This year’s television commercials have exemplified the advancing encroachment of the retail world against days which deserve special respect. Ads showcasing Black Friday’s special sales have thrown in the side note that their stores will also be open at various times on “Thursday.” Why do they avoid using the name the day they are ruining for so many workers? (For the record, it’s called “Thanksgiving.”)
But the fourth Thursday of November set aside for giving thanks and enjoying family and close friends is only the most recent casualty of the passion for $ at the expense of quality of life.
Sunday, a 2,000-year-old day of religious observation and rest, has long since been relegated to an ordinary workday of straight-time pay where the bottom line is the new deity. The march toward a completely worldly calendar has also run over days set aside for special commemoration. Business establishments which used to observe the solemnity of Memorial Day, President’s Day (formerly Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’ Birthday, ten days apart), Veterans Day and the Fourth of July now run loudly publicized sales which require mandatory staffing, usually at straight-pay, to care for the multitudes who rarely remember the reason for these holidays. Martin Luther King’s Birthday is too recent to receive the respect it would have generations ago. Baby Boomers and those older recall how New Year’s Day was a holiday for all except emergency personnel.
The post-Christian United States has pushed Easter to a business-as-usual day often punctuated by Opening Day celebrations by my beloved, but misguided, major league baseball. (Sometimes this indignity is avoided by placing these hyped events on Good Friday – great way to make it worse.) Of course, our Jewish friends already know how hard it is to observe the high religious days in the Americas.
We can begin to start the path to sanity by remembering that the second holiday in November is called Thanksgiving, it’s not just the Thursday before Black Friday. It was created for a serious purpose. Thanksgiving should be enjoyed in a way that the events of the following day do not infringe on its celebration. This would rule out any store openings before the usual daily start of business on Friday so that typically marginally paid employees don’t have to squeeze their special day to get to bed early for 6AM, 3AM or midnight openings.
Hats off to those companies who resisted the temptation to be open on Thanksgiving! It may seem naïve to think this, but perhaps their example will encourage the buying public to reconsider its priorities and to patronize those businesses who respect holidays.