Should Society Reclaim Thanksgiving from the 'Black Friday' Madness?

Once again, "Black Friday" seems to be just right around the corner. And in the United States this year, much like previous years, it's starting earlier than last.

At the end of September, I stopped in a store and the Christmas displays were prominent, while oddly, the Halloween display looked set up half-way and was positioned off to the side.  I originally wrote this piece last year, but here in mid-October during 2015 I've already been seeing Christmas displays for weeks and now I see news headlines about Black Friday deals possibly rolling out on Halloween at a few major retailers.

It baffles me.

It seems many of the stores routinely now begin to decorate for the holidays in eager attempts to spread plenty of retail Christmas cheer. But it wasn't always this way.

Evolution of Black Friday

Years ago, stores weren't decorated with Christmas cheer until Black Friday arrived. And the day after Thanksgiving was a day where consumers could find good deals with early bird store openings. The doors opened around 7 a.m., and the sales were typically finished somewhere between 9 and 11 a.m. This was when holiday shopping was actually fun! I looked forward to Black Friday every year and was back home just as the family was getting up.

Those days are long gone. Today the "unofficial shopping holiday" and kickoff to the festive season has morphed into something else entirely — including chaos.

Every year it seems many businesses strive to outdo one another. These days, Black Friday has evolved to practically become a week-long event. We already have "Cyber Monday", and the "Thanksgiving Creep" in the last few years has been quickly ingratiating itself into becoming a part of the long holiday weekend in the United States.

NYC sidewalk on Black Friday
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

People walking along a New York City sidewalk on the afternoon of Black Friday in 2012.

Sales Start on Thanksgiving Day

In recent years, despite the trend to push sales as the holidays approached, many retailers opted to sit Thanksgiving Day out, which enabled employees to spend the day with their families. However, even many of those former hold-outs, decided in 2013 their doors would be open. In 2013 they upped it again and started as early as 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. [1]

Thanksgiving has always been rooted in tradition, usually centered on spending the day with loved ones. Some traveled to see family, others watched football. While traditions may widely vary in how families chose to spend the day, historically, shopping had not been one of the activities high on anyone's list. After all, aside from some restaurants, movie theatres and a handful of stores, in years gone by, who was even open on Thanksgiving Day?

Today, that's all changed. With the so-called "Thanksgiving Creep", many retail employees probably won't get the chance to stay home and enjoy a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving with their families and friends this year. If they take the day off, they perhaps risk losing their jobs. In previous years, there have been reports of threat of job loss by employers to employees that don't come in to work these newly minted shopping days.

Thanksgiving Day
Credit: Leigh Goessl

Many retail employees won't possibly get the chance to sit down to a Thanksgiving meal with their loved ones this year due to many stores deciding to open on Thanksgiving Day to promote Black Friday salesthis year.

Black Friday Craziness Flows into Thanksgiving?

Black Friday has already turned into the proverbial zoo. Every year you can count on hearing numerous Black Friday news reports of greed, selfishness and, sadly, even violence. [2] People have actually gotten hurt in the tramples taking place in the dawn hours of Friday morning. In previous years, some of these instances have led to injury and even reports of death.

Now retailers are potentially pushing this type craziness into Thanksgiving Day. In 2014 and 2015, a number of major retailers announced intentions to open their doors on Thanksgiving, rather than waiting until Friday morning, or at least until midnight. Fast-forward to October 2016 and several have already announced their intentions to open Thanksgiving Day. A few have announced they'll be closed on the holiday, but many more are simply leaving their store hours as "TBA" as of this date (Oct. 28, 2016).

The reason why retailers are creeping into starting on Thanksgiving Day is relatively simple — people are seemingly passing Thanksgiving over and opting to go to the stores instead. Many retailers have said they are opening according to consumer demand.

But is this really what consumers really want? Or is it they are afraid of missing out on saving some money in an economic climate that has frequently become uncertain over the past decade? We're in an age where people are concerned with finances, and many people might be willing to relinquish the traditional family holiday in favor of shopping to score some deals.

Commercialized Holidays

Nowadays, the Christmas season generally commences in retail stores long before Thanksgiving, in the time frame between Labor Day and Halloween. In that respect, a portion of the magic associated with the holidays, in my opinion, has disappeared. By the time Christmas arrives, it is common to hear many people complaining they are sick of hearing holiday music and seeing all the decorations.

Who can blame them? It's old news.

Black Friday shopping
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Shoppers on Black Friday in the Disney store in Times Square, New York City

Christmas had already been heavily tainted by commercialism years ago. But where does the line get drawn? Does society really want to relinquish Thanksgiving to commercialism as well? After all, at the rate things are going, before you know it, chances are Black Friday sales might just be starting on Labor Day.

If you want to reclaim Thanksgiving before it disappears, tell retailers. The pocketbook speaks volumes.

[ Related Reading: Why Black Friday Doorbuster Deals May Not Be Worth the Effort ]