Archive for November 25th, 2011

Toys have become commodities instead of playthings. – Beth Copeland Vargo

I’ve mentioned my partiality for Marines before, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that my favorite charity is the USMC Reserve’s Toys for Tots program, which collects toys for needy children.  As I said in last year’s “Yuletide” column:

It’s bad enough being a needy adult at this time of year, but children lack our mature understanding of economics and it’s heartbreaking for them to think they have been forgotten by Santa Claus.  I urge all of my American readers who are financially comfortable to please donate at least one toy this year; even bargain stores such as Big Lots and Dollar Tree have donation bins, so for only a few dollars you can send a little bit of Christmas cheer to those less fortunate, and so experience a little of the joy of giving and help to make a Merry Christmas for some child who cannot control the conditions in which he lives.  Those who prefer not to go near shopping malls during this season can even donate money directly on the website via credit card, donate in memory of a loved one or specify that toys go to American Indian children, many of whom live in some of the most shamefully poor conditions in this country.  Also, if any of my readers chooses to send me a gift from my Amazon wishlist this season, I will make a donation of equal monetary value to the Toys for Tots foundation in your name.  My international readers might also inquire if there is some similar program to benefit needy children in your country.

Giving to a program like Toys for Tots is more important now than ever because it helps us to remember the true meaning of this time of year.  Despite the increasing tendency of retailers to push it back to November 1st, today is the traditional beginning of the Yuletide season in the United States, and has long been among the busiest shopping days of the year.  It’s also the day on which many U.S. retailers finally go “into the black” after running in the red for the previous eleven months; this is one possible origin of the name “Black Friday”, an in-joke among retail managers in Philadelphia since the 1960s which slowly spread across the country in the 1980s and became known to the general public by the late 1990s.  By the turn of the century retailers were referring to their after-Thanksgiving sales as “Black Friday sales” instead, and since then marketing experts have inexorably worked to replace Thanksgiving (a day to give thanks for what we already have) in the public consciousness with the artificial “Black Friday” (a day to go out and buy more).  A few years ago I noticed that much of both spam and legitimate email advertising alike now refer to Thanksgiving Week as “Black Friday Week”, and this year many retailers are beginning their “Black Friday sales” at midnight (and Wal-Mart at 10 PM Thursday), essentially ruining Thanksgiving for those employees who are drafted for the graveyard shift.  Since 2002, the violence associated with the day has also increased, especially at so-called “big box” retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy; this hearkens back to another possible origin of the term “Black Friday”, a negative reference to the massive traffic jams and rude, pushy crowds which characterize it.

Do I need to point out that this is not only insane, but totally contrary to what the Yuletide season is supposed to be about?  I haven’t set foot in a store on the day after Thanksgiving since the late ‘80s; it was the day my family always decorated our Christmas tree, and I’ve continued that tradition.  This afternoon my husband and I will go out into our woods, find a suitable tree and bring it back here to decorate; we’ll play Christmas music and have Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, and tonight we’ll watch one of our favorite Christmas shows.  Readers, why don’t you do the same?  Instead of battling pathetic, deluded “consumers” for a marked-down big-screen TV you don’t really need, stay at home and do your holiday shopping next weekend or even online.  But whenever and however you do it, spare a thought and a little cash for an unfortunate small person, and consider giving a toy or donation to Toys for Tots.

One Year Ago Yesterday

Last year, Thanksgiving fell on the 25th so I noted the column from last Thanksgiving yesterday, thus pushing the column from last November 24th to today.  It’s called “Lying Down With Dogs” and it calls attention to the fact that besides the U.S. and a couple of its client states, every country in which prostitution is criminal is a “totalitarian state, a country only recently emerged from totalitarianism, a theocracy or near-theocracy, a postage stamp, a third-world shithole or some combination of two or more of those categories.”

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