf of the store’s staff, and allow eager shoppers to herd in and buy things at deeper-than-usual discounts.
The day after Thanksgiving seems to set the stage to highlight consumer greed in America. Driving between my parents’ house and my boyfriend’s family’s house on Thanksgiving evening I will sometimes drive by big box stores like Target and Best Buy and see lines already forming. Some will even have set up tents and have a camping stove (saw it once on the news), and will have a campfire “Thanksgiving” with their shopping partners while waiting to be let into the store for the first wave of door-buster deals.
This has always seemed like a sad tradition for me.
Maybe it’s because I identify more with the hourly workers than I do the CEOs of the company. I’m sure the CEOs and higher ups in corporate are more than pleased that people are lining up, giving up time with their family that they supposedly love so much that they will camp for a large screen television…but to me it represents a love of things more than a love of family.
By opening the doors earlier and earlier every year, the big stores require their employees to be back from spending time with their families. The holiday is one of the few that retail workers get off a year (Christmas being the most prominent of the few). Requiring them to be back on Thanksgiving, or in the middle of the night before Black Friday, shows that the company is more concerned with customers than it is their own workers, as if they themselves are not thankful for those that do the physical grunt work.
Thanksgiving, today, means spending a few hours with your family, and then going out to buy yourself (and hopefully them) more “stuff.” The idea that love can be bought becomes more and more stark to me every year, contrasting with what holidays are originally meant for (or even just the ideals of the holiday, as not everyone celebrates every holiday for the same reason.)
What if it meant less about retail value, and more about the value of the people you know and love, and that love you?