The darkness of Black Friday

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There is nothing “black” about Christmas. So, why do we kick off the Christmas season in darkness?

It used to be that Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday of the year. It was a day of rest, and a day spent with family enjoying a great meal and good conversation. It was an opportunity for everyone gathered around the table to describe specific reasons for their grateful hearts.

Thanksgiving is one day a year that we are supposed to express gratitude for everything we have. We should be grateful daily. But this ONE single day was set apart for an entire nation to pause and reflect.

In 1789, George Washington considered it “the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

So, he directed that Nov. 26 be “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

The full proclamation can be read at

So, what happened? Why has Thanksgiving – and especially the day after – been overrun with greed and materialism?

Darkness descends

Macy’s was the first big-name store to capitalize on the day by promoting post-Thanksgiving sales in 1924.

The day after Christmas in 1941, just 19 days after America was attacked at Pearl Harbor, Congress officially moved Thanksgiving from Nov. 26, where it would fall on a different day every year, to the fourth Thursday of November.

That gave people the impetus to take the following day off to create a very long weekend.

So, what should you do the day after enjoying paid time off to give thanks for all you already possess? Well, if you’re an American, you go out in droves to accumulate more material possessions.

The term “Black Friday” was actually coined by police officers in Philadelphia in the 1950s who were forced to work overtime to bring control to the throngs of people descending upon the city for shopping and the annual Army-Navy football game.

At the time, retailers were offended by the phrase, as they should be. The merchants preferred the term “Big Friday” instead.

But, Black Friday entered the popular domain after advertisements began using the term to promote after-Thanksgiving sales in the mid-1960s.

And we’ve been stuck with the darkness of Black Friday ever since.

Getting darker

Except that it is getting worse. We no longer have to endure just Black Friday shopping. We have to endure weeks of “pre-Black Friday sales” and many stores now open their doors on Thanksgiving Day.

The first Saturday after Thanksgiving is referred to as Small Business Saturday.

Apparently, the goal is to spend wildly at big box stores on Friday, then patronize local small business on Saturday. Then, after one more day of retail shopping, people go deeply in debt buying more things online during what is referred to as Cyber Monday.

That makes four days of near continuous shopping.

Cyber Monday was coined because after being paid to enjoy Thanksgiving, and after taking the next day off to celebrate Black Friday, when people returned to work the next week, the shopping continued.

To show appreciation for the paid time off, workers used their employers’ computers and high-speed internet connections to shop online while paid to “work.”

Materialism is out-of-control.

Today, news reports describe the chaos of people being arrested and even injured fighting with others on Black Friday just to buy more stuff to give away on Christmas.

Yet, retailers say that 10 percent of all merchandise returns for an entire year takes place within 24 hours after Christmas as ungrateful people rush back to stores to return the things they didn’t like so they could accumulate more stuff they don’t need.

Remembering the reason

Christmas has always been my least favorite holiday of the year.

Growing up as a child in a single-parent home, I was usually shuttled between two or more families – and always required to deliver disparaging messages from one parent to the other.

Money was very tight and I hated keeping quiet as other kids showed off their new clothes or new toys and boasted about the amount of money they received for Christmas. I began to despise the materialism.

Today, I’d enjoy a tooth extraction without Novocain much more than I would rather endure another Christmas holiday.

Perhaps we need a reminder about why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

It’s a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s own son, who came to live on earth to show people how to truly live life to the full. Eventually, he was put to death for the things he said and did. But, because he had done nothing to deserve that condemnation, his death paved the way for us to enjoy eternal life.

That’s why tying Christmas to hyper-aggressive merchandising is an absolute perversion in regard to the reason for the season.

The prophet Isaiah once predicted that when Messiah (God’s anointed son) arrived on earth, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

So, Christ came to bring light to a dark world.

Black Friday, by its very name, seeks to dampen that light by bringing the darkness of materialism into Christmas.

What should we do?

Personally, I avoid Black Friday like I avoid the flu. I don’t go near shopping centers and I refuse to buy things promoted by email on Thanksgiving and the day after.

I also stopped giving trinkets as presents on Christmas, opting instead to invest in experiences that will live on long after the trinkets have been lost or destroyed.

If we want to bring the joy of Christmas back to our lives, the fastest way to do so is by keeping credit cards in a wallet, and opening our hearts instead.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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  1. I always thought the the term, “Black Friday” referred to the retailers finally selling enough inventory to have their financials be “in the black” or profitable.

    1. That was also listed as one of the sources for the term. But, it came into being about a decade after the police officers nicknamed the day. It’s sad to consider working nearly 11 months before you can turn a profit. I certainly hope that wasn’t the case for the small business merchants.


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