Friday, November 23, 2007
My last twelve Advent and Christmas seasons have been full of rush and scurrying. Partially because either my husband or I had been employed by a social service agency that provides a great deal of services to the needy this time of year and partially because the mood and effect of "rush" seems to worm its way into life unannounced.
I've repeatedly commented to friends and family this year, especially since Thanksgiving was just a day ago, that... "It just doesn't feel like the holidays to me - I'm not stressed or frazzled!". Since when do the words "stressed" and "frazzled" have to be directly connected to the holiday season?
The earliest coining of the words "Black Friday" in connection to the official beginning to Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving reaches back to the year 1970 in Philadelphia, PA.
"Philadelphia police and bus drivers call it "Black Friday" - that day each year between Thanksgiving Day and the Army-Navy game. It is the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year in the Bicentennial City as the Christmas list is checked off and the Eastern college football season nears conclusion.
The derivation is made even more explicit in an Associated Press article entitled "Folks on Buying Spree Despite Down Economy," which ran in the Titusville Herald on the same day:
Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree. . . . . "That's why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today 'Black Friday,'" a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. "They think in terms of headaches it gives them."
Black Friday was something I used to participate in to use as an activity for my youth group and few years ago. We'd all rise early and meet at the line outside of Wal-mart with our Tim Horton's coffee and bagels in hand and become assimilated into the crowds of people the way the blob took over that small town in that B movie from the 1950's. I used to go to purchase one or two items that were on Santa's wish list for my children, but after being pushed, pulled and separated from my youth group kids only to find out that one student actually pretended to have a seizure in order to get access to something he wanted to purchase - I began to doubt my participation in the cut-throat shopping event. Black Friday was turning black and dark for me and there was no connection to "peace on earth, good will towards man" that was what the holiday season should be about. The holiday was, for lack of a better description - mutated blob of gimmie, gimmie, gimmie!
So the last few years I've decided to avoid the blob of Black Friday for a few different reasons.
1. The greedy stuff relay was depressing.
2. The stuff that I thought I needed, I could usually order online the week before or after at about the same cost.
3. I didn't have the time due to my work schedule.
So in trade, I avoided the rush of Black Friday for the longer marathon of rush and scurry to my occupation. I have to say that service to others can be a wonderful and rewarding thing to take part in, but my experience of weeks of dragging gift items down a long and longer hallway to a gym of more stuff, driving all over creation to pick up more stuff, and staying up twenty four plus hours to prepare the stuff for the masses sometimes seemed to be the replication of something like the Black Friday Blob.
How then can the agencies that strive to help and support the needy not become a catalyst for material things? How can Christmas and Advent that shouts, "Peace on earth and good will to all men", not be drowned out to the din of long lists of what is wanted and what we think will make us happy? Where has Christmas really gone?
As for the answers to these questions, I no longer have to feel responsible for answering them for the whole world since I'm no longer in the social work field, but I still do have the responsibility of answering for my family, my friends and myself.
So this Black Friday, I did not go shopping. I slept in this morning, cuddling with my husband in layers of comforters and blankets in our cozy bed. When I woke I prayed for my kids, my friends and for my attitude and action during this advent season. I got up, found my slippers and robe, began to wash some laundry, enjoyed a late breakfast of left-over turkey (dark meat thank you) and Mom's amazing stuffing. After that I looked at the news of Black Friday's congestion, body slamming, and greed and was ever so happy that I stayed up late last night and slept in this morning so I could miss all the mayhem on a personal level. I will do more laundry and drive down for dinner later with my extended family to enjoy more left-overs and time with each other. Maybe I can even get everyone to play a game of Scrabble if I'm lucky. I will not rush, I will not push, and I will rejoice for the miracle of Advent that is to come.
I anticipate that I will be a little out of sorts this first Advent that will be Advent. I have some knee-jerk reactions of stress and panic that I will need to overcome. It is a miracle this Christmas that stress and frantic hurry are things that I have to opportunity to unlearn. I will purchase gifts for my children, Husband and friends but I will try to choose wisely and carefully. It would be my Christmas wish that the things I give this year are not just "things" that will be set aside, or used up and forgotten. I wish that what I give in material and method this holiday season will make some impact, some difference in the lives of those I give to.
I have lots of ideas of what I'd like to do this season. Make some cookies, send some cards, and maybe make a booklet of my poems to give to everyone around me. We'll have to wait and see what happens. For the first time in twelve years I plan to savor Advent. I plan to absorb all the wonder of Christ's coming as a heart that has been starved of it for twelve years - because it has a fast from this meaning. I will not hurry, I will not rush, I will take this Advent step by step just like the Wise Men did and give to others the true treasures of "Peace on earth and good will to men (and women)."