Closed Wallet, Open Heart

I choose to keep my wallet closed and my heart open on Thanksgiving.
I choose to keep my wallet closed and my heart open on Thanksgiving.

We’ve had a warm fall this year. Really warm. It’s made it tough to think about the holidays that are just around the corner. Really tough. Last week, I was sipping a tall glass of iced tea, wearing short sleeves, and digging out garden gloves. Having lived in Colorado for almost 14 years now, I want warm sweaters and mittens and steaming cups of hot chocolate to herald the impending arrival of the season.

With the holidays come family traditions. A giddiness washes over me as I plan our appetizers menu (we serve only appetizers on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day), select a holiday theater performance, and ponder the presents that will make eyes widen with excitement. Like many, Thanksgiving marks our official start to “the holiday season”; not a single Christmas decoration goes up until our giant inflated turkey comes down, the day after Thanksgiving.

However, year after year, Thanksgiving, a day set aside so that we may give thanks together with friends and family, is pushed through and past. It’s become a hiccup on the calendar. Sort of like this:

HALLOWEEN (Thanksgiving) BLACK FRIDAY

Thanksgiving, it would seem, has lost not only its meaning, it’s lost its stature among the national holidays. Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day are still treasured marketed as “Family Days”. Yes, retailers are open, but it’s generally met with sympathy if you or your loved one(s) have to work one of those days. Bosses sheepishly ask if “you’re willing” to spend your sunshine-filled holiday at work.

In start contrast, Thanksgiving has apparently become a day to meant to be spent with the giant retailers.  Little Billy/Susie/Mom/or Dad, won’t be at the table anyway; they’ll be working. Over the last few years, retailers have pushed a 5 AM Black Friday opening to 3..to 1… to Thursday at midnight. Last year, a pervasive trend took hold among retailers; fill your bellies, then empty your wallets, ON Thanksgiving Thursday. No longer need you wait until Friday! And, I’m not talking about an emergency run to the market because the turkey baster became a yard toy last 4th of July. I’m talking about the “can’t wait to get a deal on a cashmere sweater, toy, or new dishwasher sales” retailers want you believe can’t wait until Friday. Skip expressing gratitude over what you have, buy more, get more, on Thursday. Then, on Black Friday, awake early to get even more.

Thanksgiving, (it seems) arrives later than usual this year, and I understand retailers are panicked because of the “short shopping season.” Last year, our older daughter worked in retail during the holiday season. I was saddened when she told me she had to be at work at 0’dark thirty in the morning on “Black Friday”, but I also knew it came with the territory. It meant no late night decorating while “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vaction” played in the background. It meant an early bedtime so that she could smile sympathetically and apologize when asked if they had ____________ (sold-out “doorbuster.”) It meant adjustments, but it didn’t mean giving up our time as a family on Thanksgiving Day.

In fairness, I must add that not every employee minds giving up their holiday. I get that. Some need/want the money. Some have no family to gather round the table. Some make adjustments to their mealtimes and see it as “just another work day” rather than a holiday. I spoke with a sales associate at Walmart who, as a mother, is unfazed by her shift scheduled to begin before 6 PM on Thanksgiving. Her son won’t be home from school until winter break. For her, it’s just another day this year. I overheard another, excited for the overtime pay he will get for working. His excitement wasn’t shared by his co-worker who said she was afraid to say no to the mandated shift.

And, quite frankly, shopping is the favorite “American pastime” for many.  I get that, too. Shopping is often a social experience, even in solitude. God bless the internet and Amazon for accommodating 3 AM shopping sprees. Which reminds me, I almost forgot about Cyber Monday, the day when you shop from the comfort of your office and share news of your purchases ’round the water cooler.

I know I sound snarky. I guess I just wish there was still a day–one day–where together, as a nation, we might pause in gratitude for our abundant blessings and think of those in need. Where the food pantries have enough to feed everyone that stands in their lines. Where employees weren’t afraid of losing their job if they said no to a shift.  Where we reflect on the sacrifices of those that established this country and pray for those in harm’s way keeping us safe. Where together, as a nation, we might celebrate giving thanks, just as our founding fathers intended.

As consumers, we can stomp and shout and insist retailers stop pulling families apart on Thanksgiving, but our most powerful voice is our wallet. Do we really need to buy that sweater or gadget on Thursday? Retailers will tempt you with their blowout sales–the same sales they once waited until Friday to offer. They’ll lead you to believe you won’t be able to buy it cheaper at any other time during the year. They will fill you with fear, while in reality, it is their fear (of missing analyst projections) that fuels their sales and open the doors on Thanksgiving.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I love a good sale. But, in all my 50 years on this earth, I’ve shopped Black Friday only once. I’m not a fan of big crowds and I really hate waiting 30 minutes to be told the item I wanted sold out 5 minutes after the doors opened. Still, in all those years, never once has it affected what I put under the tree. Retailers still get my money. Gifts still appear under our tree. And more importantly, before any gift is purchased, my heart is filled with gratitude for the gifts I already have; the most important of which is my family.

I awoke to a blanket of white last Thursday . Like a child, my heart skipped when I peeked outside. The holidays are almost here. I might start some shopping today.  And, if I wanted to shop on Thanksgiving, I could. I could even log on to the internet and shop from the comfort of my living room, with family by my side. But, I won’t. Along with my husband, I’ll be pulling boxes of Christmas decorations down from the attic Thursday. There will be laughter and stories of holidays past shared as we peek in the boxes. This year, however, brings new changes and new adjustments. Our oldest will be away at school, so I am and will be thankful for Skype. Because, most of all, there will still be togetherness in our home on Thanksgiving.

If you feel as I do, I invite you to speak with your wallet this year: DON’T shop on Thanksgiving. In addition, you can lend your support to BethAnn over at the fabulous (really fabulous!) blog, It’s Just Life. She has started this Facebook page, in hopes of sending retailers a message. I support BethAnn, and I support our economy. But, my economic support can and will wait until after I give thanks this Thursday.

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27 thoughts on “Closed Wallet, Open Heart”

  1. I hate shopping so for me to venture anywhere on Black Friday would be totally out of character. And shop on Thanksgiving? Ugh. Also, I love your idea of eating just appetizers on the holidays. I wish we had that tradition.

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    1. I’m not a fan of shopping on the “normal shopping days”; the busy days, like Black Friday, however are less appealing than a root canal. The appetizers is still one my family’s favorite traditions. I highly recommend it. 😉

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  2. I am with you about not shopping but an activity and a break from relatives could be a movie and if some want to go to the mall, sometimes it is best. As far as those who work the day or the night before, that’s just life changing.

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    1. I agree about an activity/break break from a long day with relatives is sometimes best. Unfortunately, the holidays can be stressful and tensions can run high. I’ve been there and found a nice walk, with several deep breaths is my best way to take a break. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. You go girl! No Thanksgiving shopping for me either. This day is set aside to really reflect on the our blessings, and in America we have so many. I am different though in one way, I may go shopping on Friday. We generally make it a fun morning, going out for breakfast and then to a store or two. Sometimes the crowds are not as kind as they should be, but I usually end up talking to someone in line about our shared excitement for Christmas. I am thankful for your blogs Mary (and your friendship), and wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

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    1. Thanks, Marsha! I remember you go out on Black Friday, and the way you’ve done it always sounds fun! I’ll envy the fun from afar. 😉 I’m very grateful for you, too! Many blessings to you and the family.

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  4. Love it. But the only part that disturbs me is that you shop at walmart any day. But I suppose all the big box stores are evil in some way.

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  5. We vote with our wallets! Such a powerful statement. On this issue it is truly the American people that will decide if stores remain open or close on Thanksgiving. If we don’t shop, they open open. I am intrigued about your appetizers menu and would love to know more! (I would have said that first if my comment was above Beth Ann’s–Darn her! 😀 ) But in any case do share more…
    Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season.

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  6. I so agree with this blog. It’s not just about the idea of shopping in crowds, but the truth that the “reason for the season” is being slowly euthanized. Like a frog happy in tepid water that later boils, so little by little we have given up an American holiday that was meant for family gratitude – for what we already have – and even beyond that giving to those who are less “blessed” at this time. St Francis once went so far as to define theft as not giving to those who have less.. Now there’s a sobering thought!. Will be opening the wallet – to those in need..

    Signed,

    Closed Wallet Open Heart

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  7. I can’t think of anything worse than shopping on Thanksgiving day. I don’t go out on Black Friday, either, unless it’s for an emergency grocery trip. Of course, we buy very few gifts so we don’t have any great reason to go shopping…the Christmas season, for me, is not about buying stuff.
    -Amy at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com

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  8. Here, here!!! Once and only once did I stand in a line–mind you not happily–to snap up some assigned “must have” for a nephew. Never. Ever. Again. The whole thing is just gross. I’m with you, the wallet will be on lock down.

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  9. I, too, will not be shopping on Thanksgiving or the day after, as I despise crowded shopping malls, but mainly because I einjoy being home with my family. It’s a tradition(being at home w/family) that I want my daughters to experience, in the hopes that they will carry it forward into their future. They have ventured out on Friday, only to find out that they don’t care for shopping on that particular crazy day; it’s one of those experiences that teaches the lesson, I believe… see it for yourself, so to speak.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Mary!

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  10. Totally agree. I have never gone shopping on Black Friday and will definitely not be going on Thanksgiving. I heard there are people already camped out in front of Best Buy. Why? What could possibly be worth sleeping outside for three or four nights to buy? Imagine if those people volunteered that time instead of wasting it on line, waiting for the latest electronic item?

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  11. What an absolutely fabulous post!!! I love everything about it. I love that you do appetizers on Christmas and Thanksgiving! That is genius!!! And there are so many wonderful ones!!! Thanks for the shout out and for standing strong in the no shopping Thanksgiving!!! You rock!!!

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