The Thanksgiving Day Retail Wars

Should retail stores be open or closed on Thanksgiving Day?

This question has been a pretty controversial one in recent years, as annually, an increasing number of major retail stores have opened their doors for business on Thanksgiving Day.

Historically, most businesses have chosen to close their doors on Thanksgiving Day. They've done so, because technically speaking, Thanksgiving is a Federally mandated religious holiday, and was officially recognized by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as a, "national day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

Granted, the holiday isn't establishing any particular "religion," but it is technically religious in nature by virtue of Abraham Lincoln's mandate and prior tradition. Prior to his mandate, Thanksgiving had been celebrated on various days by many Americans as a religious holiday. This is due to the origins of the holiday being rooted in the strong religious influence that Calvinists had in the colonization of America.

(See this link for a brief history of the holiday.)

By virtue of Thanksgiving Day being a "holy day," it is fair and right to say that the intent behind the holiday is for the day to be treated as something akin to a "sabbath day" of rest and worship.

What is a "sabbath day?" In the Bible, God created the world in 6 days, and on the 7th day He rested from His labor. When the Ten Commandments were given, God forbade mankind to work on the 7th day of the week, out of honor and remembrance of God's work, and to give man the opportunity to enjoy the same rest God experienced in His work. The sabbath day was thus "separated" and marked on the calendar as a day that was "different" from the other days in which mankind was allowed to labor. On a sabbath, no work could be done.

Fast forward to the present, and you will discover we live in a society that is increasingly secular. God is rarely invoked in making public policies and decisions. And, as a result of the increasing secularization of America, the concept of observing a sabbath day has been largely forgotten. For in a secular society, the prevailing ethos is that all days of the week are one in the same. There can be nothing holy about any particular day of the week, because there is no God to make any "one day" different from the next. Therefore, all days become nothing more than another 360 degree revolution the Earth completes within a 24 hour period, and is devoid of any sacred meaning.

To the retailer, from a financial perspective, the decision to open their store for business is really a "no-brainer." The Christmas holiday season is the biggest time of the year for retailers to make their companies profitable. These companies often operate on a narrow profit margin of a couple percentage points, and if they don't make their money at the Christmas holiday season, then they risk not being profitable at all. So the idea of a company closing for an entire business day during a peak time of year can actually be viewed as a bad financial decision.

From a business perspective, a retailer needs to get as many dollars as they can from as many people as possible, and they need to get their hands on your money before you spend your limited and finite resources at one of their competitors. As a result, stores have been incrementally opening earlier and earlier every year the day after Thanksgiving, and advertising "door buster sales" because retailers want to put themselves in a position business wise to get the "first dollar" you spend instead of the "last dollar." For if they get the first dollar you spend, there is a pretty good chance they will get your second and third dollar too. But, if you are down to your last buck, then they risk you coming into their store later with less disposable money to spend.

In light of such a reality, I think blaming corporations for being nothing more than greedy capitalists, who are looking to do nothing more than exploit the poor working class by forcing them work on Thanksgiving Day, in the name of making "obscene profits," is a bit misguided. And while there may be some hints of truth in such an accusation, I think such a comment is woefully superficial, and misses the mark.

I think the real problem is something much simpler than this, and it is something I believe we all intuitively know, but because of the prevailing mindset we find in our culture, we lack the ability to pinpoint and express. Therefore in a knee-jerk manner, we take the easy way out and vilify companies like Walmart, instead of really digging down deep to the heart of the matter.

The real problem with the Thanksgiving Day retail wars, is not the greedy corporate capitalist mindset. From a financial standpoint, their position makes sense when you do the math.

Rather, the real problem with retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day is, that in doing so, we as a society show we lack any real sense of a sabbath day filled with rest and worship. We call a day such as Thanksgiving Day a "holy day," but then we proceed to treat it as if it were just another Thursday-- a day as common as the rest, in which we open our doors for business and work.

We find it so tempting to open our doors for business on a holy day, because we live in a society in which we must always be working. And we must always be working, because we operate with a secular mindset that acts like there is no God. As a result of such a mindset, we have become a people that has the inability to cease from our labors like God did from His, and enjoy a sabbath day filled with rest, worship, and thanksgiving.

I support businesses being closed for business on our national day of giving thanks. And I would encourage you to not go out and shop on Thanksgiving Day.

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