Take Two for November 21, 2012

A few thoughts on how we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday

Shoppers try to work their way through t

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Shoppers try to work their way through the crowd that mobbed the Wal-Mart in Duarte, California, shortly after the retail giant opened its doors at 5 a.m., 25 November 2005, the day after Thanksgiving, also known as 'Black Friday.'

As we roll into Thanksgiving weekend, KPCC's Steve Proffitt joins us with some thoughts, and a few facts, about the modern celebration of this great American holiday.

The day before Thanksgiving, or really the evening before, has become one of the biggest party nights of the year, rivaling even the all-time champion, New Year's Eve.

College kids, young people, even ancient mariners such as myself find ourselves back in our home towns, or our old friends come back to our town. It's a time to reconnect, and clearly, a time to imbibe. Bars, taverns, honky-tonks and cocktail lounges, they will be doing land office business tonight.

And really, it's not like Christmas, when you have to worry about last-minute gifts, or New Year's when you have to worry about who you are going to kiss at midnight. I guess you can get anxious about your turkey, but really, it's a low pressure holiday, and a lot of people like to kick it off with some serious bar hopping.

The Holiday Creep Phenomenon

Today, about half the KPCC staff has taken the day off to get home, or just to get ready for a big night of partying. More and more schools are closing on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and, well, here's a personal anecdote. I teach a journalism class at USC, and yesterday fully half my class was missing. AWOL.

It used to be you took Thursday off and you were back to work on Friday. Now, Wednesday is a wash. Tuesday is not being taken seriously. At this rate, within a generation, Thanksgiving will be a week-long holiday, and then we can start chipping away on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Of course, the Monday after, it's already a banner day for absenteeism. Holiday creep.

The Retail Version of Holiday Creep

This year we have the controversial Thanksgiving night retail sales, where you have employees, cranberry sauce still staining their chins, trying to perform their sales clerk duties while fighting back the tryptophan-induced lethargy brought on by their turkey over-consumption. 

This sort of retail creep goes back to the '80s. Before then, it was just bad form to start pumping in Christmas music and having sales until after Thanksgiving. But Wal-Mart, Target, other big retailers, began moving their Christmas sales activities forward, creeping toward Halloween, and even earlier.

Now they have gobbled up Thanksgiving itself, and next, they may figure out that if we adopt the European tradition of Christmastime — celebrating the full twelve days of Christmas — they can extend the shopping season into the New Year. Which will lead workers to find reasons to extend their holiday to include the 13th and 14th days of Christmas.

That gets us well into January. Then, they can pop in for a few days of pretending to be productive before taking Friday off for a long Inauguration Day weekend. Oh, hell, why not Thursday, too. Only happens once every four years.


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