This morning while getting ready for work, I was thinking about all the kerfluffle over stores being open on Thanksgiving. You know what? I have no problem with it. The stores being open are not the problem. They are the symptom.
First, let’s get the stores out of the way. Truthfully, most of us have no problem with businesses being open on Thanksgiving. We like to be able to go to the market if we forgot something. We like to be able to tank up our cars, or even order something in if we’re too tired to cook. Employees that have to work on Thanksgiving are typically well-paid (which is a bonus to them), and their employers often give them other perks to make up for their being away from their families.
Further, those who are so “offended” about stores being open on Thanksgiving are not doing it because Thanksgiving is a national holiday. They don’t demand that stores be closed on Veterans Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or the 4th of July. Why Thanksgiving?
The answer is because this has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, and everything to do with Christmas. Their issue is not with the stores being open; their issue is with the fact that if the stores are open they will go out and go shopping. It is that quest for the bargain. It is yet another example of America’s worshipping of symbols — and in this case, the symbol is not the Christmas tree, but the wrapped present.
Now, I’m no Christian. I haven’t studied the New Testament. I’m not intimately familiar with Jesus’ teachings. But I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t his followers to chasing the bargain, going out solely to give more and more of their money to businesses large and small. He would much rather see that money go and do good for those who cannot afford to do so. But, alas, doing good for the poor and needy doesn’t seem to be the “American Way”. Tom Lehrer said it best: “Angels we have heard on high / Tell us to go out and buy!”
So, when you see Christmas marketing creeping earlier and earlier, and merchants getting more and more aggressive, don’t blame the merchants. They are just trying to make a living in a tough economy. Blame the society that has turned the winter holidays — neither of which had anything to do with gift giving and shopping Shopping SHOPPING — into the major commerce point of the year. If you’re Christian, celebrate the birth of Christ by emulating what he taught. If you’re Jewish, celebrate Chanukkah and fight the urge to assimilate and be like the Greeks. But please, don’t celebrate the overindulgence culture so prevalent this time of year.
The stores may be open. That’s their choice, and we don’t need to blame them for it. They are gambling that people will shop. However, their being open doesn’t mean you have to shop. Actually, to be precise, it doesn’t mean you need to start shopping for Christmas. Shop for Thanksgiving, fine. Shop as you normally would, fine. But for material presents? Feh!
Maybe — just maybe — your money can be better spent this holiday season. Give to a charity. Give to a non-profit. Do good.
Oh, and have a happy Thanksgiving, and Chag Sameach! Chanukah starts tonight!
7 Replies to “Open on Thanksgiving”
I see stores being open on Thanskgiving, a holiday on which they were traditionally closed, as contributing to the oppression of labor in America. I believe the overwhelming majority of Walmart workers, frex, are being coerced to work on Thanksgiving. (This is the non-libertarian definition of coerced where someone who chooses to work on Thanksgiving because otherwise they will be fired is not choosing freely.)
We have less and less feeling of being a society in America and more and more tendency to think of others, our institutions, and even ourselves in purely economic terms.
The question is: Why is coercion to work on Thanksgiving any more of a problem than coercion to work on any other Federal holiday? People work on Labor Day, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July. Some people, in fact, are coerced to not work on days they would rather work (Christmas), and to work on days they wouldn’t. Walmart, according to one story I read this morning, is giving their workers (in additional to extra meals) an entire extra days pay for working on Thanksgiving.
What makes Thanksgiving special? Why are people protesting Thanksgiving? The answer is not Thanksgiving — it is because of Christmas and the increased desire to get shoppers in the door.
Store are pushing to be open on Thanksgiving because they can attract more business. People are protesting because they are losing one of the few commerce free days left in the calendar. If the minimum wage was $15/hour indexed for inflation, if unions were strong and growing, if the NLRB, OSHA and other government organizations actually looked after the interests of the worker that would be a time to start pushing to have stores closed on the 4th of July. But we’re not in a situation where the cause of labor can easily advance – but one thing we may be able to manage is to not lose this particular piece of ground.
When I ask my religious friends who oppose gay marriage why they don’t also try to re-impose blasphemy laws (which is just as forbidden by the 7 laws of Noah as gay sex is) they tell me that the fight against blasphemy is unwinnable – there is no realistic chance of repealing the first amendment. But the fight against gay marriage, they think, is still winnable.
I think they are wrong about the culture war over gay marriage being winnable, but I use the same sort of logic to explain why I am working to keep stores closed on Thanksgiving while not fighting to have them closed on the Fourth of July.
Agree with Larry. Too many are forced to work, explicitly or not. My someday-niece is scheduled to work at Menard’s until she drops on Friday. Thursday and Friday is just more of the burden the company puts on the low-wage earners. I remember reading that in states where liquor sales are illegal on Sunday, mom-and-pop store owners much prefer owning a little liquor store over a convenience store. And the principal reason is being able to be off together. Second reason was the higher mark-up.
But as I replied to Larry: Why is coercion to work on Thanksgiving any different than coercion to work on any other Federal holiday? Presumably, if they are hourly, they are getting holiday pay for those hours and earning extra.
What people are upset about is not that stores are open, but that stores are open FOR CHRISTMAS SALES. This is all part of the creep of Christmas beyond the boundary of Thanksgiving.
I agree on all points. Additionally, I was raised Christian by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I did study the New Testament (weekly Bible study), and I manage to identify a lot of other errors in what Christians claim about Jesus. (Of course as JWs they didn’t celebrate Christmas, which is a whole other rant.) My younger son is scheduled to work 7:30 pm to 11:50 pm Thursday then 8:00 am to 6:00 pm Friday. That means he’s off shift for all of 8 hours and 10 minutes. That’s not enough time to travel home, sleep, eat, shower, and put on clean work clothes for the next day.
Our family’s guests for Thanksgiving are most of my gaming group, most of whom will probably see someone lighting the menorah for the first time in their lives, because I’m using our menorahs for table decor. 🙂 I mean, they’re candles, amiright?
Thought y’all might enjoy A Walmart Thanksgiving
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