Say what you will, but the day after Thanksgiving in America has turned into a holiday in its own right – or perhaps it’s really an “unholiday.” The word “holiday,” after all, comes from “holy day,” and whether you think of holidays in the original sense or in the more contemporary fashion of days of rest and relaxation, the aptly-named Black Friday counts as neither. Each year, millions of Americans flock to stores to buy a wide assortment of goods at sharply reduced prices, and the siren’s call of saving money is sufficient motive for stampedes, fighting, and all sorts of violence. It’s almost enough to make you forget everything for which you were thankful the day before.
As we prepare for another round of Black Friday shopping, I invite you to consider a few ways to maintain your sanity on what is arguably the most hectic day of the year.
1. Remember where your identity truly rests.
A 2007 release from the American Association of Advertising Agencies states the average American may encounter up to 600-625 advertisements in a single day. If anything, the number would only increase around the Christmas shopping season, beginning with Black Friday ads. The Powers That Be want your primary sense of self to be a consumer. They want us to think of ourselves as “the guy with the 55-inch television” or “the woman with the latest fashions.” In our materialistic age, Christians must take special care not to subscribe to such thinking. Even though we have to buy things to survive, our identity isn’t shaped by what we have (or don’t have). We’re first and foremost children of the living God, purchased by the blood of Christ. When we rest in our true identities as Christians, we can be confident in rejecting the consumerism and false identities promoted by Black Friday.
2. Keep a proper Christian anthropology.
The evening news on Black Friday is always full of horror stories. It’s sadly indicative of American culture that people will be killed, often trampled to death by the crowds, in our lust to purchase cheap goods. It would be easy for us to let those reports make us think less of our fellow human beings. This is exactly what Christians can’t do. Each shopper is still made in the image of God, the imago Dei. Each person is loved by the same God who loves us, and they are loved to the same degree. We can’t let ourselves get discouraged or become unloving toward our fellows because of their Black Friday antics.
It’s important to recognize the need of humans for rest, too. Thanksgiving was once a day of sabbath – until stores decided to begin Black Friday sales a day early. Consider granting rest to others by shopping at stores which will be closed on Thanksgiving Day or even on Black Friday.
3. Give thanks.
How crazy is it that the number one day of the year for getting more stuff is the day immediately after the one we set aside to be thankful for what we already have? Somehow giving more than cursory thanks has become a thing of the past, replaced by Black Friday shopping. We may say grace over our turkey dinner, but then we immediately fail to be grace to others, handing out jabs to the ribs and black eyes to get what we want. Take time to remember the promises of God, promises which he is always faithful to fulfill. Sing hymns of thanksgiving. Attend a eucharist service. Instead of trying to gain all you can, be thankful for that which was given.
4. Practice sound financial stewardship throughout the year.
The only reason people show up in droves on Black Friday is the lure of saving money. To be fair, it’s important to be good stewards of the blessings of God, financial blessings included. If your sanctification takes a hit from Black Friday, however, perhaps you should look into other ways to save extra money throughout the year. As an example, if you decided to spend just one dollar less each of the other 364 days of the year, you’ll save $364. That’s just as much (or more) than you’d save on Black Friday.
5. If all else fails, opt out.
Sometimes you just have to say no. At the end of the day, the people receiving the items you purchased on Black Friday won’t care how much money you saved or spent. They will, however, care about the love behind the gift. They’ll care about how much time you devote to them over the Thanksgiving holiday instead of standing in line at the store for six hours. The best thing for your relationships with your family and friends, with God, and with yourself may be to simply sleep in on Friday morning and spend the day with those you love.