Turkey Day Shopping

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A friend recently posted this to Facebook:

For at least the past 29 years football has been played on Thanksgiving. In 29 years I have never heard a peep about all the people that had to work on Thanksgiving to make that happen. I’m not talking about the players. I’m talking about the poor guys who direct the traffic, take tickets, sell food and beverages, etc. Why is that considered tradition but shopping on Thanksgiving some sort of sacrilege? (I could also add that at least as early as 1997 I have eaten at a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner yet never seen such a hullabaloo about the waitstaff who have to work on Thanksgiving).

That sparked some interesting discussion. Some of the response was “Everything should be closed on Thanksgiving that isn’t safety (police/fire) or health (hospital) related.” Some people are irritated at businesses that are open and said that the onus is on the business to respect Thanksgiving. Sure, other things are open, but let’s not make the problem worse.

If people aren’t going to respect Thanksgiving, why should the businesses? Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Michael’s – none of them exist to uphold the moral fiber of America. That’s not their job. They are in business to sell items and take our money. We have, by continuing to shop on Thanksgiving, told them that we want them to be open. They’re simply giving us what we want. Economics 101 – Supply and demand.

I don’t get why anyone in the United States is surprised that Thanksgiving has become a consumer holiday. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about recognizing the blessings in life and being grateful for what we have. The Pilgrims were celebrating, as a community, their first harvest (and probably the fact that they managed to survive in a land they weren’t used to). (Of course, they had some help. We repaid the Native Americans by making them sick, taking their land, and disrespecting the women. Nice.)

Let’s face it though, the United States isn’t exactly known for being thankful for what we have. If we were, society wouldn’t be overrun by rampant materialism and consumerism. We wouldn’t work the ridiculous hours we do. Television wouldn’t be saturated with ads and product placement. No, we are all about MORE, MORE, MORE.

We have sacrificed connection, relationships, and family for things. This is why Thanksgiving is such a big deal in the first place. We dump a year’s worth of thanks and family time into ONE FREAKIN’ DAY. We’re so busy consuming or working to consume that we don’t stop and reflect on the blessings in our lives.

What if, instead of doing it once a year, we were thankful ALL YEAR? What if we focused on what we have instead of what we don’t have? There will always be a new iPhone. There will always be a faster computer. There will be a bigger TV with a sharper image.

I know I’m guilty of this. I bought myself five new t-shirts a month ago when I already have a drawer full. I have probably forty pairs of underwear. FORTY. What exactly do I think is going to happen that I won’t be able to wash my underwear? I have arts and craft stuff I don’t use but *had* to have. I have totally grossed myself out.

I do shop on Thanksgiving – sometimes the deals are too good to pass up and they’re items I’ve been eyeing for a while. Our family sort of makes it a family event though – I go with my mom and/or other family and friends. I’m sure there are parents who take advantage of it to make sure their kids have great Christmases. For some people it may be the only time they can go because they happen to be off.

There are a lot of dynamics that go into Thanksgiving shopping. But the reality is that if we want to see any kind of change, it has to come from the people, not the businesses. If you truly believe people should be off for Thanksgiving, use your passion to make compelling arguments to your friends. Convince them that it’s wrong to do. Go back into your communities and bring them to life again. Actually live the conviction that community is what matters. That we all matter to each other.

Maybe then shopping on Thanksgiving won’t be such a big deal.