Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas‘s time—an ever-expanding season that stretches into September—has finally arrived. Today is Black Friday, the consumerist threshold that formally inaugurates the Christmas (shopping) season.
Black Friday, much like the holiday season it ushers in, has slowly stretched beyond its one-day window. First, the expansion went into Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday. Next came Giving Tuesday—a bit of charitable giving to close out the mad dash for savings. Once you’ve spent all of your money in big box stores on Friday, at the dying mom and pop joint in your town, and everything else on Amazon on Monday, whatever is left goes to the United Way.
Now Black Friday even bleeds into Thanksgiving Day itself. Doorbuster sales with lines forming up at 2 AM on Black Friday is spectacle enough; now, stores opening Thanksgiving afternoon or evening try to squeeze more revenue from zealous shoppers.
As a schoolteacher, I’m spoiled: with the exception of two years of my life, I’ve been involved in education in some way, which means I’ve always gotten a glorious Thanksgiving holiday. It rankles me, though, when service folks are denied even one day to relax and spend with their families (until I need to buy something at 8 PM on a Thursday, and that Thursday turns out to be Thanksgiving).
“They should get a better job, Portly.” Okay, sure, a perk of teaching, for example, is all the crazy days off; a perk of a professional job is to vacation or flex-time. Federal employees have to work on Black Friday, but they get every second- and third-tier holiday on the calendar as a paid vacation day, so I don’t feel much sympathy for them (plus, they work for the federal government).
But even taco jockeys and the weird, pushy old gay sales clerk at Macy’s need a day off to spend with their families (or, in the case of the weird old gay guy at Macy’s—an actual person I have in mind—his little lapdog, Snickers—that part is pure speculation on my part). There will always be those who want to work on Thanksgiving for that sweet golden time, of course, but wouldn’t it be worth it to shut everything down for a day or two?
Yes, if you work in retail, you’re going to work Black Friday. All the more reason—before clocking in for a twelve-plus-hour shift—to have the day of Thanksgiving completely off. Gotta have time to sleep off that turkey and dressing, at the very least.
Christmas is another one where I often forget—cozy in my cosseted bubble of quasi-academia—that most people work the day before and/or after Christmas. The idea of working the day after Christmas seems like a death sentence, but that’s not as bad as working on Christmas itself. Whatever Ebeneezer Scrooge is forcing his employees to work on Christmas Day should probably be imprisoned.
The folks in Medieval Europe had the right idea—dozens of feast days to celebrate this or that minor saint or hero. They probably went too far in the other direction, going overboard with merriment. I’m sure there’s a happy medium.
Today, we modern Americans work our fingers to the bone. That’s one reason we’re great, and I’m a firm believer in hard work. All the more reason, then, to take a day or two during this time of year to slow down and relax a bit. We hustle and bustle through the Christmas season with such rapidity and motion, we don’t take the time to savor it.
Shutting down everything but essential services—God Bless police officers and emergency medical personnel for being there on Christmas and Thanksgiving—would be an admirable goal for at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Thanksgiving. Open your store up at 12:00 AM on Black Friday if you want, but don’t make your employees come in until right at that moment.
These are just some stream-of-consciousness thoughts I’ve had as I’m wrestling with questions about the proper balance between work and life. But hard workers could use a little downtime with their families during the Christmas season.