I’ve done a few media interviews on the hot topic of shopping’s imminent encroachment into the Thanksgiving holiday. I’ve been sorting likely reactions into the traditional, modern, and postmodern values types [see a summary here]. I am making some huge generalizations here, noting there will be plenty of exceptions.
As one might expect, the traditionals are most opposed to the idea of changing the tradition of the Thanksgiving holiday. They are the strongest believers in adhering to tradition – they might ask “isn’t anything sacred anymore? There are so few true holidays left.” They yearn for the days when holidays were truly observed, and not an opportunity to find a bargain. The core of the traditionals will not be shopping on Thanksgiving – though a few may quietly sneak out to pick up a few bargains.
The moderns are the key drivers behind this growing infiltration of commerce. In their quest for success, they are always on the lookout for opportunities to buy and sell. They have been pushing the Christmas season backward – if they have their way, Santa will soon be targeting Halloween. They are behind the device of shifting holiday to Mondays for the sake of more convenient three-day weekends. They see Thanksgiving day shopping as not only an opportunity for commerce, but see shopping as a means of entertainment when there isn’t that much going on anyway.
The postmoderns most likely take a position of “whatever.” They feel that if someone wants to shop – or not — it’s their business. Some may be a bit amused by all the fuss, and perhaps not averse to taking advantage of a bargain should one present itself, while others will welcome a break and a day away from it all.
What about going forward? I would not be too hasty to write off the need or desire for tradition. One of the trends that I (and many others) have been tracking is the “death of the schedule.” Our move to an on-demand, just-in-time, always-on, instant gratification world, can be disorienting. If everything is in flux, what can we count on? What are our anchor points to help us deal with a world of continuous if not relentless change? I suspect we may see attempts to create new traditions or new “stakes in the ground” to help us get a grip on the pace of our lives [see the various “slow” movements, such as Slow Foods]. One of the postmodern priorities is a sense of “enoughness,” a desire to take back control of our times and our lives. I think we will be looking for develop more constants in our lives to help us seize back control. These new traditions may be different than the old ones, and they may be customized to particular families, groups, or communities, but I suspect we will see a resurgence of traditions in the future. Andy Hines