Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Ghost Town

It wasn’t that long ago, was it? I mean, have I really gotten so old that I’m beginning to sound like my father whenever he would say, “I remember when…?” He would then ramble on about how movies were a nickel and that included a jumbo buttered popcorn and super-sized soda with change left over for candy. Nowadays you can’t even pay tax with that nickel.

With a heavy sigh I realize that it’s probably true, and while change itself usually doesn’t bother me, this shift in trends over the past few years has saddened my heart. You see, I remember when holidays were about families being together and Corporate America believed it as well. I know there are some out there who will protest that it still is, but really, it’s not, not by a long shot. The focus has shifted from a Norman Rockwell Christmas feeling to that of Wall Street, and the American consumer has been sucked in with all of the fancy promises of cheaper deals and better bargains. We’ve sacrificed spending time with family for spending money, and it truly is a sad exchange.

However, to quote my father, “I remember when” our city was a ghost town at least two days out of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every store and business would close its doors, so that “our employees may enjoy the holiday with their loved ones.” There was one 7-Eleven out of five that remained open to serve the majority of our town, and the mass shut down usually began Christmas Eve. As we would leave a friend’s open house, we could drive for miles enjoying the Christmas lights and practically be alone on the road. Traffic would slowly dwindle until it was a mere trickle of law enforcement and newspaper carriers left to show the population had not completely vanished. Tumbleweeds should be blowing down deserted streets as families huddle around each other enjoying the miracle of togetherness without rush.

Now, however, except for the amount of trash I have to haul to the road, I can barely tell the difference between Christmas and any other day. To too many people the holidays have become business as usual. The almighty dollar has trumped the family.

The biggest example of the change this year was Black Friday, which got turned into Blacker Thursday. It only gives credence to everyone’s complaint that Thanksgiving is being rushed out the door, so that the merry race of gift purchasing can begin, and really, that’s the reason Thanksgiving gets shafted; there’s no money in giving thanks.

I’m not sure when Black Friday sales came into existence. I could research it, I suppose, and find out, but I’m not getting paid for this post, so if you’re curious I suggest a Google search. Of course, if you do look it up, feel free to forward me the information as I may write a real article on it one day. However, the earliest I remember stores opening was four or five on that particular Friday morning with Door Busting Bargains. I know this because ten years ago Char and I joined the crowd of deal chasers, only we weren’t really chasing deals. As a matter of fact, we rarely buy Christmas presents that morning, but rather decorations and traditional shirts for the kids they never wear with some silly Christmas slogan on it. The reason we first ventured out was because J. C. Penny’s was giving out a small free Mickey Mouse snow globe to the first two hundred people and Char wanted one. We have gotten one every year since, which is how I know how long we’ve been doing it. Four years ago, Teri was dragged out of bed to join us and Sarah was handed her first snow globe by the friendly employee this year at four that morning.

This year, however, Black Friday was shoved forward to nine o’clock Thursday night, so that those who wanted to ditch their family could get a jump on those who refused to leave the coziness of their loved ones. It’s sad, really. Material gain is pushed as the best way to show your love. I have always enjoyed Black Friday excursions, mainly because I love watching people and at four in the morning people can be very interesting. However, I refuse to go out any sooner regardless of how great a bargain I can get. I’m not leaving the warmth of my family for a hot deal on a cold television.

The world – and Wall Street – will survive if we take two whole days off every year. Nothing should be so important that the business world has to open its doors, not even that can of cranberry sauce that is always forgotten. Batteries can wait until December twenty-sixth and gift exchanges can be delayed. Personally, I’d wait to swap that sweater Aunt Gertrude sent until after the New Year because the lines are just as bad as they are on Black Friday.

With so much of Life screaming for our attention, companies demanding you work overtime, football games for the kids, baseball games, all manner of social groups wanting our time and commitment, there is rarely any time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the family that fills our walls. I don’t think it’s asking too much, just two days out of the year. Doesn’t your family deserve at least that much of your time?

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