COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JOHN PATRICK FORD

Spirit of Christmas centers on malls

Deals, deals, deals. That’s what all the promotion of Black Friday and the entire Thanksgiving holiday was about. Forget the turkey dinner, family gathering and a few moments of thanks; just get out there for a deal.

It didn’t taper off after Cyber Monday, the online bonanza shopping day after Thanksgiving when workers make purchases on their employers’ time and computers. The media blitz renewed its momentum right up to the Saturday before Christmas. That was the biggest shopping day of the season and gave retailers the record sales they were desperately seeking.

Judging from the media coverage and a mudslide of print advertising dropped into your mailbox, the holidays were all about getting deals. Deals? Is that really what Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are all about?

According to reports, 130 million people stormed their local malls or went online to shop over Thanksgiving. It began Thanksgiving Day but fell 11 percent short from 2013. Discounting by the major chain stores early in November was blamed for the Black Friday decrease in sales.

Malls and chain retail stores made it ever more attractive with special events and decorations to attract shoppers. Gone are the days when the stores opened late Thanksgiving Day or were closed entirely to observe the national holiday, as laws required not so long ago.

Online shopping increased 15 percent with $2.5 billion spent on Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day since 2010. Retail forecasters predict online shopping will continue to grow to set new records with help from mobile digital devices.

Those are the statistics that warm the hearts of the retailers and kickstart a favorable economic outlook. Retailing does create jobs but also feeds foreign economies by importing most of the goods stocking the shelves of U.S stores. Now let’s consider what Christmas shopping is all about.

From what I witnessed in interviews at the malls, frantic shoppers only wanted deals during those early opening hours. There seemed to be a lack of casual shopping to admire attractive merchandise and to savor the holiday spirit surrounded by colorful, decorated stores playing joyful holiday music. Did anyone notice all that as they ran to grab a deal?

The term Black Friday is not intended to be a negative reference. In modern lingo, it refers to retailers being in the black financially because of the sales for that day. The term Black Friday originated in Philadelphia before 1961. It was devised by the Philadelphia police that coped with the heavy vehicle traffic that day in shopping areas, intended to be a negative reference.

Another bit of history about the holiday shopping season refers to the 19th century custom that workers got Christmas Day off only if it fell on a weekend. If Christmas fell on a weekday, children went to school and workers kept their regular hours. President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a legal holiday in 1870, making it possible for employees to have a day off to share with their family.

Of course, in those days there were no shopping malls or credit cards or special-deal sales to attract shoppers away from the traditional family celebrations of both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I suppose that is one of the reasons that active secular groups protest attempts to display a religious identity to Christmas — efforts to prohibit Christmas lights in public places or even on private homes as well as any display of religious objects, such as nativity scenes and even candy canes, in public places.

This austere crusade has not caught on with the public who welcome the cheer and bright lights to enhance the gloomy winter days. In fact, the use of so many lights at Christmastime is noted by NASA by showing how bright Earth is from outer space.

So the battle goes on between the retailers offering deals to attract customers to the malls while active groups attempt to erase religious identity to the holiday period. They seem to forget that Christmas does refer to Christ and the ancient celebration of his birth.


Ford is a freelance writer in San Diego. He can be reached at johnpatrick.ford@sddt.com

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1 UserComments
Betsy Hiteshew 3:43pm January 5, 2015

Ford has got it right. The almighty dollar reigns.