Brown Thursday is what the marketers and bottom-liners are calling it. But Americans in former generations had traditionally called the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving. Apparently businesses just aren’t making enough money from the crush of customers on Black Friday. Now we need Brown Thursday to pick up the slack.
Don’t stay at home and enjoy some time in gratitude with your family. No. Rather than a day of over-eating, why not a day of over-spending? Let’s just completely shroud the original purposes of Thanksgiving in an even bigger pile of inexpensive goods. And better yet, because businesses will have to be open for you to shop, your actions will ruin the Thanksgiving plans of millions of workers who may have wanted to enjoy Brown Thursday the traditional way—at home with their families.
Black Friday was bad enough. Memes abound on the irony of it: “Only in America would you trample other people trying to get what you want the very next day after you commemorated your thankfulness for what you already have.” Indeed.
But these kinds of sentiments are missing the point. Brown Thursday is not an external imposition on our day of gratitude or an attempt by the irreligious to obscure the origins of Thanksgiving. More and more, I am realizing that market developments are just a reflection of current realities. At best, they are slightly ahead of popular trends. At worst, they are just following them. If Brown Thursday becomes as popular as Black Friday, it will be because Americans were already celebrating Brown Thursday in an unofficial but substantial way. Brown Thursday hasn’t killed Thanksgiving. It may be that the true spirit of Thanksgiving was already dead.
Consider the first official Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, issued by George Washington in 1789. Listen to these words and ask yourself whether any of us are really celebrating Thanksgiving the way it was intended:
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
We’ve come a long way since then. A long way backwards. What began as a very religious day of humble gratitude to God and thanksgiving for His Providence turned into a generic day of family values and turkey and then into a meaningless day of gluttonous over-eating and then finally into Brown Thursday—a completely materialistic day of over-eating and over-spending.
So tomorrow, I ask you to do everything you can to reclaim the original spirit of gratitude that marked the first Thanksgivings. Give thanks to God, celebrate with what good food and drink you can muster, love your family, and stay at home. Brown Thursday is aptly named—it’s total bovine scatology. May it die with this year’s Thanksgiving turkey.