Editor Ruth Jackson muses about Black Friday, Britishness and the value of being thankful
Other than the terrifying January sales, Black Friday is the one day of the year when Brits allow themselves to momentarily stop being – well – British. The once polite, mild mannered, queue abiding citizens now find themselves trampling over each other to snatch must-have TV sets, Mulberry handbags and half price PlayStation 4. Black Friday mayhem in recent years has led to arrests as well as injuries; a police officer’s tweet sums up the ridiculousness of the situation: "Even on #BlackFriday shoving people to the floor so you can get £20 off a Coffee Maker is still an assault."
Kate Nightingale, a customer psychologist argues that the human instinct for competition is a powerful motivator in the Black Friday sales: "We start to become a bit more competitive. Our basic primal instincts are starting to wake up even if we don't need the items that we actually buy." Retailers have recognised and used this primeval predisposition to transform upstanding citizens into monsters in order to glean the highest profit. How very in keeping with the spirit of thankfulness promoted but a day earlier!
Thanksgiving has so much to commend it. Unfortunately, unlike our neighbours across the pond, we seem to have solely adopted its trivial consumerist, materialistic components. We get to shop-til-we-drop without acknowledging how blessed we are. We get to abuse strangers without taking the time to remind our loved ones how much they mean to us. We get to take, take, take without the opportunity to share a meal with someone who could never afford it.
What would it look like if Britain were to abandon its frivolous counterpart and instead celebrate the festival of the preceding day? What if we took a day out to give thanks; to count our many blessings in a world so steeped in negativity? We may not understand or indeed have cause to revel in the 1621 celebration of the Plymouth Pilgrims and local Native Americans, but we surely all have cause to be thankful.
I can’t help but notice that Black Friday’s name is evocative of another dark Friday, ironically given the name ‘Good Friday’. While I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future, I think it’s fair to say that Black Friday will lead largely to momentary happiness, disappointment, shattered dreams and, if you chose to battle the wrong girl, a severe stiletto wound in the neck. The true black Friday however, when the earth momentarily descended into darkness and everything seemed entirely lost, led to the true cause for thankfulness. Good Friday points to the fact that no matter how dark our lives are, either through our own doing or through another’s perpetration, there is hope. A present hope and assurance that we are not alone in our suffering; we have someone who walked through it once and will walk through it with us again, and a future hope that one day the darkness will disappear.
Can Black Friday be redeemed? Yes if we use it to celebrate the consequences of the true black Friday or at the very least, remember to be thankful the day before. If we’re going to spend Friday splurging money we don’t have to gratify momentary desires, let’s at least spend Thursday giving thanks. Let’s bring over Thanksgiving dinner but please, when we do, could we accidently forget to incorporate the Sweet potato Marshmallow pie – marshmallows with any sort of potato is wrong at every level. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of cranberry on turkey.
And don’t even start on Christmas sandwiches – turkey is meant to be eaten hot with gravy not between two slices of bread. Ew.