The Sacred Holiness of Black Friday

November 26, 2012

Hey friends, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. If you missed my big pre-holiday announcement about my new book, click here.

black-friday-4_3_r560What makes a tradition “sacred?”

Today is “Cyber Monday,” which means that in all likelihood, if you aren’t reading blogs and Facebook at work, you’re scouring the internet for crazy sales.

Of course, we all know that Black Friday really started on Thursday.  And we complained about stores destroying our holidays.  We lamented our sacred traditions being stolen by capitalism.  But then we bum-rushed the doors Thursday night, right after we finished giving “thanks.”

But what makes a tradition sacred?  How can tradition be destroyed by anyone?

Maybe we just need to create a new holiday to commemorate what is really sacred to us.

The Sacred Inconvenience

You could probably come up with lots of ways to define what is “sacred,” or “holy.”

I define it with one word: inconvenience.

Think about it.  Worship is a “sacred” event.  And it is inconvenient to get up on Sunday morning, go to church, give money, and participate.  It is inconvenient to try to live as a Christian and do right by others.

The holidays are sacred…and very inconvenient.  We spend a lot of time, energy, money and stress over family gatherings, meals, parties, and gifts. We put up our Christmas tree Thanksgiving night.  It’s a big pain in the butt!  But it’s kind of a sacred tradition. It would be a lot easier to sit at home alone.

To some people, football is sacred. Their tradition involves buying the best sports cable packages or buying season tickets to sit next to drunk idiots in freezing weather every Sunday for four months.

Jesus indicated in no uncertain terms that following him would be one heck of an inconvenience to anyone who actually held his words as sacred. Take up your cross, lay down your life, love your neighbor.

In a world that loves convenience, it becomes easy to see what we hold sacred.  Sacred things are worth the trouble

It has become plain to me that kicking off the feeding frenzy of Christmas shopping has become a sacred event in our culture.  The proof is in how much inconvenience people are willing to endure to keep the tradition alive.  If inconvenience is a measure of sacredness, Black Friday is the new holiday.

Violent, Angry Zealots

On the news site I frequent in the mornings, a link showed fresh violence in the middle east.  Swarms of Muslims chanting, shouting, burning things, throwing objects, firing guns in the air.  I shook my head as I again could not wrap my mind around the blind zeal of those frightening crowds.

Then a string of links said things like:

“Gang fight at Black Friday sale.”

“Man pulls gun on line-cutting shopper.”

“Thousands of women and teen girls storm Victoria’s Secret.”

“Men steal boy’s bag outside Bed Bath and Beyond.”

“Mayhem at Nebraska mall where 9 murdered in 2007.”

The thing is, from the outside looking at zealots in their religious fervor, it always looks shocking, incomprehensible.  I can no more understand the violence in the Middle East than I can in my own country.

But our culture is experiencing the closest thing to revival we will ever see in our lifetimes.  Millions of people making an annual, sacred pilgrimage, their zeal for the cause provoking them to violence. When something is sacred, and you are willing to inconvenience yourself for it, it is easy to become a violent crusader for your cause.

Sacred Because I Say So

So who is destroying our American traditions?

Is it Wall Street?

Or Wal-Mart?

The answer is no one.  No one is destroying our sacred traditions.  If people want to hold Friday sacred and not Thursday, it’s because their conscience guides them to do so.  They are willing to inconvenience themselves for it.  They are willing to get violent for it.

I don’t participate in Black Friday because I find nothing sacred in it.  It is not worth the inconvenience.  I know that if I don’t look at the advertisements, I won’t know what I’m missing.  I’m a Black Friday agnostic! The sales may exist, but I don’t know what they are.

But no one is coming to my home and telling me what traditions I must follow, or what traditions I must give up, because they are now “destroyed.”  My traditions are as sacred as I make them, not what the stores dictate to me.  Their manufactured holidays are not sacred to me.  The ones made by my family that celebrate our traditions and our worship are sacred, holy, and worth all the inconvenience.

Are you a Black Friday zealot or agnostic?  What makes the holidays sacred to you?

8 responses to The Sacred Holiness of Black Friday

  1. There’s no more obvious indicator of our great need of a Savior, than so much of the behavior of both retailers and shoppers on B. Friday.

    Nothing wrong with Christmas shopping. But one can go overboard. What else is new?

  2. Matt, great perspective. I’m also an agnostic in regards to black friday. I’ve never thought about “sacredness” as being something we intentionally decide. This calls for some reflection of my own life, to see if what I say is sacred matches up with what my actions demonstrate.

  3. Interesting thoughts. You can tell a lot about a group of people (or in this case, a culture) by the people they choose to champion (or in this case, where they choose to spend their time and money). Me, I guess I am an old man. I spent the break with my wife in our home. But we writers are all mystics, in some regard. We question life naturally, more so than others. Question is: how do we continue to get the truth out, that none of these things will ever satisfy? We all have our shadows. Mine was never greed–at least not for stuff. I wonder if the deeper issue here isn’t a feeling of insignificance–think about it–why else would you submit yourself to such a rat race? I need the next new thing in order to feel like I am keeping up. I also agree that we (as a culture) don’t shoulder enough responsibility for the state of things in our country. Too easy to blame someone else, instead of questioning what it is I can do better to help my neighbor.

  4. A very interesting take on sacredness. I’ll think of how sacredness compares to inconvenience each time I hear the word now, or I’ll think of Black Friday stampedes.

    I do not partake in the Black Friday ritual. I did shop on Friday long ago when it was less of a show. The biggest news the media covered then was “such and such mall has full parking lots”, and “don’t leave presents visible on car seats”. Now my family has scaled way back on presents. Partly to be thrifty, but partly because if we see something that someone might really like, we don’t wait for a holiday to give them the gift! We don’t want our kids buying us something just because it is the thing to do, (sacred?) when if it weren’t a holiday they wouldn’t be buying it for us.

    So I am a Black Friday agnostic. I did partake in Cyber Monday on Tuesday. We have two small nieces and it was fun choosing a puzzle for each of them.

  5. I am a Black Friday atheist. I am also a Cyber Black Monday atheist. I saw a funny meme that compared those Black Friday shoppers to “Day of the Dead” zombies. Most of the things that are on sale are worth every single penny, maybe even less.

    It is an interesting perspective, relating “sacredness” to “inconvenience.”

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