Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Is Black Friday edging out Thanksgiving?

By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor
updated 9:03 AM EST, Mon November 19, 2012
Bob Greene says earlier Black Friday store hours this year may lure people away from Thanksgiving gatherings. Is it worth it?
Bob Greene says earlier Black Friday store hours this year may lure people away from Thanksgiving gatherings. Is it worth it?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bob Greene: Holiday season too commercialized? No, Black Friday has become a holiday
  • He says it has the markings: it's observed across nation, people take day off to congregate
  • He says, yes, it brings people into stores in a down economy, but cost of this unsettling
  • Greene: Is getting a deal on a TV worth rushing from home, hearth, family at Thanksgiving?

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights"; and "And You Know You Should Be Glad: A True Story of Lifelong Friendship."

(CNN) -- The debate over whether the hand-to-hand-combat excesses of Black Friday represent a grotesque over-commercialization of the holiday season has lost its meaning.

The point is no longer whether or not Black Friday tarnishes the holidays.

The point is that Black Friday has become a holiday of its own.

It will arrive again this week, even as Americans are still sitting at their Thanksgiving dinner tables. Black Friday -- with its door-buster sales, hordes of frenzied shoppers shoving for position, employees nervously waiting for the onslaught -- has shrugged off the confines of its name and has now established squatters' rights on Thursday.

Bob Greene
Bob Greene

Target stores will open at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night, three hours earlier than the stores' midnight opening in 2011. Wal-Mart will begin its Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Toys R Us will match that 8 p.m. opening, as will Sears. Best Buy, which will wait until midnight to open its doors, seems almost like a dowdy throwback.

The store employees around the country who are upset that the schedules will deprive them of a big part of their holiday Thursday (many of them will have to arrive hours before the customers) and the citizens who fret that the lure of the deeply discounted sales will empty out their home-for-the-holidays family gatherings are probably fighting a losing battle. Black Friday appears to be triumphant, and it has taken on the characteristics of the holidays it mimics.

Like real holidays, it occurs on a predesignated day each year. People anticipate it and mark the date. Across the breadth of the nation they are absent from work to observe it. And when the day arrives, they congregate like. . .well, like congregations.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Established religious holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah, have long been occasions for gift-giving; some holidays -- Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day -- have eagerly been embraced by merchants as a way to move their products.

Black Friday does away with the middleman -- in the universe of holidays, it is the only one that exists solely to sell merchandise. It celebrates nothing; it commemorates only itself. It is an annual festival of the cash register.

News: Retail employess fight "Black Friday creep"

The derivation of the term "Black Friday" is open to dispute, but it has come to refer to the theory that merchants go into the black -- into the profit side of the ledger -- during the holiday shopping season, which traditionally commences the day after Thanksgiving.

Black Friday to start earlier AGAIN

Certainly, and especially in this economy, anything that brings people into the stores is welcome. Brick-and-mortar stores can use the foot traffic as shopping goes increasingly online. And digital doors are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

But there is something about Black Friday -- in the pandemonium of its execution -- that is unsettling and cynical. The Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death on Long Island in 2008 as shoppers knocked the doors from their hinges and stepped on him in their rush to the stacks of sales items, the woman in California last year who unleashed pepper spray on fellow shoppers vying for Xbox video game consoles. . .those kinds of scenes are becoming the iconic images of the long night.

Of course, the new holiday would not have taken hold if people weren't embracing it.

But you have to ask yourself: When people, as they grow older, remember the best holidays of their lives, is it some discounted gift that they recall with warmth and fondness? Some deal that they found? Or is it the family members and loved ones with whom they spent the holiday time?

Breaking up the flow of a real holiday so you can make it on time to the beginning of the Black Friday holiday seems a little misguided. It is one thing during the holiday season to be touched by the poignancy of long lines at soup kitchens and food pantries; it is quite another to witness throngs in the darkness bearing credit cards, waiting to stampede through stores in desperate and hungry-eyed pursuit of flat-screen TVs and Blu-Ray players.

At least earnest groups of neighborhood vocalists are not -- yet -- going door-to-door singing Black Friday carols.

But just give them time.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bob Greene.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT