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 6:10 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
updated 8:11 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
updated 3:57 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
updated 4:51 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT