Black Friday, America’s ode to consumer culture, appears to be losing a degree of its excitement lately. According to stories in Huffington Post and Fox news (among many others), a major reason for the decline is the official starting date sliding backwards and splitting the frenzy between days. Many retail outlets and shopping malls are opening their doors in the early evening of Thanksgiving Day, seemingly as soon as people could reasonably be expected to finish their meals and say goodbyes to their families.
One silver lining to the waning frenzy of Black Fridays past is a decline in violence and general chaos. It has been nearly ten years since the last time that Black Friday did not mark the highest single-day retail sales of the calendar year, and the elephant in the room appears to be the possibility that the excitement has simply run its course. Tightly packed crowds and an overly excited environment were, in all probability, the driving force behind prior years’ tragedies, such as the 2008 death of a Wal-Mart employee in a stampede of frenzied shoppers. For those with interest, the website Blackfridaydeathcount.com exists as a log of the human cost of Black Friday.
Of considerable concern also, is the potential for the actual holidays associated to Black Friday of having their messages trod over and obscured. Thanksgiving is a beautiful and soulful reminder for people to count their blessings and appreciate the things that they do have, rather than bemoaning the absence of some things that they want. Christmas is supposed to celebrate the life of the central earthly figure on which Christianity, a religion purporting to value un-selfish personal characteristics above material things, is based. The growth between them of their apparent antithesis, a monument to materialism, has mostly come to be without significant public criticism or examination. People have simply accepted that other human beings have lost their lives over such hysterically ironic trivialities such as a five-dollar price drop on a toy.
The predominantly Christian population of America has largely and long ago reconciled many gripes with the contradictions presented by modern Christmas; Nikolaos of Myra metamorphosing into Santa Claus and becoming the face of the holiday, the idolatry of trees, wreaths, candy canes and tinsel, and the rest extraordinary majority of the symbolism representing the holiday in this day and time. And for the most part, it has been a pleasurable transformation toward a more secular and inclusive version of Christmas. There is not anything inherently or morally wrong with gift-giving and being happy. However, what Black Friday has become is most accurately assessed as a distraction from the goodness of the holidays and an esoteric warm spot in the literal dark and cold onset of winter for the Northern Hemisphere.
Perhaps it would be for the best if Black Friday sank into the marshes of the darker, subconscious aspect of humanity and allowed some psychological elbow room for society to get back to the core of the holiday season; appreciation of the worlds’ bounty and an opportunity to re-connect with more distant relations often ignored or forgotten the rest of the year.
Opinion by Brian Whittemore
Photo by @Doug88888 – flickr License