As Thanksgiving arrives, let us set our eyes on all the items, opportunities and people we have already been blessed with.
Where did Thanksgiving go? It’s no surprise to say that Christmas keeps coming earlier and earlier every year. It’s certainly not abnormal to see Christmas decorations up in stores and around town a week after Halloween! Christmas represents a lot of things to a lot of people, but for corporations and businesses, it means dollar signs.
It makes sense that businesses want to market Christmas so early, but the two-month long celebration has begun to usurp the more thoughtful and appreciative Thanksgiving. As Matt Walsh sarcastically writes, “Why give thanks for what you have when there’s so much you don’t have? That’s the new meaning of Thanksgiving: count your blessings, and then buy some more blessings and count them again.”
For decades, the day after Thanksgiving has been the most profitable shopping day in the world, but over the past several years Black Friday has become an even bigger consumerist phenomenon. Black Friday ceremoniously kicks off the Holiday season (between Thanksgiving and Christmas), which makes up almost a third of all annual retail sales. In 2011, when America was still climbing out of the Great Recession, many retail stores announced that they would be opening at midnight instead of the traditional 4 or 5 a.m. In subsequent years, Thursday evening openings has become the new norm, and pre-Black Friday deals are often introduced in early November.
While statistics point out that Black Friday sales have actually fallen, the introduction of Thanksgiving day sales are easily found culpable. Many lament this arguably exploitative move, but people keep coming year after year to land the best new deals. In 2016, over 101 million people went shopping on Black Friday, an increase of 27 million from the year before. Although the number slightly dipped last year, online sales more than made up for that, increasing by eighteen percent. In 2013, Wal-Mart’s U.S. CEO Bill Simon said, “If the traffic is any indication, [people] clearly want to shop on Thursday evening. We’ll provide that for them.”
According to Robert Moss, when South Carolina first started celebrating Thanksgiving (five years before it was made a federal holiday by President Lincoln in 1863), the Charleston Courier reported, “Our city presented a Sunday appearance. Business rested. The stones answered only to the wheels of light vehicles. The church-bells discoursed sweet music, and crowds flocked to the houses of worship.” What a sharp contrast to how we celebrate today. Everyone may be eager for the Christmas season for one reason or another, however; there’s no denying that, as a result, we are minimizing another great American (and worldwide) holidays. As Walsh again writes, “Thanksgiving let out a desperate cry as Black Friday devoured its soul, but we barely noticed. It’s hard to hear anything when you’re wrestling 4,000 other people for buy one get one free cargo shorts at Old Navy.”
Americans have a spending problem. Statistically, most actually spend more than what they earn. So, it’s not bad to want to get the best deals possible, and in fact, it may be simply good stewardship. However, when our lust for the “new” overshadows a day dedicated to giving thanks for all that we already have, it may be time to reevaluate. As the Christmas advertising ramps up, let us set our eyes on all the items, opportunities and people we have already been blessed with.