Black Thursday and the death of Thanksgiving

Do you remember gathering around the dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner? Sadly, the next generation will not. In the coming years, Thanksgiving will slowly, but surely, be gobbled up by Black Friday, turning the day designated for giving thanks to God into a shopping bonanza.
Over the past few years, stores have made their Black Friday opening time earlier and earlier, and last year, major retailers, like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us, broke with tradition and opened their doors on Thursday night. This year, it is hard to find a store that is not opening on Thanksgiving or midnight, with Sears, Toys R Us, and Wal-Mart opening at 8pm.
As every Black Friday shopper knows, you cannot arrive when the store opens and obtain the best deals. So while Wal-Mart’s 8pm opening might theoretically allow time for dinner, many shoppers will spend Thursday afternoon waiting in line. At least shoppers have the choice to forfeit a family dinner, whereas millions of workers will be required to work on Thanksgiving afternoon in order to prep the store, a far worse proposition.
What does this mean? Holidays are days we set aside to celebrate what is important to us. As one theorist said, we are what we celebrate. Holidays, in other words, reflect the values of the culture, and therefore, the celebratory calendar is a microcosm of society’s principles as a whole.
At one point, our country valued giving God thanks, and for one day a year, we collectively expressed our gratitude to God for our food, homes, family, and country. The former importance of Thanksgiving is a testament to the Christian heritage of his country, but sentiments have changed, greatly diminishing the significance of the holiday. In its place, Black Friday has arisen.
Black Friday represents America’s obsession with stuff. In a few days, millions of Americans will wait hours in line, trample those who get in their way, and then fight to grab the latest must-have item, all in the name of a bargain. More than another event, Black Friday demonstrates the materialism and greed that has infiltrated our culture.
Is there any way to resist this onslaught? Some workers have pushed back against the decision to open early. Target employees started an online petition that has gathered 100,000s of signatures, and Wal-Mart employees are planning a strike for Black Friday (more over workers’ rights than working on Thanksgiving). With the current economy, many people, however, will flock to fill any vacant positions, making protests and strikes fairly ineffective.
On the other hand, retail chains follow dollar signs. Last year’s experiment was extremely successful, with 28 million shoppers tallied for Thanksgiving 2011, and if the numbers increase this year, which I assume they will, expect stores to open even earlier in 2013. Yet, if customers respond negatively, the hour will most likely be curtailed. Oddly, the future of Thanksgiving lies with consumers.
My question for you is where will you spend this Thanksgiving? Is a cheap, big-screen television more important than giving thanks to God? Is a new tablet more important sharing a dinner with your family? Our nation will jointly answer these questions on Thursday. I am not too optimistic about the response, but at least, we can do our part to save the day that honors God and family. 

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.