Shopping on Thanksgiving

The other day, one of my Facebook friends mentioned that she thought Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving was a horrid and evil idea, and people that do so need to re-prioritize their lives.  (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the idea.)  I thought about it a little bit, and I decided, no, it’s not evil.  What if you are unfortunate enough to be part of a family where the day is to be ENDURED, and you have to choke down your food and get the hell out, asap, before Uncle Billy starts making racist comments, Grandpa starts criticizing everyone and making sarcastic comments, Grandma starts talking about diets, the cigarette smoke is drying out your nasal passages and your contact lenses, and really, JUST LET ME GO!  What if you don’t have any sane family or friends with whom to spend your day?  What if you don’t want to go to a movie?  There surely must be people like this out there.  My grandparents’ house was just such a house, and Thanksgiving was my very least favorite holiday ever.  Of course, I had my mom and my brother to go home with, and we were happy in each others’ company, but what if what we really wanted to do was to go to the mall?  So I spoke up and defended such unfortunate people, suggesting perhaps that they may need our understanding more than our scorn.

After that, I started wondering what it is about stores being open on Thanksgiving that bugs people so much.  I mean, there are restaurants that are open, hotels are open, hospitals are open, movie theaters are open, some grocery stores are open.  So why the anger at department stores?  Then I realized, after looking at Nance’s post, that it doesn’t have so much to do with the sacredness of Thanksgiving and the family unit, as much as it does the hyper-consumerist pressure that is put on us, to buy buy buy, spend spend spend.  The fact that capitalism falls apart if companies don’t continue to grow, and many retail establishments make the majority of their money in December, puts an enormous amount of pressure on us.   There’s no such thing (or perhaps it’s just very rare) as a company that makes $8,000,000 a year, and is happy with that.  They pay their employees the same amount year after year, and the employees are happy with that.  Everyone has enough to live the life they want to live, so there’s no need to go crazy and try to keep making and buying MORE product.  For one thing, employees live in the real world, where their bills generally go up every year.  Health care, gasoline, groceries, clothing, utilities, it all goes up.  It’s seldom that you pull out an old checkbook and say, “Wow, my cable used to be expensive, and now look how much cheaper it is!” (unless you’ve changed your service, of course)

While I never did like the idea of going to the mall on Thanksgiving, I understand a little more why it’s so galling to people to know that it’s out there, that news reports are going to start yammering about consumer confidence (which, for anyone who has lived through a few recessions, can cause stress about job stability), the commercials are going to start in earnest, and the pressure to make everything absolutely perfect for everyone is going to become just too much.  I can’t keep up, I don’t try, and honestly, I don’t even want to.  But some of us do get sucked into that pressure, and it’s exhausting.

So to my Facebook friend, you were right.  If you have a horrid family, then go home and read a good book, but leave the craziness alone, for just a few more days.  You’ll likely be happier for it.


5 thoughts on “Shopping on Thanksgiving

  1. Thanks for the mention.

    Like you, I do have some sympathy for those who have families which make Thanksgiving unpleasant. BUT–having said that, my standard answer will always be, “Then don’t go there for Thanksgiving.” Nothing wearies me more than ADULTS/GROWNUPS who refuse to act like it. Oh, I know all the defenses: the Family will ostracize you; it’s only once a year; you do it for your mother, yada yada yada. It is NOT easier said than done. I had all kinds of pressure from both sides of family, too, and I did it. Years ago. Every once in a while, I still get a pout from my mother, but she understands.

    J, you err on the side of Kindness, and there is never anything wrong with that. And I can understand your point as well. Maybe some of those people who can’t assuage their guilt need a little glitz and a palate cleanse of a Christmassy environment to re-center themselves after a crappy time with some objectionable people. Rather than just wander the aisles of a Walgreens, maybe zipping into a Toys R Us or Macy’s is what they need.

  2. Some feel Thanksgiving is the only commercial free holiday and hence wanted to protect it but as you said, a lot of businesses are open. I know there is some desire to protect the employees from pressure that might deny them the chance to be with their families. If people don’t shop that day, it’ll go back to not being open; so I guess we’ll see. I’ve found holidays to be more boring than negative or positive. They are a day to sit around and eat unless you have a family that likes to go for a hike after dinner. I do love the food that goes with Thanksgiving… or did before gluten became a no-no. Not sure how it’ll be now. gluten free dressing? hmmmmm

  3. I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving and well I wouldn’t shop on that day. I won’t even shop the day after. Am not that crazy. However…there is a big assumption that people have family on Thanksgiving. That it’s all lovely and it should be sacred. Maybe it should…but how about for the people with no one? Maybe a little shopping is what takes their mind off the fact that they have no one to celebrate with. Or maybe the whole family is sitting around wondering what exactly they’re supposed to do with the day, since they aren’t from America. Shrug. I think there is always more than one side and the rants online (or in person) for either side always seem to only see their side.

    I’ll tell you that since being divorced I had a Christmas where I was alone. It wasn’t my day. Can I just say how very thankful I was for the open movie theater? Movies and popcorn and Junior Mints were my family that day.

  4. Here’s my FB friend’s comment, on FB of course:
    To be honest, I should have clarified better that I thought the businesses that are opening all day are pathetic, not people who shop. I know plenty of people who LOVE the frenzy of Black Friday, warnings of being trampled in the crush of people be damned. But the point you made here is great, it seems we can’t take one tiny little day off the consumerism and just chill out. That’s what makes me sad. I know some people’s family suck and they suck big (case in point: I haven’t spoken to my mother in almost 9 years….I GET that families can suck) and going shopping is a good excuse to get away from everyone. But Thanksgiving Day is an easy one for most folks (save for hospitals, gas stations, etc) to be done with their busy lives and be thankful. I also like that it’s a holiday for everyone, there isn’t a religious requirement.

  5. I no longer really purchase Christmas gifts in stores, so going to the mall is pretty much already not an option for me. How can anyone still go to the mall and be boxed in by the choices there, when anything you can think of is online? And maybe you can buy it from a small business/crafter instead of some mega corp.

    I think the stock market is to blame for many things. I’m only sort of kidding.

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