Thanksgiving is traditionally a day devoted to family, food and sated sharing; to togetherness and perhaps a walk, with maybe a little football in the background. It typically is not about shopping. It should stay that way.
Alas, some big retailers want a jump on Black Friday. They are on the way to making Thanksgiving Day just another commercial shopping day. That's not quite like hawking bargains with early shopping on Christmas day itself, but it's mighty close to it.
If Americans don't fight back by staying home and shunning shopping today, we'll lose the sanctity of another treasured holiday celebration -- and so will many employees who thus will be forced to forfeit their Thanksgiving holiday to serve shoppers. This day shouldn't be surrendered to become the preliminary round for Black Friday.
This isn't intended as a put-down of shopping. Heaven knows shopping in this six-week run-up to Christmas has become an economic mainstay for the country, a consumer spending binge that helps drive the economy and that, for many retailers, determines whether they make a profit for the year. Hence the name Black Friday.
Still, that doesn't mean retailers have to move in on Thanksgiving Day itself. Consumers will have plenty of time to spend all the money they have to spend. There's no need to spoil families' Thanksgiving Day traditions by enticing them with a jumpstart on Black Friday.
That shopping initiative already gets people out when they should be asleep. Retailers originally opened their doors at 6 a.m. With competitive juices flowing, they soon challenged each other with earlier and earlier start times: 4 a.m, then 3 a.m, then midnight.
But here's the new shopping deal for Thanksgiving. Kmart opened at 6 a.m. this morning, and will stay open til 4 p.m. Walmart, Sears and Toys R Us will open this evening at 8. Target will open at 9 p.m., and H.H. Gregg at 10 p.m.
People who turn out for these Thanksgiving Day openings will just encourage earlier hours in the future. We know where this leads. Pretty soon, Thanksgiving Day will be riddled with even earlier openings; then more stores will join in, driving the notion that Thanksgiving Day is really just Turkey Day -- and who cares: people can have a turkey day any day.
Thanksgiving Day means more than that, but we have to observe it in its full tradition if it is to continue to be a meaningful day of thanks -- a centuries-old tradition, handed down from the Pilgrims, for the family and fellowship found in this great land; a day finally embedded as a national holiday by President Lincoln to help heal the wounds of the Civil War; and a day long embraced by a people who treasure their loved ones and their special time together to celebrate the occasion with the spirit handed down to them by so many ancestors.
Happy Thanksgiving. It's up to us to keep it.