It's called Thanksgiving, not Black Friday Eve

This year, many families will start their Black Friday shopping before the Thanksgiving dishes are done, while others scoff at the very idea. Will your family welcome or shun the retail intrusion into Thanksgiving Day? 

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Joanne Bryant, (2nd r.) shops with Cariann Bryant, (l.) and Katie Sack, at The Grove mall in Los Angeles, November 26. This year, Black Friday starts earlier than ever, with some retailers opening early on Thanksgiving evening.

Many will say Thanksgiving grace a little differently this year, thanks to the bounteous Black Friday gifts now available in stores on Thursday, even before the dishes are done:

Lord, as we gather at the counter of the food court this Thanksgiving Day, we thank You for our blessings. We thank You for Kohl’s and Macy’s, for Toys R Us and Target, for Walmart and Best Buy and Penny’s. We thank You, too, Lord, for Polo, for Uggs, for Chanel. Please shower Your mercy on those less fortunate among us – especially those who have no friends or family coupons to redeem, and especially those still driving around the parking lot in search of a spot. Oh, and, Lord help the poor.

The cornucopia of stores now open on Thanksgiving Day has drawn a visceral “NO” in many circles: I know I will not shop on Thanksgiving, but I don’t want anyone else to either. I simply don’t like the idea of having shopping be possible on Thanksgiving at all. It dampens the enthusiasm for spending one day each year together atop Walton’s mountain, so to speak.

But the retailers have thrown down the gauntlet, defying an entire people to just try to wait till the turkey’s put away to do some shopping.  It sets the whole of us back on our heels. It puts that panic-y “gotta get it done” feeling back in your stomach on the very day you want room in there for peach pie. You might not succumb to the lure of the loot, at least not this year, but your mom might, or your sister, upsetting the womb of the day. Maybe the teenagers start clamoring to get out of the house, and after all, what difference is there, really, between the mall and flag football? Between picking out a TV and snoozing in front of your own?

But wait. Isn’t what we’re doing all year in the stores the set-up for this very moment? Isn’t providing the backdrop for this kind of feeding and being fed and resting awhile together the very reason for all the shopping in the first place? Or at least a good deal of it?

Adrienne Lyles-Chockley, assistant visiting professor of philosophy at St. Mary’s College, understands all this. But she says that despite the complaining about stores being open, they wouldn’t be open unless there were people going in. “There isn’t anything inherently wrong with shopping on Thanksgiving,” she says, but she suggests that families, before following in shopping lockstep, can inventory their values to make sure that their holidays reflect the family they want to build.

“Many people have a shopping ritual, but think about whether that’s really the kind of ritual you want your family to have,” she advises. Then, too, there are the larger concerns – the fact that your shopping means somebody else has to work that day, for instance, or the association of early Christmas shopping with frenzy and with deal-hungry mobs. Consider whether these issues should affect your decision. In short, do the consistency check on your family’s values, making sure actions and intentions jibe.

Ms. Lyles-Chockley says that the choice about shopping starts with the individual, but that, as many individual families intentionally refrain from shopping in order to keep Thanksgiving sacred, it becomes its own kind of fad. “It becomes easier [for others] to say ‘we’re opting out of this.’ ”

Back to the dishes.

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