Friday, December 6, 2013

                                        Where Has the Sanctity of the Holidays Gone?

     The idea of Black Friday is a concept which Americans have been familiar with over the past 40+ years, however, it has actually been in existence for over 140 years. According to "[t]he term 'Black Friday' was coined in the 1960's to mark the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. 'Black' refers to stores moving from the 'red' to the 'black', back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit." It also has at least two other lesser known connotations associated with "the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season. In the 1960's, police in Philadelphia griped about the congested streets, clogged with motorists and pedestrians, calling it 'Black Friday.' In a non-retail sense, it also describes a financial crisis of 1869: a stock market catastrophe set off by gold speculators who tried and failed to corner the gold market, causing the market to collapse and stocks to plummet."

     "Black Friday" has always been considered a good thing for business interests because it serves as an opportunity to bring customers into their stores who either shop there frequently, haven't visited in some time, or who have never set foot in their place. Since it is Christmastime, stores can break out with great deals which not only draw attention but also allow them to get some things off their shelves to make room for the next round of goods. The public sees this as a good opportunity to get some inexpensive gifts for their loved ones they otherwise may not have thought of or perhaps couldn't afford at full price. By nature, this shopping day was meant to be a positive effort to enrich the lives of Americans over the holiday season. However, over the past several years, "Black Friday" has begun morphing into something else.

     When my wife and her friends began shopping on "Black Friday" many years ago, stores would open around 6 a.m. and run full steam well into the night. It was a fun time for the girls to get together, have a sleepover the night before, and then head out to their favorite places hunting for the bargains. It really was fun for them because there was a crackle in the atmosphere, other shoppers were just as excited as they were to be able to land the deals, and everyone for the most part got along in the stores and made it a festive occasion. Suddenly, it changed.

     Greed is a terrible motivator because behind all greed come dire consequences. News channels and local papers began covering stories of how shoppers had been caught stealing things from other people's carts and putting them into theirs when a shopper would get distracted or leave their cart for a moment. Arguments broke out in stores, turning into screaming matches, with many escalating into fist fights. People were being trampled in the doorways when stores would open, some of the injuries very serious, and there were even some deaths which resulted. All regard for another person's safety, whether an elderly person or even a child, are thrown out the window. The wild-eyed frenzy to make sure the deal was gotten by (a) greedy individual(s) is now a goal to be attained at all cost. To a substantial degree, we have lost our moral values and social ethics for the pursuit of material gain.

     Let's take a look at another point of view. Stores are now opening at 2 and 3 a.m., and this year I have really noticed that many businesses are jumping on the bandwagon of opening on Thanksgiving Day. Where is the sanctity of the holidays? There are living, breathing people who have to work on a day they should be spending with their families. We already have huge problems with family unity in this country with high divorce rates, parents not being parents, the effects technology are having with television, ipads, computers, video games...the list goes on! We do not need another factor disrupting society's welfare. Will there come a time in the not so distant future when all stores will be open 365 days a year with the true reasons behind the holidays being blown into a materialistic obscurity? My wife and I refuse to shop on the holidays, no matter how good the deals are advertised. We believe in preserving a long family tradition and we will teach our children to do the same. Material things really are not that important.

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