Thursday, November 25, 2010

For the love of something

We love our holidays. We're into a big one now, and even bigger ones to follow. This one, we are told, is all about giving thanks for something and realizing how fortunate we are to live when we do - or to live at all. Nice and schmaltzy, as the holidays were intended.
But, we don't just like a holiday. We like a holiday with something substantial attached to it. I'm not talking about remembering war veterans, giving thanks or celebrating America. I'm talking about big sales at a store, eating and drinking.
The eating thing is attached to this one, to the point that we wish people a "Happy Turkey Day" instead of using the more traditional Thanksgiving name. When I go back to work on Monday I'll be asked what I had for dinner on Thursday. When I say I had chicken, I'll get that quizzical look and the "What, no turkey?" question, which implies that I violated some sacred holiday tradition. In fact, the tradition is the holiday, and we have chosen to decorate it with food. A family-oriented feast that involves eating until we almost burst and sleeping the evening away in a food-induced coma.
It's not the only holiday that has a different and preferred association than the original. Consider:
New Year's Day - a bogus holiday that is only associated with New Year's Eve to the point that it glorifies drinking and celebrating the start of a new calendar. Why do we have the first day of the year off work?
Valentine's Day - glorified by jewelery retailers as a day to prove your love with an expensive gift. Otherwise, you just don't care about her.
Easter - bunnies and candy are the preferred retail meaning of the holiday which is supposed to signify the crucifixion of a religious icon.
Memorial Day - unofficial start of summer and a day to fill your backyard pool, travel to the shore and barbecue some chicken and burgers. Curiously, the actual first day of summer goes by almost unnoticed.
July 4 - not as much to do with the signing of our Independence declaration as it does with fireworks and more barbecuing.
Labor Day - unofficial end of summer and a big day for end-of-summer sales. Mostly it's spent in traffic on a highway rather than recognizing the contribution of labor. Curiously, the actual day that summer ends (September 22) goes by almost unnoticed.
Columbus Day - isn't observed for the fictitious "discovering" of America as much as it is recognized as a great day to buy sheets, towels and pillowcases.
Christmas - The mother of all holidays. Jews are virtually ignored as the last two months of the year are turned into an onslaught of Christmas holiday marketing that is designed to separate us from as much of our money as possible. If you don't spend a ton of money on gifts, you don't really love people very much.
The retailers have figured out a way to tie each holiday into some sort of marketing campaign, and people are more than happy to oblige. To the point that they will sleep in their cars on Thanksgiving evening in order to be one of the first in line on Black Friday so they can score a $200 laptop computer.
I have an accounting degree from Widener University, so I know why it's called Black Friday. It should be called Green Friday for the money it brings in, or Dumbass Friday for the people who try to work off the excess food by shopping all day Friday. There are more gimmicks than customers and stores open earlier each year, with one trying to best the other by opening an hour earlier (or 6 hours earlier) than their competitors. You are called a "smart shopper" if you stop in and take advantage of the tremendous deals. They tell us that we can save money by spending. That's a marketing ploy for people with poor math skills.
I am thankful that I have learned to ignore it.

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