Yule never believe these holiday creeps

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

It doesn’t surprise me that my children start talking about Christmas three months early. Kids don’t have any money (thanks a lot, child labor laws), so one understands why the arrival of Santa Claus would seem to them like Cold War air drops of life-sustaining supplies over the Berlin Wall. That is, of course, assuming that LEGO sets and video games would qualify as “life-sustaining,” a stretch for most people not under the age of 12.

Naturally, we don’t want gifts to be the dominant memories of Christmas time. There’s a reason for the season, and significance to how it brings our extended families together. Very little of that, however, is reflected in the “holiday creep” of ads and news coverage for what is now widely referred to as “Black Friday” this upcoming week — the day “after” Thanksgiving when the Christmas shopping season officially begins.

This year, Black Friday started several Fridays ago. The major retailers all stocked their holiday decorations the day after Halloween. I saw people putting up Christmas lights around northern Minnesota more than six weeks before the holiday they commemorate. I could chalk this up to the realities of the market economy and people’s own personal preferences. But that was until the Thanksgiving sales were announced.

This year, Black Friday is actually Black Thursday. Some of the highest profile deals offered by retailers like Wal-Mart or Macy’s are being rolled out sometime on Thanksgiving itself. The expectation here being that people will simply leave the table to go shopping, or even shop before the meal has been served.

In recent years the big sales and the media’s coverage of the arbitrary importance of Black Friday has created an irrational feeding frenzy of capitalism, with stores opening closer and closer to midnight. Since you can’t open any earlier than midnight, this year the sales have spilled over into the previous day.

And this is just lousy. First of all, complaining and threatening to boycott businesses won’t have much effect in the short run. This is a trend that reflects our cultural priorities, not one that will change them. People are going to buy a lot of stuff on Thanksgiving and there’s not much I can do about it.

But still, too, hundreds of thousands of retail workers are going to have to dig in for long shifts on Thanksgiving. They won’t get to have a meal and loll over the edge of town to do some shopping; they’ll be working. And if they don’t work, they will lose their jobs. They’ll be told, and they might well believe, that they’re lucky to have a job.

Thanksgiving is the least commercialized, least profitable of American holidays, which is to say it’s the one the corporate overlords would most like us to forget. Sure, we buy some turkeys and stretch pants in preparation for Thanksgiving, but purchase very few iPads or home spa kits. There is no gift giving, and we aren’t expected to dress any particular way.

This is probably why Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. On its most simple level it’s a good meal shared with family, something that won’t hurt or at least won’t hurt much more than our normal reality. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve found myself increasingly grateful. Gratitude warms the heart — to God if you prefer, to the universe (which I regard as the same thing), or just to the people in our lives who love and support us, and for that which we have, which is always something, never nothing.

Those retail workers might be lucky to have jobs, but companies aren’t showing much gratitude by making them work holidays. And neither are we.

I’m looking forward to a nice meal and time with my family. I’m already planning a nap and some football (I have less sympathy for football players, some of whom make more than all the employees at the Hibbing Wal-Mart). It’ll be a lovely holiday season. There’s no hurry. As it has been said, there is a time for every season.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. The next show will air live from the Fosston Library Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 14. This post first appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.



  1. Elanne Palcich says

    Right on the money, Aaron!

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