Walmart, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Michael’s all announced plans to open at 6pm on Thanksgiving night 2019 with special deals. By then, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s and Kohl’s will be open for one hour. Already, Old Navy and GameStop opened at 3 p.m., and JC Penney opened its doors at 2 p.m. A few big chains got away with the holiday: Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s were open at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving. Kmart opened at 6:00 a.m., before the sun even rose on the United States’ greatest home-grown holiday.
This year, by contrast, most, but not all, of the big chains will be closed for business — squandering customers a chance to make late-night local news by storming the aisles, but allowing their employees to actually enjoy the holidays in the process. Observe the holiday.
Over the past decade, Americans have been subjected to cable-generated debate, mostly emanating from Washington, about the supposed war on Christmas. According to a skeptical debate considering reports about this jihad, people and businesses swapping global greetings for “Happy Holidays” in favor of “Merry Christmas” present a serious threat to the holy Christian day.
For a while it looked as if Thanksgiving was going to be a new front in the conflict. After getting enough culture-war mileage out of furor over the naming of the holiday, President Donald Trump briefly sounded the alarm late in his term about a related threat: the war on Thanksgiving, ostensibly led by progressive party-poopers who are sour about colonial history. Some of them didn’t even think it should be called Thanksgiving anymore! But, he assured fans, no one is going to change the name of the holiday on his watch.
At the time, however, a real war was well underway on Thanksgiving. And instead of it being about vocabulary, it was about work, money and prestige for millions of people.
If you haven’t noticed this battle, chances are you have an office job. In white-collar America, holidays still mean a lot. But for retail workers, the pre-Covid expansion of Black Friday was just another step in the decades-long desacralization of the entire holiday calendar. Events like President’s Day and Memorial Day are dusted off decades ago. The Fourth of July recently ceased to be a true holiday. It was inevitable that commerce would eventually come to Thanksgiving.
It’s not at all clear, by the way, that the threat is gone for good. Among the many reasons why big stores are closed this Thanksgiving are things that most people hope won’t be a permanent feature of American life: inflation, labor shortages, the lingering fear that jam-packed pre-Christmas sales will turn into supers. Spreader event. Will Thanksgiving shopping hours return once those challenges are in the rear-view mirror? (Other shifts are more permanent, if not necessarily 100 percent positive: Shopping online continues to be, for example, a game-changer for brick-and-mortar stores. And a lot of Black Friday deals started in early November this year.)
But this isn’t about the Christmas elevator music that kicks off on Halloween, or the supposed materialism of the holiday-season, or even fellow citizens who pass off shopping as shopping. I think it would be better for us as a country if we don’t spend too much time judging each other’s interests and hobbies. Instead, it’s about power. If we’re going to have a national holiday, it should be a holiday for everyone — not just those lucky enough to work at a place that isn’t open on Thanksgiving or doesn’t offer you a choice between the 8-hour price. . Pay and “the opportunity to enjoy with our children and grandchildren annual traditions that have grown into sacred rituals,” President Joe Biden put in his 2021 Thanksgiving proclamation.
Of course, there are plenty of jobs that screw up the holidays: If you work in a hospital or a hotel or a pharmacy or a firehouse (or, for that matter, a newsroom), you’ve probably had to work a Thanksgiving or three. . Still, if you’re heading home after dinner this year, take a look at where the lights are on. Does that McDonald’s really need to be open? How about that Sears?
Yes, it is a free country, and the consumer gets what the consumer wants. But sometimes it is not enough. In a time where we use the holidays as an excuse for a culture war, can we at least agree that they are important enough to shut down a fast-food restaurant?
Thanksgiving is our greatest holiday because it is egalitarian and universal and infinitely customizable. You don’t have to buy gifts; It’s hard to make it fancy; It can be secular or sacred. Basically, it’s about acknowledging that we’re all in this together, and we all got a little help along the way. What cable-news culture warriors don’t get (nor the campus types who claim the holiday is horrible because its origin story covers genocide) is that the day’s meaning is more important than loyal support or endorsement. Desperately destroying the fairy tale.
One way to honor that meaning: make sure as many people as possible take their day off.
So this year, while you’re avoiding your politically toxic uncle and picking around your green beans, give some thanks to the fact that you won’t get to go to the mall once you’re done eating. And keep an eye on next year and the year after. The TV versions of the wars on Christmas and Thanksgiving are bunk, but the punch-clock one is very real. And maybe the right side is winning.