Black Friday battles tradition

Josa Lamont | Staff Editor

In 1939 crowds raged and protests erupted to the absolute immoral affront to the principles of Thanksgiving when Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to hold Thanksgiving one week early.

Or maybe that’s just how we’d like to believe it went.

In reality, people were angered by the general inconvenience of the shift and the newly inaccurate preprinted calendars.

Small businesses, calendar makers and football coaches erupted in an enflamed capitalistic protest supported by individual states determined to stand against the change to their schedules planned far in advance.

Football season was planned around Thanksgiving, and now it was moving!

Consumers complained of the general silliness and chaos of the transition.

The one week leap was meant to kick start the economy and drag the nation out of the final grasps of the Great Depression but the move enraged those with a vested interest in the gratuitous holiday.

Governors boycotted the shift, varying holiday dates from state to state, giving family members different dates to celebrate across borders.

In 1941 people were forced to adjust when Roosevelt pushed the agenda through congress, officially declaring Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of every November, signaling the official change of the priorities of the nation toward Thanksgiving.

Economically the logic was sound.

There would be more time to shop on those rare Novembers with five Thursdays.

But pulling the nation out of a Great Depression wasn’t enough to unify the nation behind changing the sanctity of the start of football season.

Today the “sanctity” of Thanksgiving is at stake with the progressive development of Black Thursday.

Every year Black Friday rings in the Christmas shopping season, but since 2010 major retailers have been sliding their sales forward to the Thursday of Thanksgiving, Black Friday has been losing its relevance.

Families kiss their loved ones goodbye for the holiday as corporations enlist their labor for the retail extravaganza that once meant something bigger.

If the shift from the last Thursday of the month to the fourth in 1939 was an attack on the value of Thanksgiving, then the shift of Black Friday to Black Thursday is a sacrilege.

Corporations would have us believe the point of Thanksgiving is to buy toys, appliances and gadgets at discounted rates, bypassing the Sentiment altogether.

And over the years, little by little our Sense of moral indignation is pushed further from where we remember it beginning.

Our priorities as a nation are manipulated by the alleged implementation of a greater good. We are wooed by the idea that the greater good is what is good for our “greaters,” and we have bought into the corporate reasoning that consumption means economic altruism.

Thanksgiving’s conception was led not by the ideal of brighter horizons but by brighter windows.

Now we look back and wonder where the moment was that we stepped off the path of genuine gratitude and fell into greed.

Thanksgiving began as a holiday scattered among many states, and each state that implemented it held their day of thanks on a different date.

Sarah Josepha Hale, mother, author and women’s journal editor, fought to have Thanksgiving as a national holiday in heartfelt appeals to her readership.

“It is a festival which will never become obsolete, for it cherishes the best affections of the heart the social and domestic ties,” wrote Hale.

“It calls together the dispersed members of the family circle, and brings plenty, joy gladness to the dwellings of the poor and lowly.”

Hale believed in the importance of Thanksgiving as a nationally celebrated holiday for families to be filled with gratitude and for the nation to reflect on its values and history.

She campaigned for 36 years until 1863, when Thanksgiving was made a national holiday under President Lincoln.

It would take another 61 years for the holiday to become an official consumer cue.

In 1924, with the start of the Thanksgiving Day Parade came the birth of Black Friday, coined for being the day businesses went from the red or negative profits, to the black or increasing their margins.

So for the last 86 years Thanksgiving has been coexisting with Black Friday, sharing a complicated dynamic of gratitude followed by an insatiable need to acquire.

But in 2010 an affront on behalf of Black Friday into Thanksgiving Day territory began the cultural battle we now fight.

Sears made Black Friday into Black Thursday, encroaching on the inviolability of family tradition.

And today we press on in the war on fulfillment, while more and more stores join the struggle to stay relevant and compete in the harsh consumer climate that is the Christmas season.

CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Toys-R-Us, Belk, Kohl’s, JC Penny, Macy’s, Office Max, Sears and Starbucks are among stores expected to stay open on Thanksgiving.

Employees from Kmart have been vocal against the change.

While they had accepted partial work days last year when the store was open into the afternoon, this year employees are expected to keep the store open the full day and their sense of family weighs on their minds more heavily than in the past.

“I feel terrible,” said Kohl’s employee Corina Nunez about working Thanksgiving Day. “I don’t want to do it. But we’re forced because if we don’t work the Thanksgiving Day we don’t get paid for the holiday.”

National and international corporations are encouraging their stores to open earlier and earlier to get the advantage in consumer markets.

But like when Thanksgiving moved from the last Thursday to the fourth Thursday of November, not everyone minds the impact on tradition.

While people like Corina Nunez and her family don’t look forward to work, others celebrate differently.

“I’m personally OK with it,” the Tyler Galleria Body Basics employee, Jacqueline Herrera said. “I think it’s maybe my own experience. My parents usually go on vacation on Thanksgiving so we usually have a Thanksgiving breakfast before they head out to Vegas. After they leave I’m just kind of home not doing anything.”

Having to work doesn’t really bother Herrera, or many other young adults looking forward to increased pay.

“I’m personally OK with (working on Thanksgiving)” said Toys-R-Us employee Becky Oropeza. “Money is Money”

Teens and young adults may have never been terribly interested in Thanksgiving in the past, but today it seems like they look forward to the money over family.

The youthful mindset seems to align with corporate culture. But teens also seem to sense that the culture is changing.

“I guess it depends on who you ask because Thanksgiving really means a lot to a lot of people, I don’t really think Thanksgiving has a politically correct meaning anymore,” Herrera said.

“I don’t think that it’s rooted in American culture I thinks it’s more just sentimental.”

But Nunez and others her demographic still believe in family.

She struggles to make ends meet against the idea of corporate greed taking over her home life.

“I think (corporations) value more the money than the family gathering of the one day throughout the whole year,” Nunez said.

Her son Chris Nunez is a student at RCC, and she says her family doesn’t look forward to her working either.

She hoped to spend the holiday at home with her family.

The move represents an invasive step into home culture and values that can be a difficult enemy for the common man to resist.

The person paying your paycheck holds the power, and they want Black Friday sooner so it means more sales.

The move of Black Friday isn’t the only encouragement companies offer to get people in the Christmas spirit early.

It’s coupled by the strategic playing of Christmas music after Halloween to get shoppers to think of shopping.

The response is generally that of outrage.

People sense the manipulation going on around them, and it angers and frustrates them to lose the sense of value they cling to from all their favorite sentimental and meaningful holidays.