Walking into my favorite big box home improvement store with my husband the day before Halloween was occasion to relate my consternation about commercialism’s effect on fall/winter holidays.
“I thought we could make it through Halloween before the Christmas stuff came out,” I told him, as we observed the array of aisles of Christmas reindeers, Santas, and all kinds of holiday adornments.
The lady who walked into the store with us answered me.
“Dream on, honey.”
That consternation grew with news of Thanksgiving Day openings for retailer after retailer. Black Friday has gone the way of the hand-written letter. Now we’re doing away with what, until most recently, has been a time for family and friends to gather over a full table to give thanks and prayers for the blessings we enjoy.
But as history has a tendency of repeating itself, perhaps those retailers might take a second look at the whole concept of spoiling the American Thanksgiving tradition, and rethink next year’s retail schedule.
The celebration of Thanksgiving dates back to the first European settlements in America; even George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26 to be a national day of thanks and prayer. But it wasn’t until the 1860s when Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be a national holiday of thanksgiving that Thanksgiving became an American holiday hallmark.
Subsequent presidential administrations followed suit, issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November to be celebrated as a national day of Thanksgiving.
Also a tradition – the Christmas shopping season really took off after the Thanksgiving holiday. The Friday after Thanksgiving, commonly referred to as “Black Friday,” signals the start of that shopping season, and the opportunity for retailers to move the accounting into black ink territory.
But in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt was convinced to change the date of Thanksgiving. Businesses were concerned that because that year’s Thanksgiving would fall on November 30, the holiday shopping calendar would be notably shorter – a circumstance that could impact the profits of retailers. Roosevelt caved and proclaimed
November 23, the third Thursday in November 1939, as Thanksgiving.
And that screwed up school calendars, football calendars, and generally created another schism between the states as about half adopted the new date and the other half maintained the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving date.
This went on for a couple of years until 1941, when an actual working Congress stepped in and, in 1941, legislatively set the date for Thanksgiving in America as the fourth Thursday in November.
So back to the original idea for moving it in the first place … capitalism and profits of our retailers – which are acknowledged as the employment for a large number of our friends, neighbors and family members.
People had the extra week to shop, but was it found to make a difference in retailers’ profits between the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving date, or the third?
No, it really didn’t. What was found was that consumer spending was about the same as when Thanksgiving was the last Thursday of November.
Black Friday is a given these days. But maybe consumers could explain to retailers that Thanksgiving Day is for families and giving thanks for our blessings – and shopping can wait just one more day.
And maybe we could hold off on the Christmas displays until after Halloween.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org