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Thanksgiving and Black Friday: Who, What, Where, Why?

Hold onto your hats. This is a TWO-PARTER. I know I will lose most of you a quarter of the way through but I am a sucker for understanding why I am participating in something (especially when I have been doing it for 21 years). If you hang in there I can almost guarantee you will learn something worth while.

Part 1:

Thanksgiving, a holiday where families are joined to gather and relinquish in an abundance of home cooked delight. Tables are packed with children eating at the very edge of their table’s corner, laughter echoes as each family rejoices in the company that surrounds them.

*Insert record player scratch*

One of the most common thanksgiving stories to be told at these tables is the 1621 celebration of the harvest; the harvest that came after the Wampanoag tribe was kind enough to teach the Pilgrims (English Settlers who established the Plymouth Colony in modern day Massachusetts) how to successfully survive in that part of the world. We are typically told that the feast transpired between the Wampanoag tribe and the settlers as an honouring of the last harvest. They gathered in celebration and delight to share what the United States now calls Thanksgiving. This is where the story typically ends and although, delightful, it is not the full story. Understand that I am not hear to diminish the importance of Thanksgiving - rather I share the following to hopefully enlighten and in turn invite even more to spend the day reflecting on what they are thankful for.

To continue with the story of the Wampanoag tribe and the settlers, the relationship does not end with a night of equal celebration for both parties. Instead, as time goes on the divide between these two groups grows intensely. The growth of this divide, as I am sure you are aware, is a result of the immense colonization of the Europeans and the force they brought to the Americas. What started as perhaps a modern day partnership - not mutually beneficial of course - soon became a full fledge war. Following the execution of three Wampanoag men, and the continuous concurrence of land by the colonies of New England, it eventually escalated to what is now known as the Metacom War (Metacom or King Phillip was the Wampanoag leader at this time). This war, like all wars, left what once was the land of Indigenous Americans, ravaged and covered in carnage, the war eventually ended with the execution of Metacom. For 25 years after the war, Metacom’s head was set on a spike for display. After his death, allies of Metacom were either slaughtered or sold into slavery.

I hope we can gather we can gather and relinquish in the abundance of home cooked delights, knowing where it all started.

Part 2:

How are your emails looking today? What about your social media feeds? Or even your texts throughout the day? How many of these were related to Black Friday? If it’s anything like mine, pretty much the entirety of my exposure to communication today has mentioned Black Friday deals.

I remember a time when Black Friday was something of a foreign topic - Canada was no contender to the level of Black Friday deals and events that the United States took part in. But flash forward five or 10 years, e-commerce is now our preferred shopping platform and Canada is just as much apart of this tradition as the U.S. As you may know by now, I’ve grown to have a significant distaste for unnecessary consumerism. Even more, unnecessary waste because of unnecessary consumerism. That’s where it holds the most weight for me - the overabundant indulgence in material goods for reasons I am not even sure we are aware of. So, as I continue to share and hopefully shed light on matters revolving around consumer behaviour and the impact we have as customers, I thought it only appropriate to offer you a bit of background around the famous Black Friday that has grown exponentially. What better way to bring in some excitement than stats:

  • According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Black Friday 2019 saw 84.2 million shoppers in stores and 93.2 million shoppers online, spending an average of $361.90 over the Thanksgiving weekend.

  • From 2013 to 2018 Black Friday experienced a growth of 117% around the world (

Honestly, there’s a full website dedicated to Black Friday statistics, so if you’re more of a numbers person take a look at

Black Friday can often be referred to as the post Thanksgiving retail nightmare to a lot of workers in the retail industry. But in truth, the name “Black Friday” was not initially used in relation to retail shopping at all. There are a couple different events that have developed Black Friday into the event that it is today:

On September 24th 1869, Wall Street experienced a tragic crash in the stock market. The crash was a result of two Financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, who in a conniving and cynical way decided to purchase as much of the nation’s gold as they could in hopes to drive up the cost and in tern sell it for profit. They were eventually caught and their scheme was unveiled sending the stock market into a pitfall, with widespread bankruptcy. Retailers felt the repercussions of this event for over a year. The day after Thanksgiving in 1870 brought these stores back from the red zones they were in (financial loss) and finally into the black (financial gain).

Another event that took place happened during the 1950s in Philadelphia. The term Black Friday was used with great populace by numerous police officers as a way to describe the chaotic traffic (both by foot and cars) during the day following Thanksgiving. Because of the large crowds due to the holiday, and the Army-Navy Football game that happened the Saturday, shopping centres were packed, streets were a mess and of course, crime rates grew. Because of the preceding, police officers were not allowed to take the day off - thus they dreaded the day.

In a more modern sense, there is widespread anticipation across retail stores. Store clerks fear the day entirely because they know how hectic and busy the day is. Along with the history and background behind Black Friday, comes the repercussion of the day entirely. I am sure you have felt over the past few years (and even more so the last 9 months) the vast majority of us have taken a step back from our usual habits and normalities when it comes to the food we eat, the people we hang out with, the time we spend in traffic, the trends we buy into (or don't). All of this to say that I know that whether you acknowledged it or not your life has changed as the society around you has changed. My hope is we continue to #shoplocal, #wfh, #workonmeforme, #stayhealthy, #supportartists. Spend a little bit more time thinking about needs rather than wants, or haves rather than ‘have-nots’. As always, I only offer you my opinion and insights as I too navigate through this monstrous world of the consumer market. I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season.

Sources: (For more on Black Friday) (For more on the background of Thanksgiving)

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