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.