Mulling on Black Friday

2014_Black_Friday_SnowHere’s the view off my back deck. So pretty!

I have nothing very Regency for you today, except the thought that while Christmas is mentioned in many (all?) of Jane Austen’s novels, I can’t recall any mention of buying presents. Not having written a Christmas Regency, I haven’t done any intense research into the subject, but most of what I’ve read seems to revolve around food and parlor games.

unplugIf I had my way, that’s how it would still be. This whole idea of a mad rush of shopping from Black Friday to Christmas gives me the hives. I’m a firm believer in the concept of Unplug the Christmas Machine, a program for reclaiming the warmth and meaning of Christmas or any other holiday.

I’m not that excited about buying presents, maybe because I’m ambivalent about receiving them. I don’t want New Stuff when I have Old Stuff that works. I do like to get more books, music and the occasional bit of jewelry, but most people don’t know my taste well enough to choose what I’d really like. I’d rather just treat myself occasionally. So I worry about whether I’m choosing the right thing for others. That’s why in my family we use lists. But I’m fine with the idea that we could give gifts to the children and as adults, just enjoy the other parts of the holiday season.

I’m not seriously opposed to Black Friday. If any of you went out early or are out there now, I hope you were/are warm and safe and having a good time. But it is not my thing. I sometimes enjoy shopping, I’m enough of an introvert to prefer to do it when the stores aren’t too busy. In response to those ads encouraging me to “win” Black Friday, sorry, I don’t want to play.

As for shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself, I won’t do it. I believe store employees should have the day off to be with their families, if that is what they want.

But perhaps for some people, the prospect of spending a whole day with family is the very reason they’re eager to get out and shop. I get that. Some families are nothing like the ones shown in holiday advertising. Sometimes you need to get away. Personally I’m inclined to look for better solutions: ways to cope with family such as meditation or taking a walk, adapting traditions that don’t work well, finding other people to be with or spending the time volunteering.

Which makes me think a lot about holiday advertising. Commercials show those perfect-seeming families and at the same time, urge everyone to show their love—or distract themselves from the lack thereof—by spending more time in stores or online.

Is it messed up? What do you think?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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6 Responses to Mulling on Black Friday

  1. I agree with all your sentiments, Elena. Whether you’re religious or not, the whole idea of the holidays is supposed to be about spending time with loved ones, caring for others, and reflecting on the things for which we are thankful. There is enough consumerism in our faces all year ’round. Do we really need it to be the focus at Thanksgiving and Christmas or any other holiday we celebrate?

    • Elena Greene says:

      That’s an interesting thought, Laura, that holidays should be LESS about the consumerism. I don’t see it happening anytime soon, though. It’s not just about the businesses pushing it–it takes consumers who are willing to do things like skip out on Thanksgiving Day to shop. I think they probably rationalize that they love their families and want to give them bigger gifts than they could normally afford. Sigh….

  2. I agree completely, Elena. I worked yesterday from 2 PM to 10 PM which made it impossible for me to travel to be with my family for Thanksgiving Dinner. Walmart paid me to stand next to a display of laptop computers from 2 until 8, simply stand there. I did help customers locate where other items might be found and what time they would be on sale. My coworkers and I had a few laughs at some of the shoppers’ clothing choices. At 8 those shoppers who lined up for the item I was in charge of were polite, took their item and moved on. People were packed in the store at that point. An evening they could have spent with their families – playing board games, watching movies, decorating Christmas trees or doing any of a number of worthwhile things. By 10 PM they were irritated, standing in line, tired and feeling very pressured about the impending holidays. If ever there was a useless endeavor, I am afraid I consider Black Thursday/Friday to be it.

    • Elena Greene says:

      So sorry you couldn’t be with your family, Louisa. I hope things change, at least for you personally. It makes me sad that so many conform to the pressure and allow themselves to be miserable over the holidays rather than enjoy them.

      At my church we’ve done internal “Unplug the Christmas Machine” workshops but have also talked about organizing an event for the public. This madness needs a counter-movement.

  3. librarypat says:

    I tried the Black Friday craziness one year just to see what I was missing. Nothing. Lots of rude people buying things they really don’t need and probably can’t afford. Growing up, our family had six children and didn’t didn’t have much. With a family that size , a couple presents for each person filled the space under the tree. It was always more about time with family than the presents which were usually practical things we needed.
    I shop all year long for things for our family. I always wonder when I hear how much the average family spends on gifts for the holidays. They certainly aren’t looking at us. I doubt I spend on the whole family what they claim is average for one person. I will plead guilty to getting carried away with the grandchildren this year.
    I like to give little gifts all year long “just because” rather than over do once a year. I would like to see a bit more emphasis on spending quality time together with friends and family and keeping that feeling all year long.

    • Elena Greene says:

      Pat, we keep it modest that way, too. I’m not sure that we actually spend less than others. Maybe, but it could also be that we buy things we need when we need them or perhaps stock up ahead if on sale. Conversely, I’ve heard of people who will wrap ordinary items, like socks, to put under the tree to make for a bigger display. As a child, I was always disappointed by practical gifts, so my girls get socks when they need them, not as a gift (unless they are funny, fuzzy, have cats or Star Trek logos or something like that).

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