With Thanksgiving Break just around the corner, students are eagerly packing their bags and preparing for the last days of classes before freedom is, at least temporarily, achieved. Whether they head home to enjoy the break with family or stay in Riverside to celebrate with their friends, after the last lecture or exam plenty of students look forward to the time they will spend outside of class and ready to spend time with the people they care about.
The last paragraph could easily be talking about the holiday of Thanksgiving itself. But surprisingly, it is increasingly true of Black Friday as well.
We all know of Black Friday as it has been told to us: the most consumerist of consumer days, the time where we forsake friends and family for the allure of discounted prices and savings galore. On the whole, that is not necessarily inaccurate — Black Friday is, at its core, a day of shopping. It started out as the first day retailers would begin advertising deals for the holidays, and over time cemented its position as the first Friday after Thanksgiving. In 2002, Black Friday really took off, becoming the busiest shopping day of the year almost every year for a decade straight. After all, one of the most common myths surrounding Black Friday is that it is named for when companies begin making profits for the year (or in financial terms, go into the black).
The persistence of that myth is as telling as anything else about the way we perceive Black Friday: As a strictly commercial day. However, the fact that it is nonetheless a myth — in other words, a falsehood — tells us just as much about the nature of the day.
For some people, Black Friday is more than a day to buy stuff. We go to concerts to revel in some excitement before we head back to campus. We reunite with old friends from our hometown and journey through our old stomping grounds. We take advantage of the deals to find that one special gift for our significant other. We are energized by the thrill of being a part of a crowd and our success in finding a good deal.
In short, Black Friday means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and it’s not all gold coins and dollar signs for many. Black Friday has evolved over time, transcending its capitalist origins and becoming something that everybody sees in a different light. The deals are what drive some people, but others simply seek to have a good time being with friends and enjoying the happenings of the day.
In this, it is actually not too dissimilar with other, more familiar holidays, such as Halloween or Christmas. Halloween started off as a day to celebrate the dead. For many, it still is, but for others it is simply a time to revel in the supernatural and scary. Christmas too has changed its meaning over time. Most recently, many have simply interpreted it as a time of giving, even as others still go to church. While Black Friday is not on par with these more traditional holidays, it is not unreasonable for people to start seeing it in a different light as time goes on.
We must also remember, however, that as we go about our day on Black Friday, perusing the deals and laughing with friends, that there are many people who are not as fortunate to have the day off. As Black Friday becomes an ever-larger portion of company revenue, an increasing number of workers decide, or are forced by employers, to spend their time away from their friends and families to provide the products that so many of us enjoy searching for.
What’s more, as Black Friday inches closer and closer to Thanksgiving (in fact, for many stores it may as well be one and the same), many employees work through their Thanksgivings to ensure that you have a decent shopping experience. These people are those who need the money to make rent or pay for electricity, and would rather spend the day next to the warm coziness of a crackling fireplace and embracing the ones they love.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have fun with your friends and cancel your Black Friday shopping trip. It just means that you should be mindful of other people’s situations as you go searching for those good deals. If you are at a retail store, be aware that the customer service representatives you’re talking to have probably been working long hours and are away from their loved ones. Treat employees courteously as you go about looking for deals. Give a nice tip when you eat out. These individual actions may seem small, but they go a long way in brightening someone’s day.
Black Friday is not inherently evil. Nor will it be going away anytime soon — it will only change further as people and society change around it. It’s best to adapt and take advantage of the fun opportunities you have while realizing that others aren’t able to have that same chance. Whether that’s enjoying the time that you have with friends or the adrenaline rush from finding a good deal, be thankful for the opportunity you have and give back to people who don’t.