Preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday is always one of my favorite parts of the year, and during this week anticipating my return home, I have been distracting myself with Twitter more than usual. When I viewed my timeline today, I saw a tweet from Rainn Wilson (who plays Dwight on NBC’s The Office). I enjoy reading Rainn’s tweets daily, as he often offers humorous insights on the goings-on of the day. But, the following tweet of his I found particularly interesting:
“Here’s what’s wrong with our culture. In the press there are more articles about “Black Friday” than about Thanksgiving.”
I feel that he is right; this has increasingly become the trend over the last few years in our society, as Thanksgiving and Black Friday have largely become parts of the same holiday–Thanksgiving traditions now tend to coincide with Black Friday traditions. Families eat turkey, sleep, and leave their homes sometime in the late night or early morning hours to ambush department stores for deals on a variety of items. It has become an American holiday, celebrated by many, both retailers and Americans alike.
But what is really important about Thanksgiving has become somewhat muddled in this consumerist “holiday.” Thanksgiving is (or at least only used to be) about counting our blessings, spending time with the family we are fortunate to have, and being thankful for our opportunities. It is also about helping those who may be less fortunate, unable to afford a Thanksgiving meal or who do not have a home in which to enjoy it. Now for many, it is instead about coupon clipping, fighting off other shoppers early in the AM, and purchasing items with discounted deals. Stores are opening earlier and earlier each year, trying to get a jump on their competitors by letting Black Friday shoppers through their doors hours before others. The Telegraph reported that the amount of Black Friday shoppers will increase to 250 million this year. This was, as the article notes, according to blackfriday2011.com . (And yes, this website is the real deal: countdown and all.)
It brought to my mind the idea of flourishing in a microcosmic light. What does it mean to be satisfied at the end of a day? Is it more about spending quality time with family and celebrating those memories, or about braving masses of people for a discount on a holiday gift? In today’s economy, people are trying to do all they can to make the gift-giving holidays as memorable as possible, but in doing so, the genuine meaning of Thanksgiving has become somehow forgotten. I would personally rather have the moments with my family, for I only see some of my relatives on Thanksgiving day each year. But in today’s poorer economy, highlighted by consumerism, does anything go? Is Black Friday legitimate or over the top?