Does anyone else see the irony in how the day after Thanksgiving has come to be known as “Black Friday?” The juxtaposition of these two days gives us an opportunity to celebrate the best and worst that American culture has to offer in the span of 48 hours.
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, an opportunity to catch our breath, share stories and enjoy a hearty meal with loved ones as we express gratitude for the bountiful opportunities afforded to most of us who are privileged to live in the United States of America.
Then, sometimes even before that last piece of pumpkin pie has been digested, we head to the mall, credit card in hand, ready to fuel what has become an insatiable Christmas machine.
The day after Thanksgiving has long been a huge Christmas shopping day, but every year it gets a bit more surreal. In our area this year, a mall opened at midnight on Thanksgiving night, enticing shoppers with live music, free coffee and the tease of a free car (actually, a two-year lease). Other stores just opened early, as soon as 4 a.m. It’s probably the same where you live.
Unless real news happens today, I can count on Christmas shopping being the lead story on tonight’s local TV news. Shoppers will comment on the crowds and the great buys they found. Merchants will say how great business was. Within three weeks, the same stations will be reporting on shortages of certain toys and how sales are below expectations.
Stan Freberg, that clever satirist who gently jabbed contemporary society during a lengthy career that began in 1950, used a sharper stick when he took on the commercial aspects of the holiday in his classic “Green Christmas.” What Freberg saw as satire in 1958 has come to pass in reality, and then some. I’m sure even Freberg was stunned when the Leader of the Free World told Americans to help combat terrorism by going shopping in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
My grandmother often told the story of how thrilled she was as a young girl in Denmark when she received an orange at Christmas. One orange. Imagine that. That sort of gratitude is the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
Listen to the stories of how your own family functioned before we became a consumer society. They contain valuable lessons for us all.