This is the year that Thanksgiving lost its innocence. The holiday used to mark the start of the Christmas season, with all its attendant commercialism. But in recent years, that cultural barrier has been breached by degrees.
This year, it was cast aside in wholesale fashion. Target, Macy’s, and other retailers tempted shoppers first with November discounts, then with stores that were open on Thanksgiving Day itself.
This became its own cultural event, with widespread laments that the sanctity of a family-oriented day with a special place in American tradition had been compromised. There was sympathy for poorly paid store assistants who were forced to leave their own families to staff the cash registers. Activists staged protests outside Walmart stores nationally.
But after all this criticism and regret, Americans came out on Turkey Day in great numbers and shopped. Black Friday, move over for Thanksgiving Day shopping — “Shopsgiving,” as one enthusiastic customer described it.
Paradoxically, many customers who flocked to the stores agreed nonetheless that they should not be open on Thanksgiving. There’s no blaming shoppers who are trying to make a buck stretch, to make the holiday season better for their families. There’s no blaming the stores that depend on the season to make their yearly tallies and must cater to customers.
So will free enterprise wreck tradition? Maybe not. Early returns suggest that while more people went to the stores, the actual shopping done over the long Thanksgiving weekend was down.
Shopsgiving may have hurt Black Friday, perhaps also Cyber Monday. If that’s the final analysis, market forces may yet please Thanksgiving purists.