Growing up poor, I didn’t understand Black Friday. In fact, when my editor at the Georgetown Times assigned me the traditional Black Friday write up, I looked up at him and in all honesty asked:
“What is Black Friday?”
He looked at me incredulously, “You never heard of Black Friday?”
I never shied away from asking questions about something I didn’t understand. As a journalism student and newspaper reporter at 23 years old, I answered honestly, “No.”
I may have heard of the day, but didn’t remember what it was all about.
He explained the tradition of the biggest shopping day of the Christmas season. I took my camera to the local stores early Friday, Nov. 23, 1990. The crowds swarmed, and the clerks looked tired at the local Belk store, which had been open since 6 a.m. Shoppers demanded boots, sweaters and great deals.
One shopper told me it was fun, but sometimes people were rude to each other trying to get the last item on the shelf.
As my understanding of Black Friday grew, I hated it more and more. People rushing to grab up the best deal on a sweater? Stuff, stuff, buying, buying and pushing at each other to grab the last sweater? I remember hearing my alarm and thinking, “This is the spirit of Christmas?”
I know you probably think I am not truthful when I say I honestly hadn’t heard of Black Friday before that day in 1990, but it is true. I grew up in poverty. There were years when the toys and gifts under our Christmas tree were scarce. My family even celebrated one year without a Christmas tree.
My parents never signed up for the Salvation Army toy drives or for charity. We just did without.
My siblings and I made Christmas memorable in other ways, like the year we turned the Christmas cards that we got in the mail from our relatives into ornaments. We stuck them in the branches and made a garland of them. We also strung popcorn for the tree and colored the kernels with crayons while listening to Christmas music on the radio.
One year, we made Christmas presents for each other: homemade books. We received cheap toys like fake Barbies. My sister and I made our own dream house out of a book shelf we decorated by coloring pictures on the wall and finding scrap bits of carpet. We transformed a shoe box into a bed and wash cloths into our doll dresses.
In my teen years, I had a job. I still had not learned about Black Friday, even then. I just went shopping. I bought shoes for my younger brother, a shirt for my older brother, more Barbie-like dolls for my sister, a used Erma Bombeck book for my mom and a watch for my dad. I selected each gift with care and out of love. I didn’t storm the store aisles trying to find the best deal.
Years after first learning about Black Friday, I still hate it, especially when I hear that people die trying to beat others to the best deals in stores every year. My daughter wants to shop this year, but I am trying to dissuade her. It just is not safe and really does not align with my values and beliefs about Christmas.
Christmas is about love and the birth of a man who stood for love and purity. I believe He is my God, but I respect those who disagree with me. I will wish them Happy Holidays full of love and joy. To me though, Jesus came to set an example for the salvation of the world: “Greater love hath no Man than to give His life for friends.” That, to me, is the greatest gift of all.
Punching each other out to get the last pair of boots on the Belk shelf or spraying mace into another woman’s eyes to get that last television at Walmart is not what Christmas is about to me. I will buy gifts, but I continue to strive to select each one with care, choosing them because they are meaningful and thoughtful or because they meet a need.