I am composing this bi-weekly offering on the day after Thanksgiving, a day that, thanks to the advertising media, has become known as “Black Friday.” (I have heard it referred to as “Bleak Friday” by Thanksgiving purists because they say that it further erodes the purpose of what once was a meaningful way of giving thanks, with which I agree .)
To me, the term Black Friday has an ominous sound to it — like something bad is going to happen. One of the (unsubstantiated) explanations for the term is that, because the day after Thanksgiving is considered the beginning of the Christmas season, the merchants’ bottom lines will go from red to black, from operating at a loss to operating at a profit for the year.
For the past two weeks, the newspaper and TV advertising has been full of advance notices of gigantic sales on this day by major retailers. The advertising is relentless. My wife and I were in Southern California, and the local newspaper one day last week actually weighed about 10 pounds because of the inserts from every major retailer in the area.
The advertisements reported that some stores were opening right after Thanksgiving midnight. Others were opening as early as 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
I also learned that, because some stores actually opened up to sales Thanksgiving evening, our beloved holiday is now being referred to as “Grey Thursday.”
Car dealers have even gotten into the spirit of Black Friday. So have mattress discounters, book stores, plant nurseries and coffee houses. Next year we will probably see the medical profession involved. “Prices reduced on cosmetic surgery. Reduce your double chins right after you eat your turkey dinner” might be an appropriate ad.
The lead story of the TV news broadcasts on this morning was Black Friday shoppers. They reported that thousands of bargain hunters had lined up hours before opening to buy everything from toys to TVs. They are also reported on the usual fights between overzealous shoppers, vandalism, stabbings and a shooting or two.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is pure insanity.
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Being exposed to all the commercialism of today’s Thanksgiving weekend caused me to look back at the Thanksgiving holiday of a few decades ago in my hometown of Napa.
Back then, Thanksgiving was a true holiday. Children were out of school, workers stayed home and businesses were closed. The entire city shut down. If you had forgotten something for your family’s Thanksgiving dinner or needed something from the drug store, forget it. It was a holiday for everybody, even those who worked in retail or other types of businesses.
Families gathered to give thanks and to celebrate the freedoms that our nation’s warriors had secured for our citizens in past conflicts. At the center of the family celebration was a home-cooked meal reminiscent of the first Thanksgiving dinner attended by pilgrims and the indigenous Native Americans. It was turkey with all of the trimmings. Eating too much was expected.
At that time, what is now Black Friday was just the day after Thanksgiving, another Friday in November. Some folks had to work and others enjoyed a four-day weekend. Meals consisted of leftover turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
Life is different now than it was then. I miss the traditions and customs of the holidays as they once were celebrated. But, oh well, life goes on.
In conclusion, I just learned that the Monday after Thanksgiving (Dec. 2 this year) has already been dubbed “Cyber Monday” because super bargains will be available on the Internet.
Where will it end?
Email Jim Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.