Black Friday, the sparkle season, and me

Black Friday is winding down.

I don’t know what, if anything, that means to you. When I worked in retail management, this day was rather fun…when you are behind the counter, long lines are a good thing!

Now I avoid shopping on Black Friday. Part of the reason is I am not really a fan of struggling through crowds with several bags in tow. Although, with the right companion, I can spend time sitting in the mall, watching people, making up stories about them.

Beyond the crowds, however, there is something else about Black Friday that is troublesome to me. And yet, I can’t clearly define my objections.

To some degree it is the abject consumerism. But I love choosing presents, and have often been accused of buying too much.

Maybe it is the craziness of stores opening at 12:01AM. Or that it is the start of stores being open for 14,15,16 hours each day. As if 11 hours isn’t enough. But I generally take advantage of these monger hours at least once or twice each year.

Or is it the fact that Santa now arrives on Nov. 1? Is that really necessary? Back in the day, part of the fun of the day after Thanksgiving was that Santa arrived during the annual Christmas Parade. I passed him twice in the mall last week – he was sitting alone, no kids in sight. Poor guy could be at home making more gifts for me.

I love Christmas decorations and, yes, I took advantage of warm temperatures to put my outdoor lights up on Nov. 22. But, out of respect for Thanksgiving, the yard remained dark until this evening.

More than anything, I see Black Friday as symbolic of what I see as the negative side of this beautiful season. Consumerism is, obviously, not intended meaning of Christmas. I enjoy gift-giving and receiving. But I am also well-acquainted with what the pressure of buying does to some people.

That pressure to keep up is one of the reasons this period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is recognized in psychological and psychiatric services as being one of the most difficult. The strain of watching Black Friday madness while not having money in the budget for gifts, the sadness that comes from thinking everyone else is attending fabulous parties every weekend while you sit at home, the loneliness associated with “the most wonderful time of the year” will never be cured by spending copious amounts of money on gifts.

I am not opposed in any way to gifts or to holiday gatherings. And while I have never smelled chestnuts on a fire, nor am I a fan of Jack Frost, yuletide carols are my favorite. In fact, we need more carols, more songs about the JOY of this season, of the hope it offers the entire world.

Even if you aren’t a Christian, you would benefit from those of us who do make the proclamation actually becoming proponents of peace on Earth and Goodwill to all.

And THAT is Christmas to me. Not a 20% sale or the ability to shop at 4AM or having to fight someone for the last zhu zhu pet. Although I do enjoy receiving gifts.

While it is not impossible to embrace both sides of this season, we live in a culture that does not allow us to focus on the true meaning, but devotes much time and attention to sales and crowds. We say “Happy Holidays” and call it the “sparkle” season. We try to avoid being exclusive, with the result of often missing the folks who need the best of our time and attention.

My hope is that in the next month I can, indeed, finds nice gifts for my loved ones. But at the same time, I pray for a heart open to see and hear the needs of people around me. THAT is what Christmas means, all year long.

But did I mention I like getting gifts?