But due to Black Friday and what is called “Christmas creep,” a day marking a landmark in American history is in danger of being reduced to, simply, an excuse to take a day off and have a large dinner.
“Within the last decade,” says the National Retail Federation, “we’ve seen Black Friday morph from a leisurely mid-morning venture around a handful of stores to a competitive free-for-all among retailers eager to nab those first holiday shoppers.”
Stores are opening earlier and earlier. During the past couple of years the number of people who went shopping at midnight, when many of the big retailers opened for Friday, tripled and quadrupled from the year before, and the NRF estimated that almost one-fourth of shoppers hit the stores before 4 a.m., leaving little time, one would think, to ponder the Compact’s promise of “just and equal laws” for the general good.
This year has seen the holiday shopping season encroach onto Thanksgiving Day itself, with many larger stores, feeling the pressure from their competitors, announcing plans to open on Thanksgiving afternoon or evening — to the dismay of traditionalists and many others.
Coming at Thanksgiving from the other side, so to speak, is Christmas creep, the reason you’re hearing Christmas music and seeing Christmas decorations go up right after Halloween — and in a few cases, even before.
You really can’t blame the retailers. They are in a tough business in an anemic economy. The reason it’s called “Black Friday” is because the stores supposedly stop operating in the red that weekend and begin turning a profit. It is no small economic event. Estimates are that the holiday season sales will total around $500 billion, equivalent to the gross domestic product of Belgium or Poland.
Thanksgiving weekend retains one overwhelmingly redeeming feature: 48.5 million of us will brave dodgy weather in parts of the country and endure high airfares and gas prices to be with family and friends. In their own way, these trips, too, are a kind of pilgrimage.
And “Black Friday” and “Christmas creep” seem to be with us to stay — for better and for worse.