In many families across America, preparing and then devouring the Thanksgiving Day dinner is followed by a quiet evening watching football or a Charlie Brown television special or simply sleeping off the tranquilizing effects of the largest meal you will eat all year. In my family though, the hours after the meal are not for relaxing—they are for strategizing.
At some point on Thanksgiving Day, my dad is sent out to purchase a newspaper. As soon as the pie plates are cleared, my mom, siblings, me, and now my teenaged niece and nephews, place the paper on the living room floor and sit cross-legged in a circle around it. We look like we are about to perform a ritual, and in a way I suppose we are. Mom unfolds the paper, tossing aside the grey newsprint portion and revealing a stack of glossy, colorful advertising circulars. We pass the circulars around the circle one by one, each person flipping through the ads and using black felt-tipped pens to mark items of interest. After cross-referencing and identifying the best deals, the fliers are arranged in a strategic order that was long ago dubbed the “game plan.” We might catch a few hours of sleep prior to rising before the sun. Then we pile into the car, armed with our game plan and mugs of hot tea or cocoa, and join the throng of cars heading up the highway to the shopping centers.
Yes, it is true. I am not ashamed (okay, maybe a little) to admit that for many years, Black Friday has been, and still is, an important part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition. Coming home loaded with gifts in festively decorated shopping bags can be fun. But it was not until a colleague mentioned the museum’s collection of shopping bags that the connection between shopping and play dawned on me. Love it or hate it (there is no middle ground), nothing crystallizes the connection between play and shopping better than the phenomenon of Black Friday.