Thanksgiving is the only holiday that Americans of all religions can share, because it isn’t a religious holiday, although one can celebrate it as such if you choose. It is also the one holiday that many Americans gather as extended families. It is the only holiday on which I see my brother and sister and their families, along with my own children and their significant others.
But what if you have to work on Thanksgiving? More and more retailers, not content with the immense profits they make on so-called “Black Friday,” are opening on Thanksgiving. You and I can choose not to shop on Thanksgiving, but the workers in these stores won’t have that choice. Yesterday I received a letter from a UCC colleague in which she addressed this issue. I have asked her if I can share it on this blog, and she has given me permission:
While driving down the road and listening to WBZ the other day, I heard a story from the consumer reporter. The reporter said that this year we will have a record number of retailers open on Thanksgiving…”no longer do we have Black Friday but now we will have Black Thursday.” This has just irritated me to no end. Yesterday, I asked the members of my congregation to send letters to our local retailers letting them know that Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, spend time with our families and reflect upon the goodness of life and the bounty of our earth. Thanksgiving is not a time to shop. I asked my congregation to consider all of the people who will not be able to spend time with their children and families because Macy’s, Walmart, J.C.Penney’s, Target ( just to name a few) will be requiring their workers to be on the job. Jesus calls us to be disciples and to speak up and be people of faith. Therefore, I am asking all of you to consider joining me and my congregation in writing letters to retailers to politely let them know that you will not be shopping on Thanksgiving, instead you will be giving thanks with your family and friends. Please invite them to honor this holiday by doing the same. We have lost Sundays to soccer, football, basketball etc……let’s not simply stand by and let Thanksgiving become another casualty.
First Congregational Church
Victoria’s got it just right, that it will take pressure from consumers to keep us from losing this holiday to the idol of consumerism. Let’s push back.
(Photo: R.L. Floyd, who also cooked the turkey)
There are a lot of other reasons a person might not spend Thanksgiving with their family – they may live too far away, especially to make a trip for both Thanksgiving AND Christmas, may not have the money for expensive holiday flights, or may have to work on Wednesday or Friday around the holiday and not have time for such a round trip (I don’t hear anyone preaching and wailing that we must all observe those adjacent days as sacred so that EVERYONE can spend the holiday with their loved ones). They might be estranged from their families. It might be painful to see everyone around them celebrating togetherness when they are alone. It might be a RELIEF to some people to have work to do, or have businesses open that they may go to rather than spend the day completely alone doing nothing. As long as the employees get a bonus pay rate for working on the holiday, and have the option (perhaps very far in advance) to opt out of the day (or any day), I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business to put a blanket demand on all people and businesses to observe a holiday the way YOU think is best. That’s self-righteous, and what I love about the UCC is we are NOT a church that imposes one way of thinking or behaving on our neighbors.
Hi Kristen. I take your point that some might choose not to be with their families or might be prevented in some other way from doing so. But my point was that retail employees will not have that choice. One report I read said retailers have told their employees, “don’t even think about asking for the day off.” And this post was my own opinion (and pastor Victoria’s), and not the UCC’s. It represents no official policy of the denomination. I wrote it on October 22 here on my personal bog, and the UCC reposted it today on their Facebook page, I’m assuming as one of the many and varied voices in the UCC. One voice that folks are free to disagree with, as you have done. Thank you for your comment.
Ha! We do NOT have the option to “opt out!” We also don’t have the option to opt out of a mandatory 13 hour work day on Black Friday. A “relief” for some people to shop at the expense of a couple of hundred people at a store having to work when most of the WOULD like to be with their families? You talk about self-righteousness. What about selfishness?
If anyone is looking for “relief” from traditional Thanksgiving activities, then for the love of God [literally], go volunteer to serve meals to the homeless–but don’t suggest working in retail as a diversion. With all due respects, Kristen–you seem too far from the real world of retail to comment on current work conditions in the industry. As another poster said–NO ONE gets Thanksgiving or Black Friday off. So the majority of people who actually DO have somewhere to go to be with family they wouldn’t see in one place at any other time, have to choose between a day of celebration or keeping their job. This is not an exaggeration.