The pre-Thanksgiving media buzz focused on the move by some retailers to open on Thanksgiving. This was framed as a violation of the Black Friday “tradition” and the unique National Secular Holiday status that Thanksgiving holds. Serious labor problems were spotlighted as Walmart workers protested being made to work on the holiday. Esther J. Cepeda wrote eloquently about the disgusting madness of Black Friday itself and the sick eagerness of compliant, complicit consumers to embrace every extension of their shopping opportunities, no matter the consequences for workers, families and all that is right and good in America…
But, hold on there – two days later, the experiment was deemed a success. Look at those sales figures! Look at those tallies of bodies in the stores! It was the blackest Black (Thursday and) Friday ever. Now you tell me what‛s good for America!
…And then, as though struck by a horrible sugar crash after too much pumpkin pie and ice cream, the National Spirit was down in the dumps again because… The War on Christmas is back! Those secularist socialist atheists want to take away all of the fun, the lights, the Magi, the Marys and Josephs and Baby Jesuses. They want to replace special words, to substitute the bland, inclusive “Holiday” for “Christmas.” Where is the respect for tradition, for the rituals of the season that we have held so dear, for so long? (Like Black Friday?) Where will it all end?
I‛ll tell you where I hope it ends – imagine: Stores will be open or closed on Thanksgiving as suits their business, in the same way they pick store hours all the rest of the year, and they will organize their staffing and staff benefits accordingly. There will be a gradual dilution of the Black Friday storm-the-stores syndrome. Business will be evened out across the year, making holiday sales less critical while increasing revenues, jobs and demand for product overall through innovative use of on-line and brick-and-mortar sales strategies. The true spirit of Christmas will return to the hearts and hearths of those who celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the fake crap will recede. Thus a genuine, general, winter season-of-giving spirit will spread respect and concern for all humanity. Amen.
This post was originally headed in a very different direction! I planned to say that “by degrees” the forces of consumerism were taking down our defenses against the marketing madness. Black Friday store openings inching earlier and earlier and leading to Thanksgiving day hours… the Internet allowing 24/7 shopping… I was on board with those decrying the relentless assault on consumers and the all-too-effective campaign to turn America into a nation of Pavlovian shoppers, marching mindlessly and soullessly to the stores at the ring of a bell. (“We have seen the Zombie Apocalypse and it is us.”)
But then it dawned on me – this is a good thing. No, not the Zombie Shopper Apocalypse, but the demystification of Black Friday, the weakening of the grip of “holidays” on our public lives, the eventual severing of the link between the supposedly secular Thanksgiving and the supposedly religious celebration of Christmas. By degrees, the stores are diminishing the Black Friday phenomenon, and I think wisely so. They can stay open 24/7 all the way from Halloween to New Years as far as I‛m concerned (then I can shop for shoes in peace some 2 a.m.). Think of all the jobs.
As for the War-on-Christmas folks, they should get used to losing. By degrees, everything that has come to represent that traditional White Christmas fantasy is breaking down, in large part due to the capitalist excess they and their “conservative” brethren have championed right alongside their “U.S. founded as a Christian Nation” theory. The toys are made in China, more moms and dads are without work, our extravagant energy consumption creates pollution that sullies the wintry scene; arts and crafts are increasingly replaced by mass media (often not child-friendly) and mass production, and consumed in pixels and bits instead of in person.
By degrees, the old ways fall aside and new ways take their place. What do you want to spend your energy on: fighting a fake war on fake things – or finding out for yourself what is meaningful to you out of all the clutter and noise, and preserving it in your heart and your home? Nothing is taking away our freedom or right to treasure and care for our own traditions in private and in public in the U.S. You put your tree in the window, Mom will put her menorah in the window. Even we naturalists will put a candle in the window to mark the winter solstice. By degrees, light and sanity will return. One day we will step forth from our shelters and the Zombie Shopper Apocalypse will be over.