Aside from the worker protests, the usual in-store scuffles over things like prepaid phones, the predictable media eulogies for the death of American tradition, and the odd "accidental" death (one of which took place in Lithonia), Black Friday 2012 was a success!
According to CNN, consumer spending reached a record $59.1 billion over the holiday weekend — a 13 percent increase over last year — thanks in no small part to the fact that the daylong sales event has bled backward into the Thanksgiving holiday, creating a thing we've decided to call Gray Thursday in honor of the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy of books.
I made that last part up. But Gray Thursday is as real as an elbow in your eye for the last $300 Acer laptop at Best Buy.
More stores than ever before opened their doors on Thanksgiving this year, eschewing the time-honored tradition of greeting groaning hordes of bargain hunters in Friday's early morning hours. Target opened at 9 p.m. on Thursday. Macy's stores opened at 8 p.m., as did Toys"R"Us, Sears, and Kmart.
And, much to the chagrin of the likes of underpaid, overworked Walmart employees, the strategy paid off for retailers to the tune of billions of dollars. In fact, Walmart reportedly welcomed 22 million shoppers on Thursday alone and sold well more than a million televisions.
Yes, the advent of Gray Thursday means that while you were slipping on your elastic-waistband "eatin' pants" and putting the finishing touches on your annual "I'm thankful for ..." Facebook post, hundreds of thousands of your fellow Americans were rushing through an undoubtedly idyllic dinner with their relations so they could head to work and ring up cut-rate, flat-screen televisions. Hundreds of thousands more did the same to become the purchasers of said cut-rate, flat-screen televisions.
"BUT AT WHAT COST?" we cry! What's the price we'll pay as a society for defecating upon American tradition by commercializing a holiday that was previously untainted by greed and consumerism; a last bastion of familial sanctity and togetherness? That sounds like Thanksgiving, right?
"Just when we thought there was at least one holiday that was not commercial, Black Friday sales sneak in and take over Thanksgiving Day ... Thanksgiving is a holiday that has traditionally been about spending time with family, eating turkey and dressing, and taking the time to remember each and every thing we are thankful for. It is a time for the hustle and bustle of life to pause — for us take the time to visit with our long-lost cousins, meet our siblings' significant others, play a few board games, and pass out from eating too much of Mom's pecan pie."
Ah, yes. The holiday that has yet to become commercialized. That's exactly what I think while watching a fucking three-story-tall Aflac duck float along Central Park West as part of an annual parade sponsored by a department store.
We're taught as youngsters that Thanksgiving began as a celebration of the Plymouth settlement's first successful harvest in 1621. The pilgrims sat down with the kindly Native Americans who helped them plant colorful corn and things, and they all enjoyed the food that spilled forth from a horn of plenty.
Alternately, Thanksgiving is a celebration of American imperialism's scrappy beginnings. There's only one thing more American than the marginalization of a continent's native inhabitants — and that's capitalism. How better to spend the most American of holidays than to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND?
In contextualizing Thanksgiving/Black Friday for British readers, a Guardian writer referred to the holiday as "sacrosanct," a holiday we've made holy and that's become a guaranteed day off for the American worker.
But, c'mon. Are family values really sustainable in this economy? Black Friday is the jewel in the holiday shopping crown, a cumbersome thing that's long pained the necks and shoulders of low-wage retail workers. To this point, we can presume the only thing that's prevented Black Friday from infringing upon Thanksgiving Thursday is the fear that allowing it to do so would detract from the fervor that surrounds the latter date.
Now that retailers have proven shoppers are just as eager to hit the strip mall a day early, the chances that denouncements or demonstrations will reverse the trend are slim to none.
Lest you forget, the Supreme Court recently decided corporations are people, too. So, it follows that they're equally deserving of a holiday visit from your kith and kin.
We've always gorged ourselves on food, and in the future we'll gorge ourselves on things as well. Perhaps it's the end of Thanksgiving as we know it. Or perhaps it's Thanksgiving as it was always intended to be.