Only in America do we wait in line and trample each other for sale items one day after giving thanks for what we already have.
It started out simple enough. In fact, it makes a lot of sense when you take it at face value.
Since 1940, the Thanksgiving holiday has been celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday of November. Of course, the holiday pre-dates our current calendar designation by hundreds of years. The first nationwide celebration of Thanksgiving was established by our first president, George Washington when he proclaimed Thanksgiving to be, “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”
After the Thanksgiving holiday, we begin looking forward to the next: Christmas. Given the fact that exchanging gifts on Christmas dates back to the 4th Century, it makes perfect sense that the holiday shopping season would begin at this point. Indeed, it always has. Even the Macy’s Day Parade, which began in the 1920’s, was originally made up of store employees marching to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes.
For a very long time, the Friday after Thanksgiving has marked the beginning of the Christmas season—and rightfully so I might add.
Sometime in the 1980’s, we began referring to this day as Black Friday. The most common rumor surrounding the name is that the day after Thanksgiving is the first day of the year that retail stores make an actual profit and their Accounting books turn from “red” to “black.” This, of course, could not be further from the truth, and has been confirmed as myth from almost every reputable historical source.
The true history is that the term “Black Friday” was originally used as a negative designation of the Friday after Thanksgiving, when, in Philadelphia, unruly fans would descend upon the city, its merchants, and its police force for the annual Army-Navy football game.
Sometime in the late 1980’s, however, the term Black Friday was usurped by retail stores nationwide and turned into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers.
Again, this makes perfect sense. Retail stores are more than welcome to celebrate the beginning of the holiday shopping season with discounted prices on their items. If I owned a retail outlet, I would probably do the same.
However, at some point during my lifetime, things began to change. Black Friday became more than a day to celebrate the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Black Friday became an event in and of itself.
At first, it was a plethora of advertisements that would arrive on our doorstep Thanksgiving morning. It wasn’t all that long ago I can remember rushing to get the paper so I could begin thumbing through the sales for the following day. Little did I realize at the time how those ads were affecting me—a day originally set aside for giving thanks was quickly becoming a day focused on all the things I didn’t have.
Somewhere around that time, stores began going to extraordinary lengths to attract shoppers. A simple discount on their goods was no longer sufficient. To prepare for the day, national retail chains would begin planning months in advance to secure the hottest consumer products and offer a limited amount to the first customers at a net loss. They may lose a little money on the item, but the offer would lure customers into their store on that important day. Camping out in front of stores and trampling other shoppers suddenly became a thing.
Stores began opening at 6am on the day after Thanksgiving. And for most of my lifetime, this was the story of Black Friday.
But things began to change in the late 2000’s. At first, stores began competing for shoppers by opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday. Looking back, it appears almost inevitable. Doors opened at 5:00am and then 4:00am. And once the ball got rolling, there was nothing in place to stop it.
This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers opened at midnight for the first time.
In 2012, stores took the unprecedented step of opening on Thanksgiving Day (8:00pm).
By 2014, stores began opening their doors at 5:00pm on Thursday. This year, some stores will open at 3:00pm on Thanksgiving Day.
And just when you thought we had reached a new low in our society, Verizon renames the day before Thanksgiving: Thanksgetting—as a means to promote its holiday deals and lure shoppers.
With each encroachment, the Thanksgiving holiday gets squeezed a little bit more.
A day previously set aside for giving thanks has been hijacked by retailers hoping to earn a dollar. (tweet that)
But Thanksgiving is important. Giving thanks calls us to recognize and celebrate the good in our lives. And in a society that works so hard to distract us from our blessings, the importance of giving thanks cannot be overstated.
Gratitude matters. It breeds contentment, helps us overcome selfishness, and encourages generosity. Grateful people are happier, healthier, and experience greater life satisfaction. Gratitude reminds us that what we have is enough and we have been provided for already.
At some point, it seems, we need to make a statement. We need to rise up and reclaim Thanksgiving. We need to reclaim it in our hearts and we need to reclaim it in our society.
That time is now! And who better to lead that charge than us?
Will you commit with me to not allow retail outlets to encroach on your holiday and distract you from gratitude? Will you commit to focus on the blessings in your life and celebrate your provisions from the previous year? Will you be vigilant about not allowing consumerism to creep into your Thanksgiving celebration?
If so, tell us on Facebook and Twitter how you intend to overcome consumerism and reclaim Thanksgiving this Thursday. Tell us about your holiday traditions or plans. Or simply express your gratitude by sharing with the world what you are thankful for this year.
With each tweet or status update, include the hashtag: #ReclaimThanksgiving.
With each individual participant, we will remind more and more people of the importance of gratitude. And we will take a stand against the retailers who continue to trample on it.