Where is the Spirit of Christmas in the Greed of Black Friday?
Newspaper Headlines Tell the Tale of a Nation Gone Mad
I saw these headlines in the newspapers the week after Black Friday, 2012.
Police: Black Friday shopper in a hurry shot at car. The author of this article was Michael Winter, and the newspaper in which it appeared was USA Today. The man who committed this crime had been waiting in line for five hours at Walmart to buy a stereo that sold out before he got his turn. He then attempted to race to another Walmart, but pulled a gun on a woman in another car because she was slowing him down.
Here's another one.
2 year old found in Spfld parking lot. The writer of the article is Matt Caron, and it appeared on the website for a local news channel in Massachusetts. This guy was supposed to be babysitting his girlfriend's child, but he abandoned the boy in the car so he could buy the TV. The most shocking part of this is that he didn't even take the TV back to the car and go home with both the electronics and the child. He somehow got home with only the television!
Some other horror stories from around the Internet this week, paraphrased:
- A woman was trampled by other Walmart shoppers in Germantown, Wisconsin.
- A man shot the ceiling of a Target in Denver, Colorado.
- In San Antonio, one guy in a line at Sears punched another guy in the face. The second guy then pulled a gun on him.
And none of the horror stories from this year match the shocking and famous atrocity of 2008, when Walmart employee Jdimytai Damour was literally trampled to death by a mob of people. A pregnant woman was also injured in that mob.
Some of these sorry scenes have even been caught for posterity on Youtube. Congratulations, folks. You are famous for behaving like this. You must be so proud.
Black Friday Brawls
In an unusually nasty twist on Black Friday, Walmart decided to start the madness just a little bit earlier this year. For 2012 the Walmart Black Friday deals began at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. No, Mom, I don't want another serving of pumpkin pie or another hour of companionship with my family. We might miss a really good deal on a cell phone!
What was Christmas Supposed to be About, Again?
Whether you are a person who gives credence to the Bible story about a holy child in Bethlehem or not, it can't be too hard to see that somewhere, the attitude towards Christmas has gone horribly wrong. In the great Christmas classic "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens, Fred is encouraging his uncle Scrooge to embrace the generosity of the Christmas season. Paraphrased, he tells Scrooge that he has always thought of Christmas as a good time. "A kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time... when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely."
When did the act of buying gifts for this "kind, forgiving, charitable pleasant time" become a crazed rush to clutch greedy handfuls of cheap stuff, held to be more important than the life of the man you just killed in your rush?
The name "Black Friday" was coined as early as 1961; police officers saw that traffic was unusually heavy on the day after Thanksgiving, and their job grew harder. Merchants have attempted to spin doctor the nickname by suggesting that Black Friday is the day when the ledgers are filled with profit - black ink.
But now, apparently, those ledgers are occasionally filled with blood. Even when they are not, the greedy push to encourage us to attend these sales can be very irritating. All through the Thanksgiving holiday I was hounded by advertisements that urged me to focus more on the shopping day on Friday then on the very important national holiday currently at hand.
Avoiding Black Friday and Reinvesting in the Christmas Spirit
Call me crazy, but I think it might just save a tiny portion of the national soul if, one Black Friday morning, we all just decided to stay home. You want to find an economical deal on Christmas presents? Here's some ideas.
- Visit a thrift store. My family and I have often found charming home furnishings, wonderful holiday decorations that seemed to be brand new, and sometimes even delightful children's toys and games at thrift stores and antique shops. There's more than one way to save money on merchandise.
- For a variation on that, go to Half-Price books and find an attractive coffee-table book about your friend's greatest life passion.
- Make or bake your presents. Do you know how to crochet? Can you paint a clear glass ornament and turn it into a unique treasure for somebody you know well? Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? Personal gifts you've made yourself often carry much more meaning than mass-produced generic items you find at the mall.
- Give the gift of time. Instead of buying Grandma a new kindle, maybe she'd like a "gift certificate" good for odd jobs done around the house. Offer to mow her lawn, clean out her gutters or take care of her animals when she goes out of town.
- Make homemade potpourri.
- Put together a homemade family cookbook with all your favorite recipes.
To quote Dr. Seuss, as he shows us the Grinch listening to the Whos sing Christmas songs on a morning when he's stolen all their gifts:
"Maybe Christmas" he thought, "Doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps... means a little bit more."
(Source: How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.)
The crazed rush of Black Friday appears to be swallowing Thanksgiving up whole, and it's tainted Christmas with a tinge of danger and destruction. Perhaps it's time for us to reevaluate our priorities during the Christmas season and remember what we are celebrating and the reason why we are shopping in the first place.