Happy Holidays citizens of The Manoverse!! Alas, today I come not to praise our most wonderful time of the year, but to express a bit of frustration.
Yesterday we celebrated that most American of holidays…Thanksgiving. We’ll look at the holiday itself a little closer this time next year because I am currently reading a delightful book about its history, but I just ran out of time to finish it before the big day itself came & went. However, for now let me just say that I feel bad for Thanksgiving. It really has begun to get lost in the shuffle the past decade or so. We don’t appreciate Thanksgiving on its own merits anymore. Instead we look at it merely as the kickoff to the Christmas season. If Christmas is the Super Bowl then Thanksgiving is the pre-game show to which people don’t bother giving their full attention. There was a time, believe it or not, in colonial America that Thanksgiving was the main event and Christmas wasn’t even commemorated. Thanksgiving was a celebration that lasted for several days in reverence to God and the blessings that He had seen fit to bestow. Somehow we’ve gone from that deeply spiritual sense of appreciation to treating Thanksgiving like a Nascar pit stop where we take just a few minutes out of our busy schedule to stuff our faces with turkey, stuffing, & pie and maybe watch a football game before rushing to the mall for some retail therapy. All we care about is that we have a paid day off from the job we hate and get a free pass on our diet for the day. Those things aren’t necessarily bad (because really…who doesn’t enjoy a day off & a big hunk o’ pie??), but they should be secondary benefits, not the main focus of our gratitude.
Things have gotten progressively crazier over the past decade with the growth of a phenomenon called Black Friday. The term itself was coined back in the 60’s or 70’s, and interestingly was originally an environmentalist wacko reference. It alluded to the increased traffic that clogs up the streets (and pollutes the air) on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Eventually it evolved to mean the day when retailers go “in the black”, i.e. when their year becomes profitable. Black Friday has long been lauded as the busiest shopping day of the year, but I have my doubts as to whether or not that is always the case. Logic dictates that “the busiest shopping day of the year” would be a moving target, changing annually based on a plethora of circumstances. At any rate, when I was a kid, if memory serves me correctly, there were always the occasional “midnight madness” sales, but the whole thing wasn’t this huge nationwide event. In the past several years the idea has blown up and taken on a life of its own. At first stores would open up at 5 or 6 in the morning. Then it became 3am. Eventually it became the norm for most places to begin the insanity at midnight. And now, in 2012, establishments like Target & K-Mart actually opened up on the evening of Thanksgiving. So Black Friday actually began on Thursday. I grew up in an era when blue laws were still in effect. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that malls and other outlets began opening up on Sunday, so it is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of anything other than essential services like hospitals & police departments being open for business on a major holiday.
Society has been lamenting the commercialization of Christmas for decades. It is even referenced by a character in the classic 1947 holiday film Miracle on 34th Street. And it just keeps getting more appalling every year. Thanksgiving and Christmas used to be their own distinguishable holidays. Then they became connected when the former began being marketed as the official kickoff of the latter. All the sudden instead of two distinct days on the calendar we had an entire, month long holiday season. Personally I’ve never had a huge issue with that because, as I have written here abundantly I love everything about the holidays. I love the lights. I love the movies. I love the food. I love the music. I believe it is alright to enjoy the peripheral accoutrements associated with Christmas as long as we always maintain our focus on the true reason for the season, which is of course the birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. However, I am a bit disturbed at the direction things have taken in recent years.
First of all I am not at all convinced that there is much of a focus on The Lord anymore. Did you know that in the early days of our nation folks used to spend nearly the entire Thanksgiving Day in church?? Of course this isn’t just a holiday problem…it’s a year round issue. It has become quite popular to hate God in America these days. We’ve pushed Him out of nearly every facet of public life and really don’t heed His words much in our personal lives. That is a much bigger topic than I want to go into at the moment, but suffice to say that the whole purpose of Thanksgiving & Christmas is quickly becoming entirely lost in our modern society.
Secondly, as much as I love all the ancillary trappings of the holiday season I do think there should be limits. Things have progressed (or regressed, depending on one’s perspective) to the point that stores begin selling Christmas related items, radio stations start playing carols, television airs holiday films, and people decorate their homes as early as October. We definitely gloss over Thanksgiving, and oftentimes begin “celebrating” Christmas even before Halloween!! I do NOT like walking into WalMart or any other retailer and seeing a Christmas tree in October. #22 of my 35 Undeniable Truths of Life is that “It’s always about the money. Always.”, and there is no denying that the Christmas Creep is driven by greed. Look, I get it. I understand that there is very little profit to be made from Thanksgiving outside of turkey & the other various foodstuffs involved and that Christmas has become a huge cottage industry that can make or break the bottom line for a lot of businesses. But I also feel like there are other forces at work.
I believe that we are a very unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied society. Political correctness & hatred of God have become inescapably pervasive. One has to be careful about words spoken and actions taken because everyone is so easily offended. The economy is bad and jobs are scarce or inadequate. We try many things to fill the void…alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, mindless entertainment. So when Christmas rolls around we have developed a habit of jumping the gun. We decorate the house a few weeks sooner, look forward to shopping for our loved ones, and don’t seem to mind the music & movies being played in October. Christmas makes us happy, and we are desperately seeking happiness. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing, but I still think we should tread lightly. It’s human to want what we cannot have. What the Christmas industry has done (and I can’t honestly blame them) is give us what we want. They understand that Rudolph, twinkle lights, wrapping paper, and Bing Crosby put a smile on our face. Christmas is a drug and Best Buy, WalMart, Sears, and all the rest are dealers. The problem with getting high is the inevitable low, which in the case of Christmas Creep is the backlash and desensitization to the magical wonder that is Christmas.
It is ironic that this is the time of year when one frequently hears the old maxim that “good things come in small packages”, yet we have taken what was once a couple of very lovely days on the calendar and made them into a stretch of time that lasts more than a quarter of our year. I do not leave the comfort of The Bachelor Palace on Black Friday for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that a day that involves a sea of humanity isn’t comfortable for a guy who has grown increasingly exasperated by human beings. To paraphrase Popeye’s pal Wimpy, I’ll gladly pay extra next week for an item that you got today for an awesome discount. I sincerely enjoyed my Thanksgiving, and do my best to appreciate the blessings that God has given me. I had a great meal and enjoyed a lovely day with family. I will embrace the Christmas season with my usual verve & childlike delight. But above all else I will continue to give thanks to God, who gave his only begotten Son so that I could have the opportunity to enjoy eternal life. There is nothing wrong with giving (and receiving) gifts, company parties, hoping Ralphie doesn’t shoot his eye out, or roasting chestnuts on an open fire. I just don’t want to wake up one day and end up doing those things in the summer.
- Business › Christmas shopping creeps into Thanksgiving Day (japantoday.com)
- Christmas shopping creeps into Thanksgiving Day (metronews.ca)
- A Brief History of Black Friday (mentalfloss.com)
- Happy Thanksgiving (shredthecheck.wordpress.com)
- Is it really about Thanksgiving? or “Why I’m boycotting ‘Black Friday’…” (3rdculturechildren.com)
- Why I Feel Bad For Thanksgiving (bounceandslidetexas.wordpress.com)
- Holiday shopping season began early, but Black Friday still critical for retailers – San Jose Mercury News (mercurynews.com)
- Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Take time to give thanks before hitting stores (victoriaadvocate.com)
- Black Friday gobbles up Thanksgiving (scotttesta.com)
- Black Friday creeps into Thursday as U.S. shoppers skip Thanksgiving dinner to camp out (vancouversun.com)