Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Have Become Ebeneezer

I read this post today by Matt Walsh, and it got me thinking. If you haven't read it yet, you should. He makes an excellent point that I've been trying to articulate for years. Let me start out this post by making a confession, right from the get go:

I HATE Black Friday.

I hate it. Loathe it. Have nothing but contempt for it. The whole idea of it is strange to me: we spend an entire day supposedly thank God for the incredible blessings that we've been given and for the people with which we share them and then rush rush rush to eat so that we can go stand in line for MORE stuff. More crap that we do. not. NEED. More garbage that's just going to replace the garbage that we already have, which will now end up in a land fill. More junk and excess that we buy so that our loved ones will be able to have a visual, tangible idea of just how much we love them based on the amount of stuff that we give them for Christmas. 

Doesn't that seem a little...sad? And...backwards?!

"Oh, but I go for the appliances!" you might say. "I need a new bluRay player/dishwasher/dryer/whatever." I think my favorite justification was hearing a family on the news talk about how it's become a family tradition to camp out in front of different stores together so that they could be sure to get a good spot in line. They actually had the father of the family bring them their Thanksgiving dinner to the line in front of Best Buy. So the tradition of sitting down with family, spending time with the ones you love, actually taking time to talk to each other and thank God for the blessings in your life has now been usurped by the all-encompasing need for MORE. MORE MORE MORE. 

Thanksgiving dinner isn't even about the symbol of the bounty that we've been given. Rather, it's become about getting the BIGGEST turkey, the BEST place settings, NEW dishes and linens, candlesticks and flatware, Martha Stewart this and Rachel Ray that.

Do we really need new dinnerware for Thanksgiving dinner to be meaningful?
Or are we only buying it because the commercials on t.v. tell us that we NEED it?

I worked retail for 10 years and after that first time that I found myself driving to work at the mall at 3am because I had to work Thanksgiving night/Black Friday morning (that's right folks, most places will FIRE YOU if you can't or won't work Black Friday), I vowed that I would never, ever participate in this stupid, awful, shallow event. Ever. 

Because it's the worst.

While you're in bed, sleeping soundly and dreaming of cheap smart phones and cut price iPads, the people who have to be at work are either already at work, having to leave their families to get to work, or are missing their Thanksgiving entirely. They are going into work early so that they can be abused, yelled at, ridiculed, shoved, and belittled by the good shoppers who less than 12 hours ago were saying family grace over their meals, giving thanks to God for all that they had. People are AWFUL on this day, and I'm getting all capsy about that because it deserves it. People are mean, they are tired, they are often hung over, they have been whipped into a frenzy by clever marketing which has told them that their families won't feel loved if they don't get everything they ever dreamed of for Christmas and if they don't buy those things now they will no longer be available and then their kids won't believe in Santa or Baby Jesus ANYMORE. 

Wanna know some secrets of the trade?

1. That "awesome" gift bag/tote/free whatever that is being offered by a lot of stores as incentives to show up is garbage. It's cheaply made crap that you probably wouldn't buy, but since it's free, they've made you think that you desperately need it. It's junk. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn't BUY it if it wasn't free, it's not a deal. It's just more crap to clutter up your house.

2. When I worked at Express, they would send TWO shipments of everything: one to put out for Black Friday and an IDENTICAL SHIPMENT to put out two weeks before Christmas. And they're not alone in that. The KNOW that they can sell the American public the idea that if they don't buy something right now that it won't be available and Christmas will be ruined. You are statistically more likely to buy something that you don't even want or really like if it's cheap or if someone tells you that might not be able to get it later. Basically, they're selling you stuff that they KNOW you don't even want...because they can. Oh, and Express, the Limited, Bath and Body Works, and Victoria's Secret are all owned by the same company. Guess what stores all have the same policies.

Now let's talk some more about the employees:

Why should you care?

After all, they chose to work at Wal-Mart/Target/K-Mart/Wherever, right? At least they have a job, right? If they don't want to do the job, there are literally thousands of people who would love to do that job, right?

Really? How about you?
You wanna leave your family on Thanksgiving to sell crap to mean people at unGodly hours of the morning?
You wanna explain to your kids why you can't tuck them in?
You wanna wonder WHY THE HECK you're doing this since, as a single mom, the money you're going to making from working this shift is going STRAIGHT to the childcare company?

Didn't think so.

You realize, too, that all of those justifications for making them work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday are the same ones given by Ebeneezer Scrooge to Bob Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol," right? Ever last one of them. 

Because Scrooge was greedy. And mean. And a hoarder of THINGS. Of STUFF. The only difference is that the STUFF that he hoarded was money while the American public at large chooses to hoard STUFF and give away their money. Hm. 

But wait, you're not Scrooge, right? You just want your kids to have a nice Christmas!

That's totally fair. It is. But what if we taught our kids that STUFF isn't what makes Christmas nice in the first place? What if we reject this idea that Christmas is about excess ad piles of stuff under the tree? What if we refused to play the big box stores' games? Because you can BET that they're not working the cash registers on Black Friday, dealing with the mess they've made. Nope, they're with their families. Where the rest of us should be. What if, on Black Friday, the doors swung open one was there? What if people were willing to wait until 8am or 9am the next day? What if they didn't feel the need to get aggressive or physical or mean over something made of plastic that they don't really need anyway? What if Thanksgiving and Christmas were allowed to be about what they have always been about, which has nothing to do with things and everything to do with love. People. Family. Hope. Home. Jesus. Togetherness. 

What if being a minimum wage employee working the best job you could get to support your family didn't exclude you from getting to take time to appreciate and thank God for those things?

I'm going to leave you with this last question:

Are Thanksgiving and Christmas only for those who can afford to celebrate them? Is that the direction in which we're headed?

It's looking like it.

And that makes me ill.


  1. I have never.ever.ever shopped on Black Friday and I never.ever shall. Because I worked retail for years (in Canada, no Black Friday) and I hated working the holiday season *already*. In fact since getting married, I have avoided being in a mall after December 1st as much as possible. We have made a point of buying small thoughtful gifts for our families and each other and we're passing that on to our kids.
    Yes, I do go with my in-laws to the mall in December when my MIL wants to get family photos taken with Santa. I do it for her because it's important and special to her. If it were up to me, I wouldn't be there though....

    1. God bless, Holly! I agree. I'm going to write a post about this later, I think, but my goal each year is to make more and more of my gifts by hand. I hate buying into the corporate nonsense that has started to dominate and commercialize the holidays! I shouldn't be about the STUFF. I put so much love into the gifts that I MAKE and I think that that's what it's about. The love. The thought. I think that the holidays are about taking time OUT from all of that garbage so that we can remember what's actually important, not trying to get through the important stuff so that we can get to the BUYING.