It’s a time where we put aside our mundane, everyday responsibilities, avert our eyes from our struggles for a better future and just appreciate the fortunes of the present. This is the day when we gather those close to us, be they family, friends or neighbors, and give thanks for the riches that fate and our struggles have bestowed.
It’s a celebration that has existed in some form or another in every culture since human beings discovered the art of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Obviously, there is a primal societal need for this pause from the routine.
Now America’s big retailers and fast food franchises think they can improve on that idea.
Just as the harvest celebrations in history have shrunk from a period of several weeks to just one day, they think their employees have evolved to the point that they can satisfy this basic yearning for appreciation and renewal with a mere break of some 4 to 8 hours.
Then –BACK TO WORK!!
Yes, it truly has come to this. In their effort to prosper from the traditions of one holiday, American business is actively destroying the traditions of another holiday.
It doesn’t take much imagination to peer into the future and see where this is going.
More Americans are working in the service industry than ever before. Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in America, opens its doors at 6:00 pm. Most McDonald’s are closing their doors at 2:00 pm and re-opening at 6:00 pm. (Remember, these aren’t the hours that employees are working. They have start-up and shut-down duties, both after closing and before opening.) And competitors can’t fall behind, so they’re offering similar hours, with some even opening earlier.
In just a few years, who will have time to cook a Thanksgiving dinner and who would they be cooking it for, anyway?
The only people left to cook for, of course, will be the stragglers left sitting in their La-Z-Boy recliners, watching football and grumbling about when dinner will be ready. Thanksgiving dinner appears destined to become a gathering at the food court, coordinated to fit in with the largest number of lunch breaks.
The only chance we have to salvage this abominable future rests with those who are eager to abandon their family for a chance at a blender marked down by 40%. If the shoppers don’t come, we can nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand.
We can yell, protest, send letters and petitions to those who open on Thanksgiving, pleading for them to retain a holiday in name as a holiday in practice. And we should, because bad PR is a powerful part of their decision making process. But it’s the bottom line that makes their eyes shine. Sure, they’re going to make some money, but we have to keep that figure as low as possible so that the money isn’t so enticing as to convince them that Thanksgiving business is the grand will of their customers.
So, to those who are choosing to do holiday shopping on Thursday, I have this to say – Don’t!
Is fighting with perfect strangers over a flat screen 720p television set really more pleasurable than fighting with Cousin Jennie about who gets the antique china cabinet when Granmama dies? Maybe instead of shopping, you could be the one who over imbibes and bitches about immigration in front of your Hispanic daughter-in-law. Let’s bypass these Thanksgiving savings and concentrate on saving Thanksgiving.
We have only two holidays on the American calendar that are nearly universal in their celebration, Independence Day and Thanksgiving. It is these two holidays alone that inspire Americans to observe them in much the same way.
Depictions of Thanksgiving are remarkably consistent from the Industrial Revolution to the Information Age, from the ox driven covered wagon to bullet trains and rockets into space. In this ridiculously fast moving world, Thanksgiving is a through line of experience from you to your Grandmother and to her Great Grandmother before her.
It will be a day where half the population has a paid day off and the rest are making time and a half. The original meaning of the holiday will be marked by a short presidential commencement and then ignored.
In a world of rapid change we have to be extra careful as to what change we allow. I think Thanksgiving is fine just the way it was. When my children are grown, I want them to be able to spend it with their family without risking being fired from their jobs.
So, don’t shop on Thanksgiving.
Wait until Friday to go crazy. You know those deals are going to be there when you’re ready for them and if they aren’t, well, what is time with your family really worth? This Thanksgiving, let’s tell the businesses of America, Thanks for the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with you, but no thanks. I’ll be spending it with my own family. And I hope your employees get to do the same.