Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The pilgrims of Plymouth Rock never could have imagined their harvest celebration would one day become a holiday so squeezed with other activities that the traditional meal itself has become almost an afterthought.
In modern day, the feast competes with road races, movie screenings, football showdowns and the ever-encroaching creep of the Christmas holiday shopping season.
Every year, Black Friday has elbowed its way more into the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, several national retailers aren’t waiting until midnight for the sales to begin.
Some, including Target, plan to start the gift rush at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That has sparked some push-back from disgruntled workers and some who think the move is tarnishing the value of Turkey Day.
The whole thing makes historian Sandra Slater, a professor at the College of Charleston, cringe.
“I don’t think the modern Thanksgiving has any resemblance to the original Thanksgiving. Essentially the meal is the only commonality,” she said.
Target says it’s just giving shoppers what they want. And in fact, an increasing number of shoppers are getting earlier starts on their holiday lists, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation.
Target’s decision to open earlier this year has led to an online petition signed by many expressing concern and sympathy for the store’s employees.
When Target announced its planned hours, a woman going by the name “C Renee” of Corona, Calif., started an online petition that has since collected more than 228,000 signatures urging the retailer to “take the high road and save Thanksgiving.”
Since then, about 40 other similar petitions aimed at other stores have popped up, according to change.org, an online petition platform.
In a statement last week, Target said the “opening time was carefully evaluated with our guests, team and the business in mind. Across the country, team member preferences were considered in creating our store staffing schedules.”
At the root of the problem is money, according to William Danaher, a sociology professor at the College of Charleston.
“People are caught in a web of consumerism,” he said. “Doing things like getting time off for holidays comes secondary to consumerism and selling things.”
Matter of gratitude
Debbie Gupton of Charleston shakes her head at those complaining about working on the holiday. She’s been out of work since October from her job as a retail cashier. She doesn’t see any wrongdoing in Target’s decision to open earlier. She submitted an application to the store in hopes of working there herself.
“Would love to be working on Thanksgiving, or any other day for that matter,” Gupton said.
Gupton would be grateful for a job. Gratitude, though, has lost its meaning in the national holiday, according to Slater. Consumerism has defiled the holiday, she said, and left many Americans wondering what the day even means now.
“What began as a gathering to show gratitude for the harvest has turned the tables into a feeding frenzy of consumerism,” Slater said. “It wasn’t about what they would get after Thanksgiving. It was to celebrate what they already had,” Slater said.
President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Ironically, a portrait of his life is in movie theaters around the country this Thanksgiving.
By Brenda Rindge
and Natalie Caula
Post and Courier
The Associated Press contributed to this report.