For many, the idea of Black Friday brings a feeling of excitement. Sales, savings, door busters, and discounts excite millions across the country. However, for a growing number of Americans, the thought of Black Friday brings with it thoughts of disgust. Long lines, stores opening on Thanksgiving, and businesses taking advantage of consumers are just some of the complaints that people have about Black Friday. Despite the debate, retailers continue to make billions of dollars in one day, and customers continue to flock to their stores.
The term “Black Friday” came into use in the 1960s to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season. “Black” is a reference to the way accounting records were kept at the time. “Black” meant that the store was making a profit, whereas “red” would indicate a loss. Since then, the holiday has grown, with more and more retailers participating, and many expanding sales to the online marketplace. While many people have hesitated to go into stores on Black Friday, by expanding the holiday to online stores, many more customers have begun to participate.
Over the past few years, consumers have spent between $50 and $60 million on Black Friday each year, and although there has been a recent decline in those numbers, the number of shoppers each year has remained consistently over 100 million. This means that, on average, each consumer is spending roughly $300-$400 during Black Friday shopping. According to The Washington Post, these numbers reflect a significant percentage of the total amount of money spent each year on Christmas shopping.
These are some very impressive numbers, and in fact, with the exception of the financial crisis of 2008, the total amount that Americans spend on Christmas has increased every year since 2005. While retailers are undoubtedly thrilled with these numbers, what does the amount of money we spend on Black Friday – and Christmas shopping in general – say about the culture that we live in? While we can say that Christmas is a season of giving, and we want to give gifts to those that we care about, this still does not explain the amount of money spent, and the increase in spending that happens each and every year.
These incredible numbers communicate that we place too much of the value of Christmas on the gifts we receive and the gifts we give. We want to give the best gifts and to receive the best gifts. We spend energy thinking about the commercial and man-made aspects of Christmas. This focus on the commercial inevitably takes focus away from the religious and spiritual parts of the holiday.
Instead of focusing so much on gifts, we should focus on other opportunities that Christmas gives us – time to spend with family, friends, and loved ones. Christmas is a time meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Fr. Michael Himes puts forth the idea that God is agape, and God is therefore present in loving relationships. What better way to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus than by being with our loved ones and focusing on our relationships with others, rather than what we can buy for others and what they can buy for us?