It might be Saturday morning here in Australia but over in the USA it’s Black Friday, which is the American equivalent of our Boxing Day sales. The Americans don’t ‘do’ Boxing Day. It’s a very English thing which we have inherited. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Even more so than Halloween, Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American festival, probably (from an observer’s point of view) more about family, friends, giving thanks and sharing than Christmas in that country.
I’m glad to say that while the retail stores are doing their best to foist Halloween on Australia, they haven’t tried that with Thanksgiving. After all, Thanksgiving is really a harvest festival, thanking whichever god you believe in for the fruits of the season before the cold winds of Winter arrive in earnest. In Australia that would be downright silly in late November. It’s very nearly Summer and the swimming pools are up and running. Who wants pumpkin pie and roast turkey? More to the point, who wants to cook it?
However, the fact we don’t have Thanksgiving hasn’t deterred the retailers. They will give us Black Friday whether we want it or not. It’s called Black Friday because retailers offer (apparent) bargains and they end up making vast profits – hence being in the ‘black’ not the ‘red’. So far, we haven’t seen the unseemly stampede of shoppers charging the doors that we see in the Boxing Day sales and, indeed, the Black Friday sales in the US. But time might tell. Certainly we’re being offered AMAZING BLACK FRIDAY DEALS – even those of us who have no idea (since it’s not the 13th) what Black Friday is. In fact, say ‘black’ and a day of the week and many Aussies conjure up visions of bushfires.
And now I’ll meander into personal philosophy. The older I get, the more I believe globalisation sucks. All our so-called festivals are turned by the retail industry into sales opportunities. When I was a kid we’d never heard of Halloween. Later, I came across it in books and TV – but it was American. Same with Thanksgiving. Yes, we celebrate Christmas but we inherited that from our European forebears. So much of it is still about the mid-Winter feast to celebrate the return of the sun and believe me, that’s not an issue at mid-Summer in Australia. Some people do Christmas in July, which makes much more sense.
The retail industry is sucking away regional diversity. Macdonalds, Starbucks, Dominos pizza (they’re even opening stores in Italy!), KFC, Burger King/Hungry Jacks, Subway. That’s just the fast food shops. You’ll find the same fashion chains and supermarket chains in Hong Kong, London, Frankfurt, Berlin – everywhere in the world. Globalism means you can buy bananas in London in mid-Winter and frozen berries from Chile or China all year round in Australia. And although the label on the packet might say the fish is Australian, look closer and you’ll see it’s Australian caught, but processed in China or Thailand and sent back to Oz. Yes, OF COURSE it’s the same fish that went into the factory. And don’t get me started on over-packaging.
I’ll bet a few of you are wondering what ‘Thanksgiving’ is all about. I certainly did. And you know, it’s a bit like Australia Day, where there’s a difference of opinion according to who you ask. Certainly, 26th January is the anniversary of the first official white settlement of Australia at what’s now Sydney. But some aboriginal Australians call it ‘invasion day’ for obvious reasons. There’s a similar dichotomy over Thanksgiving. My American friend and fellow-blogger, Laurie Green, wrote a post about what Thanksgiving means for her. It’s a lovely family gathering and all about being grateful for what they have. On the other hand, this article, written by a native American, tells a very different story. I make no judgement here. The world was a very different place in the 1620’s or, indeed, the 1780’s and there is a tendency to whitewash the past.
But in the end, none of it matters, does it? As long as the cash registers jingle cheerfully.