Disclaimer #1: I have never shopped Black Friday and have no intention of joining the throngs (hate crowds and typically there are so few real bargains it's not worth it)
Disclaimer #2: I don't think stores "need" to be open on a national holiday like Thanksgiving
Disclaimer #3: Even as a committed shopper, I'm finding the national devotion to the God of Retail disconcerting and would greatly prefer a real "day off" where it wasn't even *possible* to do stuff.
Disclaimer #4: If the stories of employer pressure to work on holidays are true, I deplore that behaviour lock, stock and barrel. OPTING to work on a holiday is one thing; being blackmailed into with the threat of losing your job if you don't is another.
Those out of the way, I admit I'm bemused and baffled by the outrage in some quarters. A program on NPR yesterday featured scores of distraught callers phoning in to discuss the subject (prompting this blog post). A few responses of my own:
1. I was impressed by the Finnish caller to NPR who pointed out that
because this is a non-religious holiday it's the ONLY time that we get a
cross-faith national day off - this is valid, and a great reason to support it as a totally "dark day" holiday. It is not, however, a religious holiday. Nobody is offending anybody else's God by going to work on the 3rd Thursday in November, so please don't preach on that front (many who called in did exactly that.)
2. To the woman who near-tearfully reported the distress of having to rearrange their family dinner to a "thanksgiving brunch" because her (employed) children needed to be at work by 6pm: in some places, a midday meal is traditionally the biggie. Is it really that tough to move it back to 1 or 2 o'clock, still giving guests time to arrive, birds time to cook, and still have time to get to work? Isn't a turkey *lunch* a reasonable compromise? I appreciate this may not be that family's tradition, but it seems such a simple way to have the big family event and let those who need to work do both without really causing that much disruption.
3. Lastly, and perhaps the most personally relevant thought of mine in all of this: many, many people ALWAYS work on holidays. I've accepted contracts where the requirement to work on holidays is
clearly stated from the outset; it's simply part of the job. As a performer, I have had to forego more weddings, dinner parties, holiday celebrations and family occasions than you can imagine. That service you go to on Christmas Eve before heading home to open gifts? The choir has been rehearsing since 4pm - they don't get to have a Christmas Eve celebration unless somebody else is still at home preparing it for them. That Broadway show you go see on Christmas day? Yup, those performers are missing the traditional dinner the rest of their family are enjoying; they can't even get out of town to visit family on a NON holiday. Those musical theater performers strutting down 5th avenue this morning? Yup, that's their JOB. Sure, it's cool to be part of the Macy's Parade, but I'll bet some of those Rockettes would rather be at home in their jammies drinking mimosas and watching it on TV than freezing their elegant legs off on a float.
This is of course, not limited to performers. Doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, journalists ... there are plenty of people out there for whom working on holidays is a way of life. As you sit down with your family to eat your turkey, think of ALL the people who have chosen a way of life that often involves working while everybody else celebrates. Raise your glass, give them a nod of thanks and save the last piece of pie for them to eat when they get home later. I can assure you they'll be grateful that their family understood their dilemma and didn't lay on the guilt and make it even harder for them to do their job when much of the country was "on holiday".
Wishing you all the finest of days - no matter how or with whom you're spending your Thanksgiving, the shared experience of reflecting on what we do have instead of what we don't is a worthy national activity.