Thanksgiving is an American holiday, but it is deeply based in Christian tradition. We give thanks only because there is someone that gives us the blessings we receive. It is a wonderful day that gives us an opportunity to gather with our loved ones and be grateful.
The day after Thanksgiving Day has become known as Black Friday because of the heavy traffic of shoppers that go out on the first traditional Christmas shopping day. In many ways it is kind of ironic because black is usually associated with bad financial signs rather than the important day it has become to retailers.
A few years ago when the 6 AM openings started happening, I was actually one of the shoppers that woke up early to get a start on some great deals for Christmas gifts. At the time, the lines were not as crazy or dangerous as they became in later years. Once the opening times got earlier and required an even earlier line-up time, I stopped seeing the benefits of the deep discounts.
Each year, the competition of this shopping day keeps getting more extreme. It seems like people start camping out earlier every year to be sure they are the first in line for their deals, and retailers keep pushing back the start time. For the first time, Black Friday deals and shopping now will be starting on Thanksgiving day.
The earlier start times not only bring up questions about the importance we place on consumerism, but it is now becoming even more of a question of moral injustice.
In order for these stores to handle the large influx of crowds through the night after Thanksgiving, many employees must sacrifice sleep and/or time with their families on Thanksgiving day.
In these tough economic times, many of us are giving thanks for the jobs we have, when so many are unemployed. Those that are unemployed would probably have little problem with working on that day if they could get a job for doing so.
Even so, is it just?
Catholic social teachings emphasizes the dignity and inherit rights of workers. We fight the right to employment, just wages, safe working conditions, and fair hours that allow for rest. Can it be considered fair to for employees to sacrifice their holiday to extend the shopping sales?
Social Shopping Habits
We can’t simply point the finger at retailers and corporations that are pushing back on their sales. They do it because of our society’s shopping habits. In the end, it really is all about money.
We just celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the liturgical year, and that means that we start the new liturgical year with the season of Advent this coming Sunday.
The Church gives us this time to remind us of the need to prepare our hearts for the second coming of Jesus.
Also preparing for Christmas, the Church points us to make time to focus on Him without letting the consumerism distract us.
I’m not saying that going shopping on Black Friday is automatically sinful, but I do think it would be wise to prayerfully consider where, when, and how we shop for Christmas gifts this season. Big savings are very helpful when trying to be prudent with spending. On the other hand, if you decide to skip out on shopping this Friday, you won’t be missing out on as much as the ads try to make you feel like you are missing.
This Thanksgiving, we pray with grateful hearts for the blessings we have been given, and we also pray for those that are unemployed and underemployed.