Happy Consumer Culture Day!

On the fourth Thursday every November, we celebrate Thanksgiving surrounded by our families and traditional, good food. We give thanks for everything that we are thankful for and use the day as a time for celebration, rest and family. We travel across the country to visit family and take a break from school to celebrate and spend time with loved ones.

But lately, we also do something else on Thanksgiving. We shop. Increasingly over the years, Thanksgiving time has become the time for consumerism at its finest.

The history of the term “Black Friday” originated in factories in the 1950s because so many workers would not come in to work the day after Thanksgiving. Ironically, the term has transformed in to a day where workers have no choice but to come in to work to accommodate the masses of shoppers.

2011 Black Friday line at Best Buy. Photo by Robert Stromberg on flickr

2011 Black Friday line at Best Buy. Photo by Robert Stromberg on flickr

Black Friday marks the beginning of the “holiday buying season.” The idea that there even is a “holiday buying season” speaks loudly about our culture. Shoppers race to buy things they don’t need at arbitrary low-prices that make them believe that by spending less on consumer items, they are somehow gaining something. By buying on Black Friday, there is justification in spending absurd amounts of money because shoppers get more and therefore end up “saving.”

This year, many stores opened on Thanksgiving day itself, invading the holiday with even more consumer-insanity than normal. A day meant to be spent with family ended up being another day that millions of Americans had to go to work.

Thanksgiving has become Thanksgetting. Thanking, resting and enjoying have been replaced by getting, buying, saving. Perhaps “Consumer Culture Day” is better fitting for what the holiday is actually about.

So in between the traffic jams, lines and items ringing up at $4.95, ask yourself what you are really buying for?

To save money? Sure. For your friends and family? Probably. Because buying has become an American, cultural traditional? Definitely.

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