When I was in high school, I had a job that many young people would be familiar with. I was a cashier at a mid-range department store in my town. It will suffice to say that there was a time when this company did a brisk business, selling everything from socks to guns to house kits from a catalog. While this job gave me a wonderful opportunity to make money during the summer, and it had flexible hours for me during the school year and my wrestling season, there were certainly aspects to it that weren’t as nice.
One of those was that the store opened on Thanksgiving Day. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t open all day on Thanksgiving, but was after five. This provided time for scant observance of the holiday, albeit a hurried dinner and a brief glance at some of the games on TV. For me, as a young man, it wasn’t a big deal: a mere nuisance, and I needed to make some money. But among the employees were parents with young children, grandmothers, people caring for older parents, and the like.
Perhaps more concerning than the fact that many stores now open on Thanksgiving, is the number of people who actually go shopping on Thanksgiving. Without much knowledge of the retail climate or the social situation in America at that age, I expected we’d be opening for naught, with few people coming to the store. I can say that this expectation was shattered. The store, often empty on normal, non-holidays, was jam-packed with customers. Some made a mad-dash to the products they wanted, others lobbied for us to check the store-room for what they needed.
Looking back, this is seriously concerning. On a family-centered holiday, so many people have few qualms with splitting from their family to attempt to get “great” deals. These deals, in reality, aren’t that good. But in a liberal and ‘progressive’ society, instant-gratification and self-directed ‘actualization’ are the watchwords of freedom. Even more, they are misrepresented as the keys to full happiness.
While this short essay may seem like a lot of grumbling that I had to work on Thanksgiving, it really is not. I didn’t mind it other than that it was a lot more running around the store and handling longer lines. In fact, at the time I was quite content that I was getting paid ‘time and a half’ for working on a holiday. Thus, I, in truth, had my priorities out of line.
While it is important to our welfare and the health of the economy that retail is robust, a line must be drawn. Remember: the word ‘holiday’ means ‘holy day.’ Our holidays celebrate things that are important to us as people of a nation or as a people of faith. Cramming consumerism where it doesn’t belong doesn’t say good things about who we are. It is important that we preserve the meaning of our holidays, or at least keep them in mind. Eating stuffing and watching football are important traditions. But they wouldn’t exist if not for the pilgrims giving thanks for their right to practice religion in a new land.
When we draw this line, we must expect and be grateful that some sacrifice a day to work. We must also expect companies to uphold the holiday spirit. Their retail business is useful to celebrate the holidays, give gifts to express love, and to ensure a festive mood. But moving forward to the Holiday Season, if this becomes an object in itself, we must truly question it.
Let’s not be Thanksgiving and Christmas consumerists. It is not who we should desire to be as Americans. Let’s keep ‘thanks’ in Thanksgiving, and ‘Christ’ in Christmas!