Santa Claus arrived at the end of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade yesterday. I actually began seeing Christmas paraphernalia in stores before Halloween. It feels like we could really use Christmas this year. We all thought 2020 was a difficult year and 2021 hasn’t been much easier. The capitalist response—so shallow, but it’s all we’re left with—is to shop to make yourself feel better. Sometimes it’s the simple things: time off work, time with family, time for reading, time itself. Time heals most things. People, however, aren’t the most patient of creatures. Our desires seem so urgent and cash or credit seems to offer a way of achieving them. Black Friday is entirely from the business perspective. A day off work to get people out and spending. Outspending.
Black Friday has traditionally been one of my favorite days for staying home, reading and writing. Indeed, Thanksgiving is the only annual four-day weekend most of us are given. I haven’t used this day for shopping. Crowds are about and so is an insidious virus that we can’t seem to contain. It feels more comfy and secure to stay in my drafty house and use the time to recover from the capitalism that dominates the rest of my days. A day to not shop. A day to think. The idea of having quiet holidays to ground oneself seems like a progressive idea. We all find our own ways of centering, even if we don’t call it that. For some I suppose that’s shopping, but that’s just not me.
This year I’m spending the day with extended family in Iowa. I flew out on the busiest travel day of the year to ground myself in the heartland. It’s a day I need not work and I need not shop. I find my meaning elsewhere this Black Friday. The term began with a negative connotation, referring to workers in the early fifties calling in sick that day in order to get a four-day weekend. It was also used in the next decade to describe the traffic congestion as people went out to start their shopping. It was really only in the eighties that the term took on its current meaning of a day when retailers go into the black by earning profits from the influx of cash the day brings. Santa had come the previous day and wallets were open and those with the day off work wanted to spend it spending. I’m here in Iowa, glad to be avoiding the stores and the contagion, and enjoying the quiet of not having to clock in.