Whatever our individual philosophies are concerning food, I’m sure that we would all agree that food is an important part of our lives. I believe that food and the shared experience of preparing and eating a meal is very important to family life. Food, when tied to community, becomes nourishing for more than just the body. Meals eaten with loved ones strengthens ties and creates an opportunity for conversation, debate and humor.
For me, a naturalized American, Thanksgiving is the one holiday where as a nation we celebrate how lucky we are to have family and community, regardless of faith. The meal becomes part of our families’ collective memory and shared experience. We think about others less fortunate and give (Thanks giving, remember) so that all can participate in the holiday.
This week I read an article in our state paper, The Providence Journal, about a number of chain stores that have decided to open on Thanksgiving. This is to give customers the ‘opportunity’ to get a head start on their holiday shopping. The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday in the US. It is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season and stores have large sales. People get up at 3am to wait outside of stores and fight the crowds to get the deals (sometimes literally). The stores that are planning on opening Thanksgiving are hoping to attract those Black Friday dollars. Big box stores are only closed two days of the year – Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Apparently 363 days of retail shopping is not enough and one more is needed. The article goes on to predict that within the next ten years, all stores will be open on Thanksgiving. If one opens, they all must open.
As a society, are we so addicted to consumerism that we cannot go one day without buying something? Is saving a few dollars more important than spending time with those we love? I understand this is a tough economy and having high sales figures over the holidays could translate into jobs saved at these stores. It also means employees will be forced to work and those on a tight budget will be hard pressed to ignore the savings. Both scenarios pull people away from their families. I ask at what cost. What lesson do we teach our children when the deal is more important than the meal? Are we grateful for the buy one, get one free sale more than the chance to all be around the table together?
For one day a year the message was clear – be thankful for each other and the bounty before you. Starting this Thanksgiving the message has changed – be thankful you have the day off from work so you can go to the mall.
What do you think about the stores opening? Will it change your plans on Thanksgiving?