In 1863, Thanksgiving was first celebrated on the same date by all states by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, history tells us. He proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to foster a sense of American unity between the Northern and Southern states.
On Dec. 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. He reasoned that an earlier celebration of the holiday would give the country an economic boost.
In November, 2014, Macy’s announced it would open for “Black Friday” sales starting at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, two hours earlier than last year’s 8 p.m. opening time. Kohl’s and Sears, among others, are opening the doors to shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while J.C. Penny is trying to trump the competition with a 5 p.m. opening.
Kmart, which will throw open its doors at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day will stay open for 42 hours in a row, according to Money magazine.
If you get the idea that Thanksgiving is being transformed from a day of feasting, family and blessings counted to a launching pad for the Christmas shopping season, you would be correct.
Actually, you would be partially correct. Kmart aired its first Christmas ad in early September, according to Money. Walmart, Target Toys R Us and others then rolled out various versions of the season’s “Hot Toy” list, long before kids had visions of sugar plumbs dancing in their heads.
The Kmart ad is "unprecedented" in its prematurity, said the advertising news site Ad Age, adding that retailers typically wait until late October to hit consumers with holiday-themed commercials and offers.
What we have here is a phenomenon called “Christmas Creep” and it threatens to gobble up every holiday from the Fourth of July forward.
Bill Martin of the store-traffic research firm Shopper Track said that stores are increasingly feeling compelled to open on Thanksgiving.
“Retailers say that consumers are clamoring for them to be open on Thanksgiving, but that’s not the case,” he said. “They’re just attempting to get to the wallet before the money is gone. That’s what this holiday creep is all about.”
Needless to say, this isn’t sitting well with a lot of folks.
At least two dozen or so stores have confirmed they will remain closed on Thanksgiving. The list includes warehouse membership stores Coscto, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club, home improvement giants Home Depot and Lowe’s, department stores Dillard’s and Nordstrom, specialty retailers like GameStop, DSW, and PetCo, and discount chains such as Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s, and T.J. Maxx.
A spokesperson for TJX, which runs retail brands such as Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx, recently was quoted as saying: “We consider ourselves an associate-friendly company, and, we are pleased to give our associates the time to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.”
Translation: Any retailer forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving is flying in the face of American traditions and values.
A spokesman for a Iowa-based department store chain offered this assessment: “Some things are sacred, including spending time with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving and other holidays. We profitably run our business during the remaining 358 days of the year, so we don’t have to sacrifice tradition for the sake of sales.”
Translation: Anyone open on holidays is greedy and uncaring.
All of which means nothing if customers swarm to stores on Thanksgiving like soldiers establishing a beachhead.
But even the bargain-hunting fanatics among us are having misgivings.
A social media website called Boycott Black Thursday has 60,000 followers. A petition initiated by a Target employee asking the company to “take the high road and save Thanksgiving” has been signed by 300,000 people, both employees and customers. A Best Buy employee posted a similar petition that currently has 14,000 signatures.
Their voices may go unheard, however.
Retailers rarely misjudge their customers urge to shop, especially if bargains are involved. It’s not a stretch to believe that within a year, or two at the max, all retailers will throw open their doors on Thanksgiving and the crowds will come, tradition and turkey dinner be damned.
As one shopper told the Wall Street Journal, “The shopper in me is like, 'Yay.' But the human in me is like, this is wrong.”
And if the employees don’t like it? Well, there are a lot of people out there looking for jobs.
So much for goodwill toward men.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. He can be reached at Nulede@Aol.Com.