Black Friday: the newest American holiday?

November 22, 2011


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.

Black Friday shoppers, courtesy of "The Telegraph" article.

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 . (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?



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9 Comments on “Black Friday: the newest American holiday?”

  1. ajnovo Says:

    I always thought Thanksgiving was a little hypocritical because we’re celebrating the fact that Native Americans helped the pilgrims survive their first winter, and unfortunately the colonization of North America lead to the dwindled Native American population and culture. I have an atypical Thanksgiving dinner since my parents both hate each others families – I’ve never had Thanksgiving with any of my extended family. Normally my neighbors come over, and the importance has never been about being thankful for our families more just being happy that we’re together without my extended family.

    I went Black Friday shopping for the first time last year with my sister, and I cannot wait to go this year. Shopping isn’t just about finding good deals or anything like that – it is a time where my sister and I are able to hang out, and just talk to each other. Plus our economy is powered by consumerism so I’m not against helping the economy.

    What would a Thanksgiving commercial even look like? I love Thanksgiving, but my family never celebrated it in the traditional way you describe, and I find myself bonding more with my sister when we go Black Friday shopping than eating dinner anyway since everything tastes delicious and stuffing my face is easier than talking.

  2. chadmach Says:

    Black Friday (we even capitalize it!) certainly helps out the economy and many people also save hundreds of dollars on things like televisions, game consoles, appliances, and… well everything. So in that aspect I think that Black Friday is a good thing. I also would not think that Black Friday overshadows Thanksgiving. I think that Thanksgiving day can still be spent with your family, eating and giving thanks. A family could even clip coupons together for Black Friday and that would still be okay to me because they are at least doing it as a family.

    I do however think that Black Friday has a negative side to it. My mom works at Kohl’s Department Store and every Black Friday she is there starting at 4 a.m.. She always comes home generally in a good mood, but she also tells us about how awful some of the people can be. Some are impatient and rude to each other and store employees. Is this really what people want? At the end of the day will the anger that you created while shopping be covered by the ‘satisfaction’ gained by purchasing a discounted gift? I am not really sure it is. I do not need the discounted gifts to feel satisfied at the end of the day, unfortunately my view does not reflect the rest of the populations view. Maybe there is something wrong with our culture.

  3. Reid Mechanick Says:

    In essence, subtle holidays such as Black Friday allow people to come together and embrace the super-savings and discounts retailers have to offer. Along with this, it gives the public an event to look forward to, which motivates people to save and manage their money properly. However, the draw these discounts have oftentimes stray people away from spending that same time with their families and embracing the holiday; specifically, Thanksgiving. So I ask, how can the nationally recognized holiday and consumer holiday reconcile and co-exist? Well in retrospect, they can’t. However there are various reasons why they should. It can be justified that Black Friday brings families together, as Thanksgiving should; together, families adventure to stores and shops to take advantage of the savings they, must likely, have been waiting for a while. It seems that this subtle holiday is merely icing on the cake; keeping family ties close and their wallets hefty seems all too sweet to pass up. In all, Black Friday may just be retailers’ way of attracting consumers for unattractive reasons: increased revenue, havoc lines, and perhaps unfair deals. However, it seems all to obvious that Black Friday simply enhances the Thanksgiving experience of generosity, bonding, and time well spent together.

  4. Jordan Wylie Says:

    I agree with ajnovo that Thanksgiving is pretty hypocritical, but I still find it to be one of my favorite times of the year. I feel as tough its sort of the kick off to the holidays. I also agree that Black Friday has sort of taken over Thanksgiving. Sometimes I feel as though Thanksgiving and Black Friday can by synonymous. For some families, Black Friday is more important than the actual holiday.

    My family has never been big Black Friday shoppers. My mom isn’t a fan of crowds and in my opinion shopping is supposed to be a leisurely activity. Fighting people for sizes and looking through disheveled clothes racks isn’t my idea of a good time. Also, some of those crowds get mob mentality and you always hear those horror stores of people who were trampled and got seriously injured and some even die.

    I think in terms of what makes someone satisfied: families can create just as many fond memories Black Friday shopping as they can cooking and sharing a meal together. As long as they are all doing it together, it doesn’t really matter how the memories are formed. However, in terms of whether or not Black Friday is legitimate, I never really feel as if the deals are that great to begin with. Yes there are some really great deals on tvs and electronics, but thats only for the first 10 people through the door. The rest of us aren’t generally as lucky. I think it is just another way to get people in the door to see what product they have to offer. If people really like it then maybe they’ll come back again.

  5. Danielle Studenberg Says:

    I agree with you that Black Friday has become a holiday in itself. November used to be about coming together with family and appreciating what we have, not looking forward to the next great deal. Black Friday has caused us to forget about giving back to our community, which is something I think we all need to improve on. I’m not saying that I’m Mother Teresa, but I wish I dedicated more of my time and money to people that need it. It’s sickening to think that a pair of shoes that I buy could probably feed a small family. I really hope that in the coming years society focuses less on this made-up holiday and more on genuine tradition.

    Responding to your question: to be satisfied at the end of the day is to be with family. We rush around every day and night, and are self-possessed to the point where we’re oblivious to other people’s problems. One day a year we need to celebrate memories of togetherness and forget about consumerism altogether.

  6. marckarpinos31 Says:

    I agree with the author of this post that Thanksgiving has lost some of its genuineness because of black friday. In a struggling economy, people are going to do what ever they can to save an extra dollar and get that bigger TV or that extra set of headphones. In an ideal world people would respect the fact that a holiday like thanksgiving is one of the few opportunities to see family and friends.

    In reality I think black friday will never become a nationally recognized holiday because it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The stores are still open and many offices are closed anyway so a federal holiday would not change much and would probably only make this day more crazy. As I said, in this economy people are going to do whatever they can to get ahead and save a little extra and still get that incredible holiday gift. Regardless of whether it is the thought that counts or not people in this time period do not care. Times are changing and family sit downs are now being over taken by that new 46 inch TV.

  7. bmauto21 Says:

    When going home for thanksgiving this break, me and my friends have a tradition of after thanksgiving dinner with our respective family members, that we have a sleepover and wake up really early for black friday. Our country decides to advertise black friday sales at the beginning of november and for 3 and a half weeks all we hear about are the magnificent sales. The country has dumbed down a very important holiday and overshadows it with the fact that you can get a 60 inch television for $100.
    At every thanksgiving dinner before we eat, my family discusses what we are thankful for before we eat. Then the following day, me, along with all of america head to the mall. It has gotten so serious that people have died being trampled on during a store opening on black friday. It has gotten so out of hand that stores begin black friday at 10pm on thursday.
    Thanksgiving is bout remembering how thankful we all should be but rather its about where we are all going the following day. Consumerism has taken over America. It clogs our streets, stores, homes, and televisions in order to get us fixated on the fact that we have to buy now because these deals are unbelievably good. I think that most Americans now see Black Friday as a part of Thanksgiving while some may only care about Black Friday, rather than spending time with their families.

  8. benhenri Says:

    I believe that Black Friday is not legitimate. Personally, my family and I have never gone shopping on Black Friday. Like Jordan Wylle, I too think that stores are deceiving consumers with discounts that are, in actuality, quite minimal and for only a small number of products, anyway. In fact, I think there is only a single advantage of Black Friday and that has come about recently only due to our current economic downturn. In this economic crisis, consumers on Black Friday are actually really assisting our economy and at least attempting to help stabilize it. But, even so, our economy can be helped in November solely by consumers preparing for their Thanksgiving dinners. Plus, Christmas, a huge consumer holiday that can also help to boost our economy, is only one month away. Black Friday is just terrible and unnecessary. As chadmach and Jordan Wylle mentioned, shoppers on Black Friday are incredibly rude and, sometimes, violent and deadly. In 2008, a man was murdered in Walmart by a stampede of shoppers. And, there was another incident in Palm Desert, CA where two men shot and killed each other in front of their children. In fact, there is even a website,, based solely on violent injuries and deaths that have occurred on Black Friday. Most importantly, Black Friday further divides our country socially. Those who are of a lower socioeconomic status have more of an incentive to shop on Black Friday and receive these so-called “great” deals because, to them, less of their livelihood would be lost buying a product they needed or wanted than if they had bought that same product at its full price while those of a higher socioeconomic standing would not be affected as much if they waited to buy the product at its full price. Lastly, Christmas already overpowers and, thereby, diminishes the value of Thanksgiving. Christmas lights are already on the trees and Christmas songs are already playing on the radio by the time Thanksgiving comes. And, if Black Friday is further promoted and strengthened, it too will overpower Thanksgiving and undermine its worth. Then, soon enough, Thanksgiving may no longer be celebrated by families at all.

  9. JustinMandeltort Says:

    Black Friday has more and more over the years taken away from Thanksgiving. This though makes sense to me, as it should make sense for all. Everybody is about getting gifts for the holidays, for kids, for parents for relatives and for friends. In this economy, things are very expensive and along with that people these days don’t have the same kind of money to throw on gifts. When a kid tells his mother that he wants an Xbox 360 for christmas, his mother is going do whatever she can to do it. This gift might not fit into her budge on a regular day at best buy or at target or wherever. On black friday she can get this gift that would make her kids’ year for a hundred dollars off, she is going to get up however early and wait on endless lines to do this. Black Friday results in crime, violence in craziness, but at the bottom of it all its mostly people trying to get gifts that they normally couldn’t afford for the people they love. Thanksgiving is still thanksgiving, maybe people don’t talk about it as much as they do, but families and friends and loved ones are still gathering and coming together on thanksgiving. Maybe in the media black friday is all the talk, but who really even cares if you get to see your family and spend a day watching football and eating turkey with them.

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