It’s time to choose stuffing over sales

Movie+shelves+set+up+in+the+middle+of+the+isle+at+Wal-Mart+are+empty+by+1%3A00pm+on+Black+Friday.

Movie shelves set up in the middle of the isle at Wal-Mart are empty by 1:00pm on Black Friday.

Alice Yu

As a child of Taiwanese immigrants, my knowledge surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday stemmed from classroom crafts and story books my elementary teachers presented during read-aloud time. The fourth Thursday of every November became more like the picture-perfect scenes I found in children’s books about Thanksgiving. We attended house parties, sat around a table with a turkey right smack in the middle and passed around mashed potatoes and the classic green-bean casserole.
Every year, when Thanksgiving day slowly began to fade into the past and Friday ticked closer, we’d all bid our goodbyes and head home. The time for saying what we were thankful for was over; it was now time to give in to our desires to own more. But in my family, the festivities were far from over. After getting a few precious hours of shut-eye, we’d pile into our car and join the crowd of crazy, sale-loving shoppers, chasing after dawn and good sales.
For me, the season of magic began with Black Friday. After all, my young self was just enamored by the idea of special shopping—special hours, special sales, special items. At that time, stores opened at 5 a.m. and that was considered early.
When the Ozark Premium Outlet opened their doors at midnight for Black Friday four years ago, my family skipped sleeping entirely, heading straight to the Ozarks after dinner to grab a few good deals. I was giddy at the idea of shopping even earlier. Black Friday started when Friday started and all was just.
But then stores began advertising opening times at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving day. Ten blurred into 8, then 6. Dinner that year was sprinkled with leaves of absence by those who gave in to the calls of retail company advertisements. The general atmosphere became one of an eating contest. Who could finish their meal faster and head out to join the crowds?
It was no longer exciting to head into a store to discover amazing Black Friday deals. If I stayed to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, I couldn’t experience the exhilaration of beating someone to the deals that I wanted. Instead, I’d walk in and find a store with already exhausted retailers and near-empty bins and shelves. Sure, I could leave dinner early, but then I’d be sacrificing a time of finally getting together with friends and family to give thanks and instead chasing after materialism.
It’s already ironic enough to express our gratefulness for all that we have and then partake in the Great Shopping Spree just a few hours later and bring home bags filled with items meant to fill our materialistic needs. Not to mention when we storm the stores Thanksgiving day, we’re trampling on every retailer’s chance to give thanks with their own family. Sure, they get paid more, but how does money stack up next to quality time with your loved ones and a nice needed break from work?
As of now, JCPenney holds the record of opening 3 p.m. Thursday. When I saw this, I’ll admit I let loose a string of expletives. Black Friday is no longer the magical day I knew it to be. Instead, the greedy companies that partake in this madness have completely spun it into a monster of a commercial holiday. It’s a monster that tears apart family dinners, both by kidnapping people from a once-revered family get-together and by caging retailers to serve those who chose sales over stuffing from the Thanksgiving turkey.
This year, I’m not going to dive into Black Friday as the remnants of Thursday are washed away by Friday. I no longer want to participate in this disgusting practice of sacrificing time with family and friends for a trunk of products that cannot grant me the memories of human interaction. Instead, I’m going to revert to my old traditions of allowing ample time for the feeling of being thankful and content for what I have to sink in before giving into the temptation of sales. This year, my Black Friday shopping begins at 5 a.m. Friday (as it should be—Black Friday has ‘Friday’ in it for a reason), and not 5 p.m. Thursday.
If I don’t get any good sales, then so be it. At the very least, I’ll know that I wasn’t part of the demand for retail stores to supply retailers straight out Thanksgiving dinners. I’ll know that I chose to build memories of laughter and warmth with close friends over elbowing with strangers who I can say with certainty don’t have my best interest at heart. I’ll know I celebrated Thanksgiving like all the picture-books depicted it as—surrounded by good food and good company—and not as retail companies disguised it as in their ad sales, and for me, that will bring more contentment than any sale can ever give.
photo illustration by Alice Yu
Do you think doors should open later for Black Friday doorbusters? Leave a comment below!