I’m going to go ahead and throw out this disclaimer before I begin: it’s quite likely that I’m about to offend some of your holiday sensibilities, but I want you to keep reading anyway.
Today is Black Friday. No, don’t get confused, it’s not the same Black (or Good, depending on your heritage) Friday where we remember Jesus’s crucifixion. This is the Black Friday where we conduct our own! …Ease up, Jason, hyperbole this early in a blog post might come across as angry…
This is the Black Friday where we remember the metaphorical crucifixion suffered by the greatest symbol of the Holiday Season, the American Corporation. Yes, today is the day that every corporation awaits with anticipation for three-hundred-some-odd days a year. Today is the day when millions of Americans forget what they said at the Thanksgiving table just yesterday: “I’m just thankful for my family and friends. That’s all I need,” and proceed to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on things they just can’t live without! That is, of course, assuming they were even at the Thanksgiving table yesterday and not already camped in front of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or Target waiting on that rare instant where a flat screen TV is on sale for incredibly low prices…at least until March right before time to start considering first quarter earnings.
Ahhh…Black Friday. A great American holiday tradition honored from the earliest days of our republic. But, let’s not forget that other great American holiday tradition, Cyber Monday, which dates from some time around the Civil War if I’m not mistaken. Yes, Cyber Monday is the day when millions of Americans sit at their desks, still hung over from all of the Black Friday festivities, look over their shoulders and around their cubicle walls to make sure the boss isn’t coming, and log into their Amazon.com accounts to snatch up the deals on those items which are too rare to even make it to store shelves. What would the holidays be without the macabre excitement of staring out the window two days before Christmas hoping against hope that the UPS truck won’t just drive by this time, but will actually pull in the driveway and bring that one….last….thing you needed that will make Christmas the holiday it was always meant to be.
Ahhh…Cyber Monday. Another great American holiday tradition from the middle years of our democratic experiment. But, not the last! It seems that social anthropologists have discovered another great American holiday tradition that dates from sometime around the Great Depression. Small Business Saturday is the day when millions of Americans are guilted by their local Chambers of Commerce into buying sacks full of one-of-a-kind gifts (available only at one of our 25 locations) and unnecessary plastic items that make great stocking stuffers! Everyone knows that Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas until you’ve awakened in a cold sweat at 1:28am on Christmas morning having remembered that one-of-a-kind gift you purchased on Small Business Saturday that would make Christmas complete, but that you’ve completely forgotten the location of, and that you’re willing to creep through a darkened house risking life and limb to find.
Ahhh…Small Business Saturday. The most recent American Holiday tradition begun during a time of great testing for our nation. Now, if you will, pardon me just a moment while I wipe the sarcasm that has dripped from my
teeth to my chin….
I don’t have anything at all against Christmas shopping and I’m not one of those people who says that the only way to really celebrate Christmas is to not exchange gifts. I enjoy giving and receiving gifts as much as the next guy. But, I’m concerned about how our entire social order is now consumer driven. We don’t really make anything anymore, we just buy things. And, because we don’t buy enough to suit corporations the other 362 days a year, they have now worked these fake holidays into our cultural lexicon. We’re being duped and we don’t even know it.
I’m not saying stop shopping on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday. What I’m saying is, think carefully before you do. Companies put their products in these terrific sales in the hopes that your brain will be tricked into buying more than you normally would because you’re “saving” money. Trust me when I tell you that if you were really going to save money on those items, companies wouldn’t sell them for what they sell them.
I don’t know where this sort of consumerism stops and I don’t think most people understand how dangerous it is. It’s a snowball rolling down a steep hill and we’re all in its way. Christmas, the way we celebrate it, is largely a construct of the 20th Century. Most of our Christmas “traditions” are drawn from pagan celebrations. I wonder if we even really know where and how the Christmas celebration started.