You might have noticed that Black Friday isn’t what it once, or at least isn’t where it once was on the calendar. Not long ago it was the day after Thanksgiving, so named, the story goes, because that’s the day cash registers ring up enough sales to ensure that businesses — or at least those that depend heavily on Christmas sales — end up in the black for the year.
In the last several years, Black Friday has pushed its way onto Thanksgiving, a traditional holiday once so revered that merchants knew better than to open for business that day. Thanksgiving is still important — and we hope it remains so. But over the years Americans made room on Thanksgiving for parades, professional football and even presidential pardons of very lucky turkeys, so it’s not so surprising that we’ve also made room for shopping. It is, after all, another American pastime.
Wal-Mart and Amazon.com, wanting to get the jump on Christmas sales, decided to celebrate Black Friday on Nov. 1, which, at least this year, fell on a Friday. And “traditional” Black Friday sales that had moved to Thanksgiving nights have are now cutting even deeper into Thanksgiving Day.
Setting the clock back to the late 1600s, when Thanksgiving was an occasion to celebrate a successful harvest, isn’t going to happen. We’ll do well to hold on to some of Norman Rockwell’s America. Times, as they say, have changed.
But rather than fault businesses for being open on a day many of us consider special, we might recognize that this won’t be a long Christmas season for merchants; it will be a short one. Just four weeks separate Thanksgiving from Christmas this year. Many merchants are still coping with an economy that seems to be in perpetual recovery, as are the growing number of people who find themselves working on Thanksgiving. Maybe that’s the world and the workplace we live in today.
The fact that Thanksgiving isn’t the way it always was doesn’t mean it has to be less special. It needn’t keep us from celebrating it or remaining true to its original purpose — or from continuing to adapt it to please our families, large or small. Not everybody celebrates it the same way, anyway. Some folks would rather Christmas shop than watch another football game, and some of us are content to take a peaceful nap. In this country, we can spend it as we please, which is one of countless thing to be thankful for.