Yesterday was Thanksgiving. A completely American holiday! An old friend of mine on Facebook recently described how this day should be considered the perfect holiday: no annoying music, nobody getting drunk, no exclusion based on religion, and the option of watching three football games featuring some of the best teams in the NFL!
I've commented in the past how Thanksgiving appeared to be evolving into a two-day holiday, following the lead set by Jews in the western hemisphere, who celebrated several holidays that had originally been celebrated as one day, for two. However, it appears that the retail industry has taken advantage of this trend, to the point of infringing on the holiday itself. Accordingly, this expected two-day holiday is splitting into two completely separate halves, and they couldn't be more different than day and night.
"Black Friday" has become the unofficial first shopping day of the Christmas/Holiday season. When this term because part of our culture, there was the understanding that this would be the opportunity for all the aggressive early-bird types to buy all the gifts they needed for Chanukah/Christmas/Kwanzaa as soon as Thanksgiving was over, to avoid the last-minute insanity of buying gifts on Christmas Eve itself (those who celebrate Chanukah, an 8-day holiday, could argue that the gifts could be given on the last night, and not the first night, but that only delays and extends the last-minute insanity).
Most retail outlets would acknowledge these early birds by opening their stores early. Maybe at 7am, maybe at 6 am. That is to say, at dawn, or maybe a few minutes beforehand, on the morning of the day AFTER Thanksgiving.
So what do we now have this year? Stores opening at 3 a.m. Not good enough? 2 a.m. Still not content to camp outside in tents until then? Midnight at Target (tar-ZHAY)! But now, thanks to Walmart, Best Buy, and Geek Squad, we have the final insult -- 10 pm on Thanksgiving ITSELF!
Employees had to put the kabosh on their own Thanksgiving dinner, and all the happiness that goes with it, for the sake of material things! Early-bird types were now prepping to go to retail malls and outlets late at night, or in the "wee small hours of the morning," to grab the best deals they could off the shelves, with the knowledge that if they were not fast enough, someone else could yank it away from them.
Excuse me . . . is this not the same insanity that the idea of Black Friday was intended to prevent? Shopping for presents at insane hours?? Whatever happened to the image of being thankful for what we've already been given -- have we rejected that so quickly to grab and snatch what we don't already have???
Even if Thanksgiving one day becomes a two-day holiday, let's please make it two days of Thanksgiving, and NOT Black Thursday And Friday. Yes, it certainly is a tradition to give gifts to loved ones during the December celebrations that follow Thanksgiving, but it's not a life-or-death obligation! Gift-giving is meant to make the holidays happier and more enjoyable, and not to usurp, overtake, or obliterate the true meaning of the holiday!
So my recommendation is this: The day after Thanksgiving, if you don't have to work, use it as you would any other vacation day. Sleep late! If you want to make sure you're not forgetting to buy gifts for the loved ones in your life, wait until the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving. If you can't wait that long, do it the SUNDAY after Thanksgiving! The recipients of your gifts will (hopefully) be a thousand times more concerned with the thought that went into your choice of gift than the manner in which it was obtained (or how much it cost you).
As I said above, the tradition of gift-giving at this time of the year is meant to make the holidays happier and more enjoyable. What you choose to give is not a measure of who you are as a person, and neither is the price of the gift you purchased. However, there are still those who think of gift-giving as a mandatory requirement and a dollar-for-dollar obligation, and continue to use it as an excuse for demeaning tit-for-tat attitudes towards others. As a result, the joy of gift-giving is sometimes ruined because it becomes something that is motivated less by caring and happiness, and more by a desire to appease someone else. All I'll say on that subject is that those of us who choose to express our friendship, affection, and love for others through gifts are welcome to do so because they choose to give that way, not because some unseen force tells us we MUST purchase it at 2am to get the best deal, not because "everyone's doing it," not to make ourselves look good, and not so we can demand something from the recipient later! It's a gift, not an obligation -- that means that the recipient is not required to reciprocate anything. If they choose to do so, that's great -- but it's their decision to do so, and not yours!
In conclusion, let's remember that the message of Thanksgiving should temper the gift-giving season with a little wisdom. We cannot be defined by gifts. Gifts are important, but the people in your life matter a thousand times more than gifts do. The fact that we have these people in our lives, and that they hopefully love us as much as we love them, is the greatest gift that there is, and it cannot be priced or put on sale like material objects. If you really wanted to rush out there and snag all the gifts you could, I'm glad I didn't stop you. However, life would be a little more balanced if we rushed out to be kind and respectful to others just as quickly and just as intently as we did when a corporate giant told us to buy something when we should have been sleeping.
DISCLAIMER: The above post was not meant to impede or decry our capitalist system, to state that gifts should never be purchased, or to imply that anyone who looks forward to receiving gifts in December is wrong. Any misperception of insults or besmirchings is entirely the responsibility of the reader of this message, and the author bears no responsibility for same.
For those who read and like this blog, I am thankful for you. Just as I am already thankful for my health, my earnings, my family, and my friends, I am thankful for you. Please keep reading, and don't be afraid to comment!