Now the Christmas grinch steals Thanksgiving
11/19/2012 3:21:21 PM
Thanksgiving, the last US holiday undisturbed by mass commercialization, is now victim to the ever advancing Christmas shopping season, with stores welcoming shopaholics before the family turkey can be taken from the oven.
Thanksgiving was long that rare day when stores closed and families gathered for long, uninterrupted meals. Unlike at Easter, Christmas or Hanukkah there was no merchandising -- other than for the unfortunate birds.
That's been eroding yearly with the growing emphasis on Black Friday, when stores begin sales that they count on for putting their books in the black.
Now, to the consternation of some Americans, the sanctity of Thanksgiving, which falls this year on November 22, appears to have crumbled even more.
Black Friday will start on Thursday, with Wal-Mart and Target, and Toys "R" Us opening their sales in the evening, right when people, including store clerks, might have been finishing their feast, or settling down to family TV.
Kmart will open even earlier, starting at 6:00 am Thursday. There'll be a break in the late afternoon, but then a reopening at 8:00 pm to 3:00 am Friday. Other big department stores, like Lord & Taylor in New York, are planning to open all day on Thanksgiving for the first time.
For others, there'll be Thanksgiving, but barely: the sales will open at midnight on Thursday to make use of every second of Black Friday, or as some are already suggesting it should be called, Black Thursday. Best Buy is even giving out advance tickets for entry.
Target defends its decision, saying "the holiday season is highly competitive and Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest shopping times of the year.
"Our opening time this year reflects the feedback we have heard from our guests. Many prefer to shop following their family gatherings rather than in the very early hours of the morning."
As for the employees, there's no need to feel sorry for them, said Tina Schiel, a company executive.
"Across the company, only one-third of Target's store team members are scheduled to work on Thanksgiving and we continue to hear from store after store that there were more volunteers than shifts to fill."
But the shopping takeover of Thanksgiving is meeting resistance in some quarters, with dozens of petitions on the change.org website to "save" the holiday and pressuring stores to stay closed.
"Every year the opening time gets pushed up more and more. Midnight last year was pushing it. How can you expect workers to spend time with family and then stay up all night? It's inhumane and inconsiderate," said one open letter directed at Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel.
Others complained that the lack of time off was ruining get-togethers.
"My son is coming home from Afghanistan for this holiday and I would be devastated if I had been scheduled to work," said Mary Pat Tifft, a founding member of OUR Wal-Mart on the website makingchangeatwalmart.org.
Wal-Mart employees at hundreds of stores have gone on strike in the run-up to Thanksgiving in a movement that began in California.
"No matter how hard we work, my husband and I can't catch up on our bills," Charlene Fletcher, an OUR Wal-Mart leader in California, said on makingchangeatwalmart.org.
"We just found out that we are both scheduled to work on Thanksgiving Day instead of being home with our kids. It's heartbreaking to miss the holiday with them."
Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post said the battle was as good as lost.
"Christmas has now moved from defense to offense and is laying siege to October. Thanksgiving has been mortally wounded, reduced to a shopping day. The Christmas commercial invasion begins even before Halloween," she wrote.
"Still, it's a shame. Thanksgiving is the final stand of the holidays that were about Eating Things rather than Buying Things."