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Black Thursday (11/21/2012)
By Frances Edstrom

The health of the retail community is important to me and the Winona Post, as well as to you. We like to see new businesses open, in spite of the recession. We like to help local businesses draw customers and remain healthy. We like being able to shop close to home.

But I have a personal bone to pick with one sector of the retail world, mostly big box stores, that has made Thanksgiving’s turkey dinner into just another meal to rush through before we scatter to our various pursuits.

Thanksgiving is my favorite family holiday. It does not have the tension of gift-giving. Unlike Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day, outdoor sports and pursuits don’t usually take up the whole day—they serve as a way to work off all that good food. It is a day when most of us don’t have to work, and can reconnect with our families over a good meal. We even make a point to count our blessings!

The day after Thanksgiving has been called Black Friday since the 1970s. According to Wikipedia, “The day’s name originated in Philadelphia, where it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1961 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that ‘Black Friday’ indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are ‘in the black.’”

Then during the late 1990s, national retailers began to push the envelope, opening their doors earlier and earlier in the morning. “Fine,” I thought. “If people want to get out of bed that early, let them! I’ll take my chances with their leftovers later in the day, or the season.” There have even been deaths associated with Black Friday and the crushing crowds racing to the toy aisles.

This year, however, I think the whole idea of “Retail: the god to which you sacrifice your paycheck” is completely out of hand. Walmart announced it would open at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

Society seems to have turned another corner in the race through life. Just as the expansion of school sports and activities has jettisoned family time for those with children, just as more disruptive homework is supposed to replace quality time in school, just as electronic media has replaced reading and conversation, Walmart and its followers have spoiled Thanksgiving.

A practical question: what is so important about shopping for Christmas presents? In my experience, we drive ourselves crazy trying to get just the right thing at the right price, and on Christmas morning, children (God bless them) can with a succinct phrase make it all seem shallow and futile (which it often is). What parent or grandparent hasn’t heard the innocent complaint? “But I wanted Malibu Barbie! This isn’t an iPad! Why do I always get clothes? Mom, this broke already.” And who hasn’t felt disappointment—parent and child alike? I’m not implying that children are at fault; they are only being honest as is the natural way with children.

I have no illusions that my complaint will stop Walmart and Target from pushing their sales into Thanksgiving. I know I am in the minority on this issue. I simply want to be on record among those who mourn the demise of family and family life.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy it while you can. 


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