It shouldn't have surprised me. There's been a radio station playing Christmas songs for two weeks, the decorations have been up for nearly a month in department stores, and Santa already came for pictures at a local Toys R Us.
Still, I couldn't help but be disappointed by the story that many stores--including Best Buy, Toys R Us, and Target--have decided to start Black Friday sales at midnight (or even earlier) this year. They cite "consumer demand," but I find it hard to believe that people were writing in to demand they open their doors in the middle of the night.
Many employees are protesting the openings, claiming that it's unfair to them to not be able to spend time with their families on Thanksgiving. In order to open the store up at midnight, they'd have to sleep through their holiday festivities. Not to mention, they wouldn't be able to travel, and there will be plenty of customers who skip out on their own holiday traditions to wait in line.
I've never been much for Black Friday shopping, or really even the Christmas gift frenzy in general. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate getting and giving meaningful gifts. I think that it's a nice gesture that demonstrates love and caring. But more and more it feels like the entire "spirit of Christmas" (whatever that means to you, and I think it means a lot of things to a lot of people) has been getting boiled down into smaller and smaller nuggets, all of which neatly fit into shiny wrapped boxes.
I've never shopped during any of these crazy frenzies, but I did work at Wal-Mart during Black Friday while I was in undergrad. I watched the usually pleasant customers turn grumpy and the usually grumpy customers turn into malcontent misanthropes. There were elbows thrown, carts robbed, feelings hurt, and names called. I left my shift feeling worn out and sad. Merry Christmas.
As a childless adult, I used to just shake my head at this madness and call it a day, but now I wonder what messages my daughter will pick up about Christmas and Thanksgiving in particular and the meaning of gratitude and charity in general. How do I ensure that these consumer-driven fads don't drown out the opportunity to truly reflect on the things we appreciate? How do I help her see that there's more to the holidays than scoring the best deal or getting the best present?
Here are some ideas I've considered, but I'd love to hear more:
1) Include my daughter in Christmas shopping trips for friends and family and (once she gets a little older) talk about picking out a good gift based on things that person likes and what kind of things they enjoy. I'd also like to shop for a charitable cause (I thought about the Angel Tree, but since it's sponsored by the Salvation Army, and since the Salvation Army has such a horrible history of homophobia, I feel conflicted).
2) Focus on the quality of gifts we give her for Christmas rather than the quantity. I'd love to incorporate experiences into this so it's not just material things. Lifehacker suggests "experience coupons" if you're low on cash, but--besides from saving money--this strategy has the added benefit of promoting family togetherness (because a coupon for a zoo trip is something we can all share) and overall happiness (as studies have found experiences are more likely to make us happy than possessions).
Those are some ideas I'm kicking around. What do you do to keep the consumer frenzy from gobbling up your holiday spirit?