I recently read that 42 percent of Americans join the annual tradition of Black Friday, flooding malls and big-box stores to get a jump on the holiday shopping season. Many start well before the sun rises, standing in lines to take advantage of special deals for early risers.
I don’t exactly remember when the term “Black Friday” entered the American vernacular, but it wasn’t long ago. Now, it’s heard as often as other words that enjoy a much longer tradition — words like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We now have an entire season devoted to consumerism. With Halloween having become a $6 billion industry in its own right, this season now lasts a full calendar quarter, meaning that one day in four of each year we’re celebrating a prolonged “holiday” dedicated to buying stuff.
Don’t get me wrong. Nothing is more American than commerce. Free markets are terrific. But this annual ritual devoted to spending money has no spiritual significance. It doesn’t edify our spirits, or tell us about what it means to be human. It’s about wants, not needs. It’s a commercial exercise, and no more.
I’ve written in this space before about the cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” So forgive me if what you’re about to read looks familiar, but it always provides a gentle reminder of what this season is really about.
You may recall that in the cartoon, Charlie Brown is mocked by his friends for bringing them a scrawny Christmas tree. Thoroughly defeated, he yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
“Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” says Linus. He silently walks to the middle of a stage, and says: “ ‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone ‘round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.” ’ ”
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book, “The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care.”