We should have listened to RooseveltMaybe FDR had it right. Long after the pilgrims had celebrated their first Thanksgiving and decades after Abraham Lincoln made it a holiday to be observed on the last Thursday of every November, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt answered the appeals of retailers distressed by an ongoing depression and moved it to the third Thursday. After outcries from Congress and others, a compromise was reached to celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday, giving businesses a bit more time to attract holiday sales. If the change hadn't been made in the first place, we'd celebrate Thanksgiving a week later this year, on Nov. 29, which would really upset the retail sector that had won Roosevelt's ear.
But would it matter? Costco and other large stores have been selling Christmas decorations for more than a month. Macy's had holiday greenery on its walls before Halloween. Now comes word from the Stoneridge Shopping Center that it will open its doors at midnight next Thursday night, barely giving its employees time to gobble down the turkey before heading off to work. Walmart, Sears and Toys R Us will start their "Black Friday" sales at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, marking a change for Sears, which stayed closed Thanksgiving Day last year. Some will keep Black Friday on the day itself, but barely. Best Buy and Kohl's will open at midnight, Target at 4 a.m. K-Mart won't even wait for the holiday. It plans to stay open all day on Thanksgiving.
Some retailers, such as Staples, are holding Black Friday sales all week starting Sunday. "Sale" signs cover the windows of retailers in downtown Pleasanton already as Black Friday sales creep further into Thanksgiving Day. But who can blame them? The Commerce Department reports that consumers are already increasing spending this season. Retailers are looking to capitalize on this and gain some type of competitive edge by opening stores sooner to launch the shopping-crazed day known as Black Friday.
We've become accustomed to having the Friday after Thanksgiving "dedicated" to this holiday shopping frenzy, but usually not until sunrise. We've always treasured the day before as a time to visit with our families, count our blessings together, enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, watch a little football and even play some games outside and walk in the parks together. Now, before the dishes ever get to the kitchen, families will be split apart as we rush off to the shops even before Thanksgiving Day's sunset, midnight specials printed off the Internet in hand, to snatch those 1- to 2-hour "specials."
Perhaps we should have kept Roosevelt's proclamation and moved Thanksgiving up a week -- this year, Nov. 15 -- to give us at least more time for the family.