The Thanksgiving Blues
All cliches aside, the ol' homestead around Thanksgiving time smells awesome. Every breath is spiced with the sweet aroma of pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. At my house, Thanksgiving is marked by the sound of my mom waking up early to make last minute preparations and the rumbling of my stomach.
Thanksgiving sums up what my family stands for: togetherness, weighed down by ungodly amounts of food cooked by little Dutch women and devoured by gassy old men. (Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is the one that brings back the fondest memories of my grandpa. I can still hear him saying: “Hey, Rach! Pull my finger!” Ah, the memories). It’s tradition for us to gather around a table with laughter and conversation interrupting our face-stuffing. Every year while the old farts sit around the TV watching the football game, the old broads gather around the dining room table, flipping through coupons and magazines, scoping out the Black Friday deals.
With the food-filled holiday just around the corner I have to ask: Has Thanksgiving just become a precursor to the biggest shopping day of the year?
My aunts approach Black Friday with an experienced, tactical strategy. Armed with scissors and Ziploc baggies, they meticulously cut out and store the coupons they want, bartering between each other for better deals. Sometimes, they even offer to “go-in on it” together, either to get a BOGO deal or just to save an extra buck. When the meal is ready to be served, they stop mutilating the piles of inserts and pages, retiring the scissors just long enough for them to cool off. As soon as their bellies are to the point of bursting, they pour themselves a cup of coffee (decaf, for Grandma Jan of course) and they get right back to it.
Sure, my family is together to eat, chat, and catch-up. But the entire afternoon is consumed by conversations about Black Friday shopping.
Aunt Carolyn: “Well Cara and I are going to head to the mall around 2:00 a.m. We want to get in line to buy Jordan and Matt the new Grand Theft Auto game.”
Aunt Jackie: “Oh, I hear ya! Steph and I decided we’re gonna tag-team. I need to buy some new toys for her baby, and Steph wanted to grab some new boots for T.J.”
My Mom: “You know, last year I scored two flats screens for our house from Best Buy for…”
This is our day together. Are we so consumed with the hunt for a better bargain that we’d cast aside the pumpkin pie and family?
Recently, these (and many others, I’m sure) stores have formally announced that they will be beginning Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day.
Not an early morning special the following day, not a midnight special event: oh no. Mega chains have decided to continue creeping their hours earlier and earlier into the holiday. And this year, some are opening their doors as early as 6 p.m. Thursday evening.
I recognize some of the reasons why Black Friday has decided to tarnish my Thanksgiving Thursday, including the shortened time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, along with the lower consumer confidence that marketers are trying to improve. Nonetheless, I’m still peeved.
On that sacred afternoon, my clan heads over to my great aunt’s house, lugging in our goodies to add to the already crowded buffet-style tabletop. The house is deafened by the screeches of my fourteen cousins running in and out of the house and nearly causing my good ol’ aunt to have a conniption. My family’s been doing the same thing for four generations. That’s decades worth of tradition. It makes me wonder if the holidays back then looked different than the “eves of Black Friday’s” soon to come.
The plotline of this upcoming holiday reminds me of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” a classical Christmas story about a young couple who sell their prized possessions to buy gifts for each other. Spoiler alert: at the end of the tale, the couple’s gifts are useless! Both gifts were meant to complement the prized possessions (a gold watch and some long, luscious hair if my memory serves me) which have both been sold. The parable-like story highlights the importance of togetherness during the holiday season, instead of focusing on material objects. (Deep, huh? If you haven’t read the story before, I would suggest a cup of cocoa, a blanket, a snuggle-buddy, and a gander at this classic). Our friends and family’s are doing just what Henry is trying to warn us about. We are losing our focus on the importance of thankfulness and together-time and instead focusing on “how much money can I save” or “what can I buy for so-and-so.” Where’s our true holiday spirit?
Weigh in and let me know what you think, and let me know if the new hours will change your pilgrimage to the mall as a faithful Black Friday shopper.