Thanksgiving is many things to modern Americans, as The Christian Post emphasized in a report about the holiday's origins, which are deeply enrooted in American culture and history. However, Thanksgiving has now been blended with the omnipresent aspects of modern life, such as consumerism.
Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving does not stem from a religious tradition. Although It is a secular holiday, its crucial value has traditionally been the appreciation of family members.
Many critics have been voicing concerns recently that popular culture, and consumerism in particular, has dragged people away from important values during the holiday season. As media across the nation were reporting in recent days, complaints from many consumers as well as store employees have been coming in regarding Black Friday sales.
In Target, a mega-store known for its popular doorbuster deals, over 100,000 employees nationwide voiced their outrage last week about the store's opening hours on Nov. 25.
Target will open its doors on midnight on Thursday instead of 5 a.m. the following day.
Despite protests, the store did not change its policy. Management issued the following statement, as quoted by CBS News:
"We have heard from our guests that they want to shop Target following their Thanksgiving celebrations rather than only having the option of getting up in the middle of the night. By opening at midnight, we are making it easier than ever to deliver on our guests’ wants and needs."
The Target spokesperson also reportedly said that the store would try to work around employees' requests of having Thanksgiving Day off, and that those who end up working will receive holiday pay.
Several other stores are also opening late on Thursday, including Walmart (10 p.m.) and Toys "R" Us (9 p.m.). Macy's is to open its doors at 12 a.m. Friday, the same time as Best Buy. Best Buy employees have also chimed in last week on the subject of working on Thanksgiving.
The issue is controversial, as some commenters have expressed chagrin towards employees, pointing to the economy and that a job should be appreciated, even if the employer makes one work during holidays.
"Yes, because there's nothing worse in a recession than Target giving employees time-&-½ instead of zero," was an example of many Tweets that expressed that view.
On the other hand, many people think that Thanksgiving is the one day in the year that should definitely be spent with family.
"Its so Messed up How Target is making their Employees Work at Midnight on Black Friday... Can I smell greed! People have families and lives," @Euskatel003 commented.
Another Twitter user, @Neilochka, wrote: "I think people are more upset that stores are tempting them to go shopping on Thanksgiving than caring about Target employees"
More Americans will be working this holiday season than ever, according to News 4 Jax, which reported that only 72 percent of Americas will have Thanksgiving off this year, as opposed to 79 percent two years ago.
Meanwhile, churches across the country are offering special Thanksgiving sermons in which pastors are emphasizing the importance of family and the gospel. Many pastors are also using the occasion to criticize the main role consumer culture has taken during the holiday season.
"What if God had more for our kin this Thanksgiving than the Macy's parade, tryptophan-induced naps, and NFL football?" David Mathis, Executive Pastoral Assistant to Pastor John Piper at the Minneapolis-based Bethlehem Baptist Church, asked in a post on the Desiring God blog Tuesday. "What if we saw our gatherings with extended family not as a chance to check out, but as an opportunity for Christian mission?"
Mathis quoted a book by Randy Newman, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well, extracting 10 points which are, in his opinion, of great use to an evangelical family. Some of those points instruct readers to: pray ahead, listen and ask questions, raise the gospel flag early, and take the long view and cultivate patience.
In addition, readers are reminded to: beware the self-righteous older brother in you, tell it slant ("Some extended family contexts may be so far from spiritual that we need to till the soil of conversation before making many direct spiritual claims"), be real about the gospel, consider the conversational context, know your particular family situation, and be hopeful.