Black Friday Madness

Okay, call me Scrooge, call me old fashioned, call me  a stick in the mud, but I simply don't get it. When and why did the holiday season become this frenzied, maniacal rush to buy things at the cheapest possible price?

The lead story on our local news was actually about people camping out all night in tents at the entrance to Best Buy, hoping to get in on the rock bottom Black Friday sale prices on all the latest and greatest electronic stuff.  Meanwhile, not five miles down the road, there were scores of homeless people who would consider themselves lucky to have the tent those folks were lounging in, much less the big screen tv they were all hepped up about buying.

I just don't get it.

"It's fun," one shopper who had been out hitting the malls since 4:00 a.m. was quoted as saying.  "We start out earlier every year, and see how long we can go.  It's fun to try and get the best deals.  It's a tradition."

Well, at least I'm comforted to know she values tradition.

Forgive me, but I think these folks are all absolute nutters.  Can they find no better use for their time and money?  And have they no sense at all about the true meaning of this holiday (if there is one left anymore).  Could any one of those folks so avidly searching for the latest video game or robot toy or perfect sweater for Aunt Sue and Uncle Bob stop and tell me how their frantic searching for cheap merchandise has anything to do with the birth of Christ?

Really, at the risk of sounding pious, it just seems sadly ridiculous that a holiday intended to celebrate the birth of a man the Christian world believes to be their Savior, a man who dedicated his simple life to the belief that mankind should live in peace and harmony with one another, and that true happiness could be found in doing good for others, that this holiday could become a paen to materialism and excess.

I have to admit, part of me feels a bit unpatriotic for my anti-shopping attitude.  The sad truth is that our American economy is counting on a  big shot in the arm from Christmas retail sales.  I certainly have every reason to hope the economy improves...but still, does it have to be at the expense of the true meaning of the season?

Forgive the ranting but all this shopping mania makes me hopping mad.  I've spent the entire bloody weekend trying to avert my eyes from the newspapers and tv commercials and internet ads proclaiming the greatest bargains of the year and rock bottom door buster prices.   I've been forced to spend my time reading, going for walks, listening to music, and of course eating some very good food. 

Poor me. (wink)

I will eventually have to go shopping, however, to purchase gifts to place under the Giving Tree at our church.  Gifts like hooded sweatshirts, warm hats, socks, and gloves, soap and shampoo, and children's books.  These will be given to some other folks who camp out on the streets of Detroit every day, not just on Black Friday, because they have neither a wide screen tv nor a home to put it in.  Small and simple gifts, but it seems to me they come a little closer to expressing what this holiday is all about.

UPDATE: As an antidote to all this madness, I've just joined the Advent Conspiracy, a group which urges people to focus on compassion not consumption during the Christmas season.   It encourages us to spend less on gifts, and spend more  time with our families and in activities that help other people.  Sounds like a good idea to me.