Ruining Thanksgiving

I’ve been seeing a lot of Facebook posts, blog posts, and even “news” articles about how “Black Friday” shopping is “ruining Thanksgiving”. Specifically, they tend to be referring to the way stores have been starting their Black Friday sales earlier and earlier every year has been upsetting people—as though this was the first year that Black Friday shopping had started Thursday night.

To anyone who has just noticed this phenomenon: Congratulations, you haven’t been paying attention to the retail situation surrounding Thanksgiving Weekend for a long while, have you? At least a decade, you say? Yeah. Shut up. You clearly don’t work in retail, don’t know anyone who has worked in retail in November in the last decade, and don’t shop over Thanksgiving Weekend. If you’ve been complaining about retailers “ruining Thanksgiving” you have no right to have been. Shut up. Delete your posts. Apologize for your ignorance. Go back to your little hole.

This has been going on for years. My wife and I have been enjoying the holiday-that-is-Black-Friday since before we got married. In fact, we bought 80% of everything we needed for our wedding in one long shopping day, six years ago this Black Friday. We’ve been heading out to start our Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving for at least three years, though it may certainly have been longer than that. The last couple of years, one of our goals has been to attempt to get all our Black Friday shopping done by two or three in the morning, Friday morning, so we can go home and sleep in while less interesting crowds are shopping. Unfortunately, some stores refuse to cooperate; more on that later.

First, back to Thanksgiving. I don’t know what your Thanksgivings are like. What your celebrations entail. What your schedule is. In my family, and in the families of virtually everyone I’ve ever spoken to on the subject (barring broken families where overlapping members are forced to celebrate twice, and both homes’ meals are rescheduled to accommodate), the holiday centers around a feast, and the aim of those preparing and serving the feast is to have it served in the early afternoon, typically between Noon and 2PM. There will be gathering with family, of course, beginning earlier in the day and frequently lasting for hours after the meal, but it certainly isn’t an all-day affair. Perhaps half a day. Less, if you aren’t the one cooking; just a matter of hours. Maybe you like to include the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in your Thanksgiving celebrations; fine, you’ve got something to occupy your morning while other people are busy in the kitchen. I hear football is a thing; it may also be related to Thanksgiving.

Here’s another thing about Thanksgiving: Not everyone has it off. A handful of industries are better-served by operating year-round, even when they pay their employees extra to work on holidays. Time and a half, double time, I’ve even earned triple time for working holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. For the last several years, this has included more and more of the retail sector. Some stores just have normal hours on Thanksgiving, some have abbreviated hours (grocery stores are often open for a few hours in the morning, so people can pick up last-minute forgotten ingredients), but the most recent additions, the ones opening on Thanksgiving for Black Friday, are all opening late at night. After everyone’s done with (normal) Thanksgiving celebrations, which happen in the middle of the day. We’re talking about people who get to both celebrate Thanksgiving with their families and get extra hours (and probably at a higher-than-normal rate) for working that day. You may not work an hourly-wage job (like retail is), but for most people who do, any opportunity to earn more money is a blessing. For most of these people, their Thanksgiving is not ruined, it is enhanced.

But people keep posting about how Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving are ruining Thanksgiving… and it reminds me of what ruins Thanksgiving for me: Thanksgiving does. I enjoy cooking, certainly, baking more so, and once in a while I enjoy serving a dinner party. But Thanksgiving doesn’t fall on the calendar according to my mood for cooking, the menu isn’t determined by what I want to prepare, the guest list is entirely out of my control… and sometimes that’s okay, but imagine it were any other “you must prepare a feast, and it must be this feast, and you must serve these guests, and you must do it on this day and time, and no, you don’t get a say in any of it” situation not called “Thanksgiving” and there’s probably a good chance that would ruin the day. This is not to begin getting into the fact that many families, my own included, do not get along well for long periods of time in such situations as Thanksgiving creates. There is a ticking clock, and half of us are aware of it but hoping that maybe this time it’ll be different, but if the Thanksgiving celebrations last a little too long (will be be the third hour, this time, or maybe we’ll make it to five?) we’ll all end up screaming at one another. And that certainly ruins Thanksgiving, too. Thanksgiving is what ruins Thanksgiving.

But then I remember that once the mess of Thanksgiving is over (though it won’t really be over; there are dishes to wash, and leftovers to deal with for weeks) we get to go do something fun and rewarding: We get to go celebrate Black Friday! Yay!

We get to go out and do something we enjoy, we get to buy things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford (we seriously make Black Friday shopping lists all year, watching prices and sales of high-ticket items, confirming almost every time that Black Friday is the day to get it), we get to do a lot of fun people-watching, including a lot of helping people find what they’re looking for, get in the right lines, get the best deals, and otherwise have a good time right along with us. We get to ride ‘the line ride’, which we obviously enjoy or we wouldn’t have gone to 8 theme parks in the last year, and we get to talk to lots of different people about what motivates them to stand in line in the cold in the middle of the night for hours. We never get into fights, partially because none of the things we’re shopping for are mission-critical items (or we’d have bought them already, rather than waiting up to a year for a sale), and in all my years doing it I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen a fight. Most people are out there for a good time, to indulge, to buy themselves and their loved ones things they wouldn’t otherwise—most people seem to end up going home with wonderful presents at sometimes-wonderful prices. The whole thing is like a giant, communal Christmas Morning for adults; we don’t have the myth of Santa anymore, we know we have to pay for it ourselves, but there are thousands of us out there experiencing that rush of finding exactly what we wanted (not under the tree, but under the price you thought you’d have to pay), a far larger, higher-energy, and more positive holiday experience than just about anything else I can think of.

Black Friday is certainly the better holiday, if we’re comparing it to Thanksgiving.

Heck, this year we’ve cancelled Thanksgiving. I’m not going to cook a feast (at most I’ll cook a reasonably-sized meal for my wife and myself), we’re not going to spend time with (read: get in a screaming fight with) our extended family… I think Mandy will try to watch the parade (but we have no antenna, so that probably won’t work), but what we’re really looking forward to is Black Friday. Heck, we’ve already got it planned around a big meal: We’re going to hit the early sales (ToysRUs, Walmart) for a few hours, then get one of those Jack In The Box (ooh, I hope we can find one that’s open) late-night-only Munchie Meals (which we normally can’t buy; I may be nocturnal, but Mandy isn’t, and that’s at least enough food for two people) before heading to the later-starting sales. Probably we’ll be back home and in bed by 2AM—because as I said earlier, some stores are refusing to cooperate with the all-night shopping-extravaganza that Black Friday has become, and we need a nap before heading out again to the not-opening-until-its-actually-Friday stores get going. As far as I’m concerned, those stores are ruining my holiday, the better holiday, by not opening Thursday night. …making us wait to finish our Black Friday shopping on Friday… That’s the day for the people not celebrating Black Friday to get the leftovers of the deals us celebrators got to enjoy. It’s fun, usually more fun than Thanksgiving, but not nearly as fun as the all-night party that is the real Black Friday.

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