November 26, 2013 9:39:00 AM
Monday, Mississippi State University sponsored a Thanksgiving meal for Starkville firefighters, a thoughtful way to acknowledge that while Thursday is a national holiday, there are some people who, by virtue of the work they do, cannot have the holiday off.
Firefighters, police officer, EMTs, doctors, nurses and other essential workers have to be ready to serve the public, 24/7/365.
Shall we add store clerks to that list, too?
We think not.
Yet just as surely as there will be police officers and sheriff's deputies working the streets and EMTs, nurses and doctors caring for patients, there also will be thousands of department store workers pressed into duty on Thanksgiving Day.
For some time now, major retailers have been steadily encroaching on the Thanksgiving holiday, pushing their Black Friday sales closer and closer to Thanksgiving Day. A few years ago, the big retailers began opening as early as 3 a.m. Last year, some of those stores opened on Thanksgiving evening.
But this year, what was an encroachment has become a full frontal assault. Macy's, Walmart, Kmart, Target, Sears, JCPenney and Best Buy are just a partial list of major retailers who have announced that they will open on Thanksgiving Day. Last year it was a trickle; this year, it's a deluge.
Until a couple of years ago, the least commercial day of the year was followed by the most commercial day of the year.
For some time now, we've heard laments of a "War on Christmas," but it is Thanksgiving that bears the real scars of battle.
The day is now being called "Gray Thursday." We've taken the "Thanks" out of "Thanksgiving" and all that remains is the "giving" -- as in "giving" your credit card to the cashier.
For those who have enjoyed what Thanksgiving has always been, a low-stress celebration of food, family and friends with hardly a hint of commercialism, this new development can be viewed as a serious threat to one of our most-cherished traditions. Thanksgiving shopping is the antithesis of what the holiday ought to be.
Retailers are betting that the lust for "bargains" will be too great a temptation for Americans to resist.
We hope they are wrong. We believe that while essential services must be available on holidays, retail workers should be able to enjoy Thanksgiving at home with their families, as should would-be shoppers.
Of course, we realize that our opinion in this matter is irrelevant. It will be up to the consumers to decide whether "Gray Thursday" is a flop or a permanent part of the Christmas shopping season.
If it's the latter, we will have lost something fundamental and of inestimable value.
While we understand how important the Christmas shopping season is for retailers large and small and that it has a real impact on or national and local economy, we urge everyone to stay at home on Thanksgiving and embrace the holiday for what it has always been and should always be. If Americans stay home on Thursday, it will send at strong message to those retailers: The shopping can wait.
It's not too late to save Thanksgiving, we hope.
Long live Black Friday.
And long live Thanksgiving Day, too.