Descriptive Essay on Black Friday: The Powerful Day that Divides and Unites


Black Friday is undoubtedly the craziest (shopping) day of the year in the United States; a day when massive retail sales bring out some of the worst character traits.

Black Friday

We’ve all heard the tales of adults grabbing items from the arms of children, babies being left unattended, crying in the shops surrounded by hordes of people but no parent in sight. And of course, the horror stories of people being trampled, and seriously injured (seven reported deaths and 98 injuries since 2006), as would-be shoppers force their way into the stores (all before the sun has come up and Thanksgiving leftovers have been put away).

(and not to be outdone, online retailers quickly follow suit with a crazed sale of their own; Cyber Monday).

Can it really bring out the good in human spirit?

What is Black Friday?

The modern Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade kicked off in 1924, and since then, the Friday after Thanksgiving has become known as the start of the holiday season. Decorations are dusted off, evergreen trees take their places in living rooms around the nation, and of course, shopping begins.

The term Black Friday was introduced in th

e 1960s, although not as an official holiday (though since most people don’t work or go to school the day before, many people do take the Friday off and create a four-day weekend. Well, if you aren’t in retail, that is).

Official records from 2005 have marked this day as the most profitable day for retailers. As a note, the term “black” refers to stores moving from the “red”, running at a loss, to the “black”, becoming profitable, and likely refers to hand-kept accounting records which used red ink to indicate loss, and black to denote profit in the books.
The day, ironically, falls the day after Thanksgiving (you know, the day dedicated to spending time with friends and family, giving thanks for what we have). Despite this, the very next day, and in the case of a few retailers the same day, many head out the door before dawn, into cold and sometimes snow, to stock up on material possessions that they were perfectly happy without the day before.

Seems nonsensical.

Of course, stores exacerbate the issue.

Shop owners, literally overnight, discard the browns, gold and orange hues, toss aside the signs of Thanksgiving and happy-faced scarecrows and replace with red, white, and green tinsel, tempting candy canes, and oversized nutcrackers.

So it seems fitting, if illogical, that the next holiday season kicks off with a blast on the scale of Black Friday. A sale so massive that there are typically a few items marked so low that the retailer makes little, or no, profit on those items.

If the day after Thanksgiving was already, at least as a society, recognized as the first “unofficial” day of Christmas shopping, aren’t we the instigators of Black Friday craziness? Did we not create it, just as Victor Frankenstein created his creature?

Some people, so completely disgusted, choose to throw away the season entirely, scratch it off as commercialism at its worst and throw the baby out with the bathwater, discarding any goodness that could come from a season which should be ushered in with joy.

You would be forgiven if you did. In 2012, Walmart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day; sadness at its best and desperation at its worst.

But do we need to shame Black Friday, disregard the December holidays; the presents, decorations, and the cards?

Can they not be embraced without the chaos; without affecting our inner nature? Is there a goodness of the human spirit in this?

Christmas, like Thanksgiving, is a holiday that has best intentions at heart (regardless of historical accuracy, or religious affiliation the modern purpose is meant to bring friends, family, and even strangers to one communal table; to break the proverbial bread together, and to share love.

Gifts, no matter how large or small, expensive or affordable are welcomed, not because of the price tag, but because it expresses the thoughts of, “I care for you, I thought of you; this gift is for you”.

Whether bought at a discounted price or not is irrelevant.

Honestly: how many of us are struggling financially? According to CNN, 76 million Americans are battling or only just getting by; that’s 31% of adults.

The same article says that 46% of Americans would be unable to make an additional $400 payment and that in an emergency they would be left with no choice but to borrow the money or sell something they own.

So suddenly, a month shy of arguably of the busiest season of the year, single moms, hard-working dads, loved aunts, uncles and grandparents are faced with the realization that a gift giving occasion is just around the corner.

And so enters Black Friday. A saving grace of shoppers everywhere. Yes, it is materialistic, and brings out characteristics, in some, that embarrass us as a nation. But it offers a stark peak into the human nature of others.

A struggling parent could perhaps be forgiven for leaving the house in the early morning hours just to ensure that their family has something under their tree. Heck, that they may even have a tree at all. A friend or family member braves the cold, the push of shoppers, the arrogance and the aggressiveness because for them, the discount is what makes it possible to buy a gift at all.

Maybe you have been there, part of almost 50% of Americans who face the reality of struggling this time of year. Maybe you haven’t.

So yes, it’s a day that can be, and sometimes is, associated with ugliness, and frankly, often rightfully so. But with an estimated 137 million Americans shopping this past Black Friday (which fell on 25 November 2016), the percentage of distressing stories is low.

Also See: Best Black Friday Deals

In amongst them are hidden gems of single parents who want to take care of their family. Who long to continue traditions of carefully hung stockings, the excitement of Christmas morning, brightly colored paper that crunches as it is unwrapped, happy, lit-up children’s faces.

What is under the tree is so much less important than the spirit in which it given, gotten, and received. Black Friday is a powerful day; whether it unites or divides rests on your shoulders. Remember the true human spirit this season.

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