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In an era in which the true meaning of Christmas takes more punches to the jaw than Muhammad Ali landed on Joe Frazier in their third fight, I offer you the biggest, most powerful haymaker ever to be thrown:
Is there anything that says less about the spirit of Christmas than Black Friday?
Even the coined name is repugnantly ruinous to that spirit: Black Friday.
Black Monday was when the stock market crashed and people died, so I guess in that regard this label is somewhat apropos. Because Black Friday increasingly is when the holiday spirit crashes, and this year someone did die.
OK, before you pull those discount-purchased weapons from your arsenal and start firing, I will allow you these important “true facts,” to employ a redundancy my 10-year-old invoked the other day:
This shopping/marketing/feeding frenzy campaign, whose name allegedly was adapted from the 1960s in Philadelphia, was an overwhelming sales success this year.
Its bill of diabolical deals and unusual store hours brought a gold rush of millions who spent billions – $52.5 billion was a number I read–and finished their holiday shopping before their Thanksgiving serving of tryptophan had kicked in.
And there was only that one death, although reports of assaults, arrests and incidents of pepper spraying seemed to be rising even more rapidly than consumer debt.
I also will offer that Black Friday did produce one of those great and noble examples of the holiday spirit:
Because shoppers want to shop whenever they want, and retailers want them to shop early and boost sales and diminish costly inventories, they agreed to sacrifice, to give up profit margins – as did manufacturers and wholesalers and all their other partners down the food chain of sales – all gave in the name of the (ha-ha) holidays
Of course, doing all of this also required a sleek marketing campaign – stores open Thanksgiving night? Give me a break – and workers to be available for long, late-night, early-morning and increasingly arduous shifts. Heck, Walmart even may have had to pay overtime, but I doubt it, though I’m sure law enforcement did.
This enables a couponing/time-slotted buying system that required people to be queued up like Big Blue Madness just to be able to get that die-hard deal.
They open the doors, and people storm in as if Lennon and Harrison had been reincarnated and the Beatles had reunited for a show.
The workers and the products were under siege like London in 1940, only the sirens had nothing to do with air raids – yet, though maybe next year.
In some places police were called to separate two “shoppers” playing tug-of-war with a toaster or something.
The anecdotes are so outrageous, I keep waiting for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fly in as “Turboman” – or too-BOW-man, as Arnold pronounced it.
You may remember those scenes from a movie called Jingle All The Way, when a negligent father (Arnold) did anything he could to land for his son the last of the most coveted gifts of the season, a Turboman doll.
That movie was produced outside the definition of Black Friday, but it included the essence of the “movement” – a term I type with great caution – because it placed on display the same raw, cold-blooded, anti-Christmas-spirit antagonism.
And that’s my point: the “essence” of the “movement.”
I know we are supposed to think of this in the politically correct world of “holiday” season and “retail marketplace” and the happy marriage of supply wedding demand.
But even non-believers have to admit that the whole scenario – the entire end-of-the-year, gift-giving gallop – was founded by the power of Christmas, that its structure traces to those who embrace the idea that the delivery of Jesus to the world was the greatest gift, the personification of the gift of salvation.
That concept was broadened into a less esoteric level by the precious gifts delivered by three visitors from the East who tracked the star over Bethlehem and arrived at the manger where Jesus was born.
The example they brought in their little packages was to give to those we love, respect or simply appreciate a token of that affection in celebration of that greater gift.
We all appreciate and are thankful for the fun packages we open around Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan or whatever day you celebrate. They are fun and make us feel special, perhaps even fill a great need in our lives.
They come as an extension of the love and respect exchanged at Thanksgiving and sent forth to inspire us.
But our truest and most perfect gifts aren’t marked down at Dillard’s. You can’t buy one for 75 percent off at Target or two for the price of one in the mall.
They come from love, peace, calm and the thoughtful process of selection, the way you felt when you went to Smith-McKenney for a bottle of Old Spice for your granddad or to Newberry’s for a surprise for your brother.
It’s a tradition I continue to love with all my heart and hold dear for what it means, not just what is in the box or bag and under the tree.
And now I fear now that sentiment is being lost in a rush that is so much about the gold and not the heart of gold.
We need to repair this, call a moratorium, move this shopping chivaree to the weekend and remove the intrusion on Thanksgiving.
Or next year, I start an Occupy Black Friday movement. Imagine the outrage!