Black Friday Wins

Resistance is futile. We have been assimilated.

No, it is not Star Trek‘s Borg that have conquered, it is American culture. Although culture is probably too high-brow a word to describe Black Friday.

It is a peculiarly American festival, an orgy of consumerism that falls the day after American Thanksgiving. Call it the Protestant version of Mardi Gras. Instead of being a festival that precedes a time of fasting and abstinence it is a signal of the beginning of a time of overindulgence in material things.

When I grabbed my morning newspaper from the mailbox yesterday, the first thing that struck me was its weight. Newspapers are in decline in this electronic age and papers are shrinking. This one weighed at least a pound more than it should have.

Turns out there was no more news fit to print than usual. What gave the publication heft was store flyers from about 20 different establishments advertising their Black Friday sales. Lots of great bargains, if you can believe the advertising.

If you weren’t aware of it, Black Friday is the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday. Traditionally it is the day when retailers hope to begin to see a profit for the year. All sales up to this time covered expenses. Any profit has to be realized during the last month of the year, the Christmas season. But Christmas itself isn’t enough to stimulate sales, so on Black Friday US retailers mark down products in the hopes of luring in consumers. It has become immensely popular and wildly successful.

However, there is no reason for Black Friday sales in Canada. Except for the fact that American culture has crossed the border and managed a stranglehold on our Canadian identity. We have been invaded.

Thanksgiving in Canada comes in October. It is tied to the harvest (like its American equivalent) and our harvest is earlier since we are farther north. Not to mention that the weather here is better in October. Who wants a holiday when it is snowing, like it was in Ottawa yesterday?

While our Thanksgiving is fixed on the second Monday of October, the Americans celebrate the fourth Thursday of November. It has become custom for companies to give employees the Friday off work also, or people take it as a holiday, giving most people a four-day weekend. Those are pretty rare, and the response is to shop. Supposedly the best sales of the year are found on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

In Canada yesterday was not a holiday. Today is a normal weekday. But that hasn’t stopped retailers from seizing the opportunity to capitalize on all the American publicity. Though given that we are all at work today, most Canadians will restrict their Black Friday shopping to online purchases. Which is technically supposed to wait for next Monday, which has been dubbed Cyber Monday. (And don’t forget next Tuesday, Giving Tuesday, where you can assuage some of the guilt you feel after your Friday and Monday excesses.)

So today at least, Canada has become a retail colony of the United States, and we will all join together at the altar of consumerism. If it were only a one-day thing I suppose I wouldn’t be all that concerned, but each year the worship seems to expand. Black Friday sales have been advertised here for a couple of weeks already.

We have been assimilated. Resistance is futile.

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