What do you associate with Thanksgiving? Many people cannot think of Thanksgiving without thinking about friends, family, turkey and pie. Thanksgiving in the United States has traditionally been a time to relax, express gratitude and spend time with loved ones. Taking these tranquil associations into account, one cannot help but wonder how the nature of Thanksgiving suddenly devolves into the chaos of Black Friday less than 24 hours later.
Incredible amounts of money are spent on Black Friday each year. The most recent Black Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, generated upwards of $1 billion dollars in mobile revenue. In case you’re curious, the five best-selling toys were Lego Creator Sets, Razor electric scooters, Nerf Guns, DJI Phantom Drones and Barbie Dreamhouses. Alternatively, the best-selling electronic products were Apple iPads, Samsung 4k TVs, the Apple MacBook Air, LG TVs and Microsoft Xbox. No one can deny that the deals on Black Friday make it possible for many Americans to buy expensive products that they may not usually be able to afford. But do these shopping sprees negate the spirit of Thanksgiving?
Black Friday contradicts the community aspect of Thanksgiving through people’s obsession with hunting down the best bargains and only benefitting themselves. Millions of people wake up early on Black Friday each year in order to improve their chances of obtaining the items they want at reduced prices. Instead of giving thanks, consumers give each other headaches as they compete to get their slice of the Black Friday pie.
The more recent shift to online shopping has only made participation in Black Friday easier. Rather than spending time traveling to a particular store and staking out a spot in what appears to be a never-ending line, consumers can purchase goods from the comfort of their own homes. Why brave the elements when you can snuggle up in a warm blanket, make a cup of coffee, sit down at your computer and purchase what you want online with merely a few clicks?
The purpose of Black Friday seems directly opposed to the holiday of Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, many Americans love the concept of the “holiday.” It provides them with a convenient opportunity to save money just in time for Christmas and the holiday season. From a psychological perspective, Americans see the deals on Black Friday to be a reward for their preparedness and for already knowing exactly what they “need” to buy.
Missed out on the opportunity to snag a Black Friday deal? Fortunately for you, there’s still Cyber Monday. “Cyber Monday” was created by marketing companies to convince people to shop online on the Monday following Thanksgiving. This tradition began in 2005, and sales in 2016 started off with $554 million. Much like Black Friday, Cyber Monday has evolved into an annual ritual for holiday shoppers.
Even as Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to encourage us to focus on accumulating material possessions, perhaps there is a better approach to welcoming the holiday season. Many national and state parks across the U.S. offer free admission to visitors on Black Friday. The Minnesota State Parks system offered free admission to all 75 state parks and recreation areas this past Black Friday. This growing initiative that encourages people to spend time in nature instead of at the malls has been dubbed “Free Park Friday.” In another attempt to refute Black Friday, many Americans now participate in Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is an international event developed in response to mass consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season. It’s a movement which encourages people to give back and donate to the charities, nonprofits and organizations they care about on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
While Thanksgiving has come and gone, the holiday season is only beginning. Whether you are frantically searching for the perfect gift, timing your shopping to take advantage of sales or contributing to the organizations you support, I hope you have discovered how to reflect your values in your activities. In this way you can continue to keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive long after the food has been eaten.
Danny Vojcak ’19 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Naperville, Ill. He majors in environmental studies and political science.