Last year for my November blog I wrote about how Thanksgiving is becoming less a holiday and more a kick-off to the orgy of consumerism that Christmas has become.
This year it has gotten, in my opinion, much worse.
It is bad enough that Christmas decorations and music entered retail stores as Halloween was being taken down, but now we have “Black Friday” actually occurring on Thanksgiving itself. The result of these latest examples of “profits over people” and “mindless consumerism” will mean that some families will not be together for Thanksgiving, or their time together will be rushed because someone has to get to work on time, or because someone has to get in line before the stores open so they can score the sale.
The part that I think bothers me the most about all of this is that our economy has gotten so bad people are willing to toss Thanksgiving aside because they need a job.
Some could argue that the consumers need to take advantage of the sales, but that one doesn’t fly for me. (I knew that MBA would come in handy sometime…) Let’s use some common sense; the stores need to sell goods to make their bottom lines before the end of the year. The sales will still happen, just closer to or after Christmas.
I worked a number of part-time retail jobs throughout high school and college. Most of these jobs were in shopping or strip malls so, of course, I was scheduled to work on Black Friday. Normally, I enjoyed these jobs. It was fun to help customers and I even liked working on Christmas Eve, but I hated Black Friday. Black Friday was a hell that tainted my view of humanity and made me question why anyone would willingly subject themselves to the insanity for an object that chances are the recipient will probably re-gift or take as their due.
When I landed my first full-time job outside of the retail sector, I made a vow never to enter a shopping mall or engage in the madness that I saw on Black Friday. High school and college were over 25 years ago, but I have yet to break that vow. The memory of having to deal with the rudeness, the avarice, and the general mayhem of a mall or retail store on the Friday after Thanksgiving is still sufficiently strong enough to keep my vow and out of the stores for the rest of my life.
While working retail, I never once saw someone “happy” or enjoying themselves as they shopped on Black Friday. In the years since I stopped working retail, I can’t say that I have ever heard anyone who does the Black Friday shopping talk about how much fun they had. Instead, I hear about how rude and nasty people were, how crowded things were, or how horrible the whole experience was, yet, year after year they still do it. Maybe things have changed and there are hordes of happy shoppers out there, but I seriously doubt it. As a whole, we seem to have become a bit more rude and ego-centric as a society so I’ll avoid the whole mess.
As I have said before, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for where you are and for the blessings or opportunities that have come your way. Yes, it started out as a celebration of having safely come to the New World for some settlers, or sharing the bounty of the harvest with others; but at its base, this is about gratitude that you are where you are and not in some situation that is much worse. It is not about a sale price or getting your Christmas shopping done.
My family will be gathering at my parent’s house later on this afternoon. We are a fairly large clan and I believe she said 19 of us will be sitting down together. While at times we joke and say our family puts the “fun” in dysfunctional, this is one gathering where we put aside the normal sibling squabbles or rivalries and simply enjoy being together as a family.
We work together as a family to prepare and set out the food. Once the meal is done, we work together to clean up and put everything away so that my parents don’t have to worry about anything but relaxing. After things are put away and cleaned up, my Dad, the husbands and the older nephew will gather in the family room to watch a game or talk about jobs, politics, and the economy. The younger kids will convince me or another of the older kids to take them for a walk in the woods that borders my parent’s property. My older nieces will gather to discuss boyfriends, college, and searching for a job. The sisters and Mom will talk about the kids, the husbands, and swap advice on dealing with both.
The past five years have been rough for our family. Several members of the clan, me included, were laid-off from jobs and struggled through job search before finding new ones. In all cases, the new jobs were not as well paying as the ones that were lost so lifestyles have had to change and “financial belts” have been tightened significantly. One family member has been through the lay-off scenario twice. We’ve all seen our carefully built nest-eggs disappear completely or be reduced enough that the possibility of retiring at retirement age is nothing but a dream that will never take flight. My older siblings have seen their college age kids come back to the nest because they can’t find jobs or they can’t find jobs that pay enough for them to live on their own. One member of the family has struggled with addiction and homelessness. We’ve dealt with serious illnesses, the deaths of extended family members, and fear for friends and relatives serving the country in harm’s way. We’re also dealing with the normal day to day struggles of balancing work and life.
Despite it all, we will gather today and we will give thanks for what we have, for one another, and that we’re together and supportive of one another. No one will be heading out to the malls and I’m really thankful that none of us will be rushing off to work in a retail store either.
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.