For the 15-year-old me, Thanksgiving is not a well-decorated turkey, plump pumpkins or apple pies. Waking up in my mom’s rental car alone and covering myself with the brand-new jacket bought an hour ago, I stuffed my mouth with cold, artificially flavored cookies, craving for nothing but a soft bed and the company of my parents.
It was during the Thanksgiving break of 2015, a year of changes, uncertainties and challenges for me. After living with my parents in China for the first 15 years of my life, I was now living in a different country and everything I faced was exciting, foreign and even scary. I struggled through the first two months of transformations and adjustments, and I needed some time and get away from the stress of school, new studying styles and a lonely life without my parents.
To comfort my exhausted self, my mom left the warm city of Shenzhen near the Southern China Sea and endured the 16 hour flight and came all the way down to Connecticut, where my brother was going to school and where we would eventually meet as a family again.
My mom decided that my brother and I needed some good quality sweatshirts and jackets to make it over the harsh weather of Connecticut’s fall and planned a visit to the Woodbury Outlet, a well-known shopping center located around a three hour drive from my brother’s school.
Nevertheless, my mother also made a few promises to visit our family friends, who, welcoming her from her long travel, kept us at their house for a few hours longer than we had originally planned. It was around 11:15 p.m.—still technically the day of Thanksgiving—when we finally stepped out of her friend’s house. That was also when we made the very wrong decision to head straight to Woodbury Outlet. It was 45 minutes until Black Friday.
The rest of that evening made me feel like Dorothy waking up in the Kingdom of Oz. I’ve never seen a crowd of people with such impressive enthusiasm at 2 a.m. towards a common goal. I’ve also never been the type of person who stands in line for 30 minutes in 35 degree weather just to get into a store.
The last thing I remember was climbing up to the sixth level of the parking garage to get to my car because the elevator was out of order. I can’t remember if I woke up because of hunger or cold, but I do remember the darkness in the parking garage and the few dull, gloomy street lights, and how I wanted to be in my warm living room, where my family usually sits around our table and enjoys dinner.
Two days after Black Friday, I went back to Dallas with a stuffed nose, severe cold and a new jacket. The after-effect of this shopping experience, however, leaves me with nothing but doubt. I started to doubt others when I saw the lovely, colorful commercials advertising 50 percent off deals during Black Friday; I started to doubt my mom when I heard her talking about how she “went to a fancy outlet with three kids and still had fun as a family,” and eventually, I started to doubt myself when I found myself facing another upcoming Black Friday. Is it all true? Is Black Friday really that enjoyable?
“Yes,” some might say. It is a good time for people to sell things, it helps the shop owners make money and it helps the customers save money.
But is it?
In order to answer this question, we have to understand what Thanksgiving’s main idea is: we must know what this holiday means to us. Thanksgiving is not Christmas in which gift-giving takes the most attention. Thanksgiving calls to help others in need, and it means reunion, appreciation and most importantly, family.
So why would we pull commercial elements into this holiday? Why should we insist on buying endless products just because they are discounted on the so-called Black Friday sales? Why should we force sales people to work when everyone else is enjoying a warm meal and time with their family? Most importantly, what should we expect when we know that money will never replace the Thanksgiving spirit and our desires of satisfaction will never cease no matter how much we overdraw our bank accounts?
Are the customers happy? They might be. But are they happy when leaving their warm houses after the Thanksgiving dinner on a frenzy? Are they still going to be happy when they calm down from the ecstasy of shopping to find out that few of the things they stuffed in their trunks are actually useful?
Is Black Friday actually worth it then? The answer has already been revealed.
Emily Wu – Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Flickr