Norman Knight: Holiday season about more than shopping

As I let the leftovers settle, I browse the Internet and stumble upon “Holiday Calendar,” a website with a list of special events and holidays observed and celebrated during the year. I focus on these last days of November. So, what are we supposed to celebrate now? Well, if the Holiday Calendar is accurate, this last week of the eleventh month mostly seems to be devoted to accumulating and consuming stuff.

True, we offer a quiet appreciation on Thanksgiving Thursday. A (hopefully) joyous day to celebrate with family and others by symbolically eating of the bountiful harvest we have received. It is good to look back and give thanks—and eat way too much.

The next holiday on the Calendar list is “Black Friday.” This is the day we immerse ourselves in the explosive chaos of holiday shopping. We willingly visit stores bursting with other voracious shoppers, crowding ourselves into narrow aisles which funnel us from “One Day Only” deals to “Black Friday” steals. Many people consider this the start of the winter holiday season. Many people consider this experience great fun.

We get home late laden with packages and exhausted from the day. We wake up and have just enough time to catch our breath before we gird ourselves for “Small Business Saturday.” It is the holiday where we show appreciation for local merchants who try to keep our small towns and cities from becoming just another conduit to the conglomerates that want us to give them everything we have.

The following Sunday is Advent, the first day of the first season in the Christian church year. Advent is a religious holiday and is specifically about a Gift. But it is not really concerned with buying and selling and consuming things, so it doesn’t really have much to do with most of the other last days of November on the Holiday Calendar. However, you may continue shopping, if you choose.

The Monday after Advent is “Cyber Monday.” This is the day when we get back to buying and selling stuff with a focus on shopping via electronic devices. It is not normally as physically demanding as Black Friday although people have been known to develop issues with their wrists and necks. “Giving Tuesday” follows Cyber Monday and is another chance, I guess you could say, to give thanks. Again, you can still shop if you so desire.

That brings us to today, Wednesday, the last day of the month of November. The Holiday Calendar lists no official designations for this day. I suppose it could be called December Eve which in our modern world is the prime month for the culmination of consumer frenzy. Anyway, for this intense shopping time of the year, I am thankful—sort of.

I am thankful for the freedom to buy and sell and the material abundance and comfort, as well as the independence, The Market brings to humankind. History shows us that it is the most efficient way to allocate resources. Let me give The Market two stars out of three.

My problem with the whole buying and selling system is that it can get into my head, making me believe my needs and wants are one and the same. And even more dangerous, I believe, is it becomes easy to confuse material abundance with true meaning, with the things that truly matter. Maybe that’s the purpose of those other days, the non-commercial days, on the Holiday Calendar. Maybe those days are on there to remind us about the True Things.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]