Economics 101 & Public Square

Who Turned Thanksgiving into Black Thursday?

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In 2011, Walmart began Black Friday at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for the first time. In 2012, sales began at 8:00 p.m. In 2013, 6:00 p.m.

This year, establishments like J.C. Penney, Michael’s, Old Navy, and Toys ‘R’ Us will open their doors between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. But no retailer beats Kmart, which will open at dawn on Thanksgiving and stay open forty-two hours straight.

This means people across the country will leave Thanksgiving dinner early with their families to open up shop (or be fined in some cases) and work the cash register. Others will forgo the feast in hopes of snagging the best deal on a new television. Some even left their families weeks ago to go stand in line.

Thanksgiving has traditionally been a holiday dedicated to family and thankfulness for what we already have, but now it seems to be about cutting family time short to go get more stuff. Who or what is responsible for turning Black Friday into Black Thursday and Friday?

Capitalism vs. Consumerism

Some might say capitalism is responsible. Capitalism and consumerism are partners in crime, right? That’s not the case according to blogger Matt Walsh. He says,

I’m a capitalist…. I am not, however, a consumerist. I like the freedom and innovation of capitalism; I loath the materialism and gluttony of consumerism. There’s a popular misconception that capitalism and consumerism are inextricably linked — that one naturally involves and requires the other. But this is a fallacy.

According to Walsh, our obsession with things and products is making it harder to appreciate family and tradition. But this isn’t because capitalism promotes consumerism. Capitalism is just an economic system – an imperfect one – that reflects the values we put into it, so if we feed it consumerism, that’s what we’ll get.

In other words, we (the consumers) are guilty of turning Thanksgiving into a consumerist holiday.

Should You Participate?

Even though consumers are the culprits, this doesn’t mean everyone who participates in Black Thursday is guilty of consumerism.

Many retail workers appreciate the opportunity to make extra money on the holiday to better provide for their families, and many shoppers only want to take advantage of sales for family Christmas gifts in order to be good stewards of their money.

Some stores threaten a fine of $1,100 per hour if they remain closed on Thanksgiving, so some owners may not have much of a choice.

But if you’re wondering if you should leave Thanksgiving dinner before the pie is served to buy that new, state-of-the-art vacuum you’ve had your eye on, think about it this way.

God has called us to follow him through our callings to our family, church, community, and vocation, according to Os Guiness. However, God doesn’t tell us in the Bible how many hours per week to spend with our families or at work, let alone whether or not we should go shopping on Thanksgiving.

But I’m reminded of Ecclesiastics 3, “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The question at hand is one of prudence – what is the appropriate thing to do on a day like Thanksgiving?

To that question, different people have different answers. But if you believe the sales should wait, you can view your decision to not participate in Black Thursday as a vote against consumerism. Walsh says,

Capitalism is great, but some things are greater. Family is greater…. You could wait until Friday, couldn’t you? And if you did wait until Friday, and if everyone waited until Friday, no store would ever open on Thanksgiving again, right? So you could take steps to protect Thanksgiving from the decay of materialism and consumerism, and, while you’re at it, give this wonderful holiday back to the customer service representatives who have been forced to abandon it and cater to the stampeding throngs, right?

The responsibility falls on us. We can choose to turn Thanksgiving into a day of buying stuff or we can choose to protect the holiday tradition of family and thankfulness. That’s why not all stores are following suite. Barnes & Noble, Costco, DSW, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Patagonia, Sam’s Club, among other retailers, will remain closed on Thursday.

The good news is, if you want to save Thanksgiving from consumerism, all you have to do is stay home and eat turkey with your family.

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  • Sid in Missouri

    You hit the nail on the head saying WE are the ones responsible for “Black Thursday” and that WE are the cure. And I really like the way you distinguished between capitalism and consumerism. My opinion–without any scientific or statistical evidence to back it up–is that we like to blame capitalism because that’s an economic system instead of acknowledging that the fault is our own personal greed and abandoning a proper view of biblical stewardship (consumerism / materialism). It’s easier to blame a faceless system of economics than look in the mirror and change myself.

    The “Fix” to this isn’t staying home and eating Turkey on Thanksgiving. After all, thanksgiving should–like Christmas–be celebrated every calendar day. We just picked this one as a symbol. And if the problem really is inside us, then changing which day we choose to behave as materialists and consumerists doesn’t really fix the underlying problem. We have to let go of the consumerist/materialist mentality…let us own our stuff rather than our stuff own us.

    So with that in mind, I propose a slightly different solution than the author’s, but one that shares the same goal. If you want to eat turkey and play cards with the family on Thanksgiving…great, do that. If you want to sit in line and freeze your behind off to get a TV on Thursday, that’s fine provided you find another time to give to the family, and I would suggest doing the family event FIRST. That way we keep things in order chronologically, which seems to work well when we consider the things that are important in life. We typically do the most important things first and then the less important things later.

    As long as you can all coordinate schedules, nothing’s wrong with getting together a day earlier, or even a day later. A holiday is just a day on the calendar, the same as any other day. It is convenient because a lot of folks have the day off, but otherwise it’s nothing special.

    So as the article says, don’t fault the retailer. They’re just responses to what “we” have demanded. Don’t blame capitalism, it’s just an economic system and so far the best one we’ve found. And don’t spend time moping in despair at consumerism either. Rather, invite the Lord into every aspect of your holiday festivities. Make sharing his kingdom and his glory your highest pursuit and it’ll be hard to go wrong with whatever day you choose to shop.

    other words, we (the consumers) are guilty of turning Thanksgiving into
    a consumerist holiday. – See more at:
    other words, we (the consumers) are guilty of turning Thanksgiving into
    a consumerist holiday. – See more at:

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