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November 22, 2013

Taking Back Thanksgiving. ~ Kathrine Conroy

Let’s take Thanksgiving back!

Thanksgiving is coming up. It seems like every store is decorated to remind us that the holiday season is (according to them) in full swing. We all know that that the holidays mean shopping. There’s one and only one reason why they do this—when retailers can get consumers thinking about and shopping for the holidays earlier in the year, it’s been proven consumers will spend more.

Think about it: If we all start our holiday shopping when the decorations go up in October (or earlier!), we have the entire month of November and December to shop—and all those months of salary to spend!

I remember one year when I worked at a retail store, I helped put out Christmas decorations before going back to school in August. Ridiculous, right? Thanksgiving is the only holiday in November, but it is often overshadowed by the premature celebrations of the December holidays. Of course, in our materialistic Western culture, we have to show a person how much we care by spending money on them—particularly in December.

I once had a yoga teacher who insisted that he did not give and would not accept Christmas gifts, as he did not celebrate the holiday. However, he told us he gives gifts year-round when the mood strikes him and would accept gifts given with the same intention. This seems more meaningful to me to see something that makes you think of someone and give them the gift “just because.” Not “because it’s December” or “because the holiday season made me feel obligated” or “I thought your feelings would be hurt if I didn’t.”

This will probably not become the norm anytime soon.

My idea of taking back Thanksgiving is not limited to the encroachment of the December holidays into months other than December—it is also about mindful shopping.

We the consumers can take Thanksgiving back in more than one way.

Just like how the December holidays move into the earlier months of the year, Black Friday has been overtaking the Thanksgiving holiday.

Black Friday sales start earlier and earlier (5pm, noon, 10am, 8am, 5am). In more recent years, Black Friday has become part of Thanksgiving, with sales starting at midnight on Thanksgiving becoming the norm.

Some retailers are eschewing the holiday altogether. According to CNN, Kmart will be open all day Thanksgiving Day, opening at 6 am Thanksgiving morning until 4 pm—and reopening at 8 pm to 3 am early Black Friday morning. How thoughtful—they’ll be closed for dinner! (Insert sarcastic tone here.)

It seems pretty clear that being open on the holidays affects the employees’ Thanksgiving festivities and family time and many consumers are upset about it—just look at the negative comments that overwhelm the Facebook pages of businesses that have chosen to open! Such outrage I would hope would make these businesses realize how drastically they have miscalculated the American public on this issue and shame them into not opening on Thanksgiving Day in the future—right?

Wrong!

I remember there was outrage when Black Friday first started creeping into the wee hours. Consumers complained it was unfair—employees can’t spend meaningful time with their family Thanksgiving Day if they had to be at work in the middle of the night because they have to sleep before work!

Yet, we still lined up for these middle of the night sales and spent money. We spend enough money to make these sales profitable for the retailers, even if they had to pay their employees extra money for working a holiday, as many retailers do. This tempted retailers to embrace  earlier opening times in an effort to make even more money.

If this trend continues, more and more retailers will decide to open earlier into the afternoon, until being open on Thanksgiving becomes the new normal.

Remember that 50 years ago, it was unimaginable that businesses would be open on a Sunday. Whatever we think of that, Sunday was viewed as a day of importance to families and most businesses closed to allow employees to spend this one day a week with their families.

The lost profitability of closing for a whole day each week caused businesses to re-evaluate this idea, reinforced by the fact people consistently shop on Sundays.

Let’s be mindful about where and when we spend our money this holiday season.

As a general rule: if we wouldn’t want to be working (or wouldn’t want someone we love at work), we shouldn’t be shopping at that time, either.

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Assistant Editor: Meagan Edmondson/Editor: Bryonie Wise

 

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Kathrine Conroy