Early Black Friday, a Funeral for Gratitude?

Is Black Friday named so because it is a sad day? It’s like a funeral now, a funeral for the real meaning of Thanksgiving, because Black “Friday” is now starting on Thanksgiving Thursday this year across the major stores and malls, interrupting a nationwide, traditional, heartfelt family celebration with the lure of more shopping. Reading it in the paper this morning made my heart drop. Not that I wasn’t already aware of the trend, since Santa Claus was stocked next to the pumpkins before Halloween this year. A depressing reality.

What is going on? This is more than just a desperate attempt by retailers to up their cash flow and makes their sales quotas; it is a symptom of a nationwide addiction to “more” or it wouldn’t actually work.

Our addiction to more has now propelled us into carving into (and eventually, replacing, if this trend continues) the holiday of giving thanks for what we have into a frenzy for buying more. How is that gratitude? What is this teaching our children? What does this say about ourselves?

This makes me so incredibly sad.

I love the holidays. The crisp air, the beginning of wearing cozy sweaters, drinking hot apple cider, carving pumpkins, and gathering around the table with family, eating turkey until we get sleepy. Then, stringing up Christmas lights together, wrapping my hands around a cup of warm cocoa, chatting with loved ones by a fire, and enjoying the giggly, feel-good happiness in the air. Many people have been upset for years about how commercialized the holidays have become. But replacing a holiday with shopping is a new level of warning.

We can blame early Black Friday on the retailers, on the “big bad companies” who are “ruining” our holidays. I really wish they wouldn’t do that, that they would keep these holidays focused one at a time, and actually left alone in peace to be celebrated without distraction.

But the real place to look is inside those of us who endorse this funeral by going to early Black Friday in the first place. I will admit that I went shopping on Black Friday once (on the actual Friday), with my mom. We wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I will never go again. It was literally one of the worst experiences of my life. I was sleep-deprived from waking up so early, and totally exhausted by the end. There were so many people pushing around, and we didn’t even end up buying much because there wasn’t much we needed in the first place.

There may be some of you who make shopping with your loved one on Black Friday a fun experience, so you are happy that it is starting earlier each year. There may be some of you who do not have family nearby and are excited about the idea of something to do. But can’t we wait another day? Is it so difficult to hold sacred a day of gratitude and thanks and to celebrate it without distraction?

I think you can guess that my answer is “no,” that we should leave Thanksgiving alone. But if somewhere inside of you, you answered “yes”, think about what is missing in your life and how you can truly fill that hole. Because, let’s face it, the term “retail therapy” was born out of a truth – that we shop to make ourselves feel better, even if we are justifying it by saying we are buying gifts for someone else. I know the feeling; I have done it myself. But not on a holiday meant to celebrate gratitude. The more I celebrate gratitude daily, the less I feel the urge to fill the hole with temporary patches of acquiring new stuff.

Having a Gratitude Attitude could be a way of life and that is the greater goal. But let’s at least experience it one day a year, on Thanksgiving. How could we do this, if we do not give in to the temptation of early shopping?

We could spend the day with our family and friends, really listening to what is going on in each other’s lives. We could play games, or go for a walk, or create something together. If we do not have family in town, we could write or meditate on what we are grateful for, and spend the day focused in a kind of grateful presence for all that we have and are.

We could choose to spend the day appreciating what we have, in whatever form that takes.

Gratitude does not come from acquiring more and seeking outside ourselves. So, to go shopping on a day reserved for thanks is putting our energy in the wrong direction. Gratitude comes from within. It is not a feeling; it is a choice, and sometimes it takes effort. As humans, we need structure to help guide us and we have this day, Thanksgiving, set aside as a day (one day out of the year) to focus on what we are thankful for. Let’s keep it sacred, focused, and uninterrupted.

It is time we take a closer look at our values. Societal shifts begin with individual choices. Think about your role, your values, and your impact. What do you value? How do your choices reflect your values?

What are you thoughts? As always, you are invited to share them here.