As a teenager I remember the year I finally convinced my mom to get up around 3:00 a.m. to drive to Houston for the Black Friday sale. Mervyns was giving away snow globes to the first 100 people in line, and I really wanted one.
We got to the store way before a line had formed, and we had an entire hour before they opened their doors. So we went into Montgomery Wards instead. By the time we emerged empty handed, the line wrapped around Mervyns and my dream of a snow globe was gone. But the memories we made that day during our first Black Friday shopping event were not.
A lot has changed in the last 20 years since we made that early morning trek to Memorial City Mall. Most notably, Black Friday doesn’t really exist anymore. In an effort to make more money, stores now start their specials on Thanksgiving Day. It is yet one more small and tiny way we are letting capitalism tear apart our traditions…and family units.
Thanksgiving is Not About the Food
Last weekend I was doing my monthly grocery shopping at Walmart. The cashier told me she would be working from 10:00-7:00 on Thanksgiving Day. She would be missing lunch with her family, but she was okay with it. Her kids were grown now and had divided cooking duties amongst the family. They had everything covered, and Walmart was catering Cracker Barrel for the employees to have a Thanksgiving meal together.
Her words have played over and over again in my head. It’s nice the company was providing their employees with a meal in a holiday defined by food. It’s sad the meal had to be provided in the first place because employees have to work instead of being with their family.
Thanksgiving is not about the food. It is about the family who comes together around the table to laugh, maybe argue, and always to make memories. It’s about creating traditions and sharing recipes and memories from those who are no longer around the table.
Thanksgiving is Not About Last Minute
I worked my fair share of Thanksgiving Days as a college student. I always volunteered to work the cash office at Brookshire Brothers until we closed at 2:00 p.m. so the people who lived farther away from family than I did could still enjoy the holiday with their family. As a grocery store, we were open for all the last minute people who forgot that one key ingredient to make their meal perfect.
Yesterday I was a last minute person. I woke up and realized I was out of parchment paper. I don’t know how to bake anything without it. I picked up my phone to see if Dollar General was open. They were. I debated sending my husband to go and get the parchment paper.
But I couldn’t do it. It goes against every fiber in my being to support the commercialism that is destroying our family holidays. And you know what … we survived. The rolls didn’t stick to my pans. No one complained that their bread bottoms weren’t tasty.
Our failure to plan, knowing we can get things last minute, only supports tearing people away from their family units on holidays built around bringing the family together.
Thanksgiving is Not About Buying More
Yesterday’s biggest sales started around 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. I know that because my daughter was just waking from her nap as the majority of the family was wrapping up looking at sale papers and heading out the door to hit the big sales.
We had spent five hours together eating, playing outside, and then talking before the sprint to find a deal started for about half the family.
As I crawled into bed last night, I couldn’t help but ponder how commercialism had controlled our day, and we didn’t even realize we had let it.
Instead of asking what board game to pull out or what game to play next, we were caught up in the rush to spend.
At one point I remember hearing a family member saying she was ready to go shopping but couldn’t until another family member had left. You could feel the torn emotion in the air. She really wanted to go shopping, but there was a bit of guilt and frustration in her voice as she said it.
I am part of an amazing family. We love each other. We live close and spend time together on all the holidays. If they read this, I hope they realize I’m not bashing them.
What I am bashing is the realization that the quest to try and save some money buying gifts no one really needs is tearing apart our holidays…one small hour at a time.
Thanksgiving is About Family & Thanks
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter … pick a holiday. Not one of them is about the things we buy. But you sure would think they are by the race to spend money on things instead of to spend time together. We are racing to spend on the wrong thing.
Holidays are about the time we spend with those we love. Time is something we can never get back. In the end it is the memories of times shared, not the presents, that we remember.
I didn’t shop on Thanksgiving Day. I never will. One day I may be the only one who isn’t doing it.
When I look back on the $20 I over paid for a toy not purchased during the sale, or the $299 not saved on an electronic device that would also kill family time, I know I will be able to say it was worth it for the extra hours spent with my family.
Give the Gift of Time
This year the gifts under the Christmas tree will be few. My mom challenged me to give the gift of time to people. That’s what I have been shopping for…gifts of time. Gifts that will bring us together as a family through adventures, activities, and bonding. And the best part…you can’t find those things on a Thanksgiving Thursday or Black Friday Special.
I issue you the same challenge. Does anyone really need any of the things you purchased? Or will they simply be relegated to a shelf a day or two after they’ve been opened?
I’ve already returned four of the gifts I bought weeks ago and replaced them with tickets to events we can do as a family.
We all need time, love, and laughter. How can you wrap that up this year? In gifts that will create more opportunities for you to spend time together.
Forget filling another toy box full of things made in China. Instead, fill a calendar full of moments that will create memories to last a life time. Those memories will outlive anything bought on a shelf.