You may have heard that many retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving this year, extending the Black Friday madness into a holiday that is supposed to be about food and family. Not only does the practice force employees to work and be away from their families on one of the only holidays of the year retailers have traditionally been closed, but it also draws consumers out of their homes and away from their families. (I recently wrote a blog post encouraging folks to not shop on Thanksgiving and offered some ways to speak out against the practice and some actions you as an individual can take to oppose it.)
But how is retailers being open any different from the radio DJs, emergency workers, gas station attendants, even football players who have been required to work on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember? I’ll admit, I hadn’t thought of these folks either until a Facebook comment brought them to my attention (Facebook is good for something sometimes!)
So why IS retail different? It must be, or else why would I feel so strongly against this new practice? It took me a while to figure it out, and now I’m so thankful for that comment and its challenge to think deeper into this issue.
Retail is different primarily because it hasn’t been done before. It’s a change and people naturally get up in arms over change. But thinking further, here’s the crux of the issue for me: Retailers being open is different than any other open-on-Thanksgiving business because it is another symptom of America’s consumerist, materialist culture invading holidays that used to have beautiful stories and meaningful traditions. Thanksgiving was the one holiday we had left (that I can think of) which hadn’t yet been totally corrupted into another reason to go shopping.
By being open, it not only affects employees who are required to work, but it also draws people out to go shopping and extends the Black Friday greedy, hurry-hurry mindset into this once-beautiful, lazy day (at least in my home). Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween/Day of the Dead/All Saint’s Day, and other holidays all had (and still do for some people and cultures) important meanings – they wouldn’t have become holidays otherwise – but they’re now tainted by consumerism, and now people are cynical of them, which is so sad.
I love Thanksgiving and its meaning. Not only is it the one holiday when you can stuff yourself silly without feeling guilty, it’s a time to sit down together around a table (which many Americans today don’t do regularly) full of good food and be reminded to be thankful for each other and what we have. Thankfulness, even thankfulness brought on by a scheduled holiday, is so important nowadays: Americans are, as a whole, an unhappy population despite having one of the best qualities of living in the world. There’s no comparing to countries that are enduring civil war, hunger and poverty, but other social factors like government, work culture (and its accompanying stress and stress-related health issues), corporate influence, fewer economic opportunities, and lingering moral and ethical issues make us unhappy folk. But lots of studies have shown how expressing gratitude is one of the biggest factors to increasing a person’s overall happiness.
Fantastic and fascinating! (I admit, I cried at that video the first time I saw it and had to write a thank you note to a loved one who I felt had been under-appreciated at the time.)
In our busy culture of more-more-more, I want to ask retailers, what’s one day out of the year to be closed, to keep shopping out of Thanksgiving, and allow as many people as possible—employees and consumers alike—to slow down and be thankful (if for no other reason than that the shopping insanity does not begin until tomorrow).