Saturday, November 29, 2014

America's new commercial holidays

Once upon a time there was a holiday many Americans liked to think of as relatively sweet and unspoiled, a holiday still all about family and togetherness and celebrating the ways God has blessed us. But now Thanksgiving seems almost crowded out of the calendar by some new holidays, all of which quick research suggests appeared or at least began to be popularized, it seems, in 2012.

A friend of mine expressed great Facebook indignation that she'd shown up at Walmart at 5:30am on "Black Friday" only to discover the deals she hoped for had all been stolen away by shoppers on what I now see is called Gray Thursday ("The evening of the United States Thanksgiving holiday, when some retailers offer sales and stay open until the early morning or all night.")

Brick-and-mortar stores are scrambling to compete, of course, with deals on the Internet. "Cyber Monday" has been around for a while. Now that people don't have to go back to work for fast internet, I wonder if Cyber Monday will be undercut by Sofa Sunday ("The Sunday after the United States Thanksgiving holiday, when people relax at home and purchase goods online or on TV.")

Two more adjacent occasions have been introduced in recent years, both aiming to redirect some of our consumerism into more thoughtful causes: non-profits like the one I work for have high hopes of charitable donations for Giving Tuesday, while shopkeepers look to Small Business Saturday.

If that's not enough, see The Sixteen Days of Holiday Retail.   


Chris and I are looking at holiday shopping a little differently this year. Last week he was offered a one-year hospital residency in Columbia, South Carolina, and this week I learned that we qualify for on-campus housing at the Christian college in that town where I've been chipping away at a Master's degree. If we take the job for him and get one of my school's furnished, two-bedroom apartments (as hoped), we'll be able to stay on top of the student loan payments about to kick in for Chris's M.Div and also do our bit for our two kids in college next year—all without raising our budget. Sweet.

Such an arrangement, though, would mean we couldn't keep all our stuff. It we take the job (which starts in September), the cheap furniture we bought three years ago will be garage-saled this summer. We'll probably keep a few pieces and put them into storage, along with most books and mementos. Clothes, electronics, and kitchen essentials can make the cross-country trip with us. But all the rest of the stuff we have—including wedding gifts, things left behind by the kids, and anything we get for Christmas—has to be evaluated. Worth keeping, paying to put in storage? Small or useful enough to bring along?

Any tendency to want more and better things is put into new perspective. We're not so tempted to take advantage of sales by buying things for each other or ourselves. And we're looking for ways to tell our close friends and relatives: please, don't add to our earthly goods this Christmas.