Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love what it represents - gratitude. You get to spend an entire day focused on everything in life for which to be grateful. There are no presents to buy, no decorations that must be put up, no special outfit that must be worn. The only thing that must be done during the day is to sit around a table with loved ones and be grateful. What could be better?
I must also be honest and say how glad I am that Thanksgiving has come and now gone. Why? Black Friday. For weeks now you cannot turn on a television or a radio or open a newspaper without being confronted with Black Friday and the message that comes with it. Want. Buy. Shop. Spend.
I don’t remember exactly when this transformation came about. I know that when I was growing up that this day did not have this significance. The term first shows up in modern times in reference to the day after Thanksgiving in Philadelphia in 1966. It seems it was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department in reference to the massive amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic and the resulting problems from it they saw on that day, the first official day of the Christmas shopping season. It was in the early 1980s when the term morphed into its current meaning of moving a retailer from the red to the black in terms of profits. And it is even more recently that this day has taken on the frenzy that now comes with it.
My aversion to Black Friday comes on many levels. The first is purely physical. I hate crowds. The thought of being around that many people who are pushing and shoving and grabbing and invading my personal space makes my skin crawl. The second is that I’m simply not that much into ‘things.’ I’m pretty sure this traces back to my childhood and growing up poor. We didn’t have a lot of things growing up, and buying new things happened because of absolute necessity, not because of want or opportunity. The Christmases I remember most vividly are those of my teen years. We didn’t have much money and as a result didn’t have many presents. Our parents bought us one present – that’s right – one. Love wasn’t associated with stuff.
I think the major problem for me with Black Friday, though, is the focus - that message they are sending. Retailers and advertisers seem to be telling us all that unless we buy stuff – lots of stuff – our lives aren’t complete. We won’t be happy. Our friends and loved ones won’t be happy. And certainly, our children won’t be happy. Perhaps on some level that’s true – because the message is so pervasive maybe it is difficult to be happy with little when all around you what you see is plenty. And, conversely, what they don’t tell us is that if we DO buy all that stuff – we still won’t be happy.
Happy comes from gratitude – it doesn’t come from wanting more and more and more. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” This quote is attributed variously to Rosie O’Donnell, Oprah Winfrey, and Mother Theresa. You can choose your author. But whoever said it, the truth of the sentiment is what is significant. Happiness and gratitude walk hand in hand. And I’m pretty sure you won’t see them shoving someone else out of the way to grab the last of the pile. Happy Thanksgiving all!
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