Last night, as I waited in the cold and dark for Best Buy to open at the unheard of time of 6PM, I occasionally felt the tinge of my own hypocrisy. As a staunch advocate for the little guy, I knew that the people waiting for me inside were sacrificing time with their families, forced to work when they should be shoveling turkey with other family members. But the hypocrite in me can’t resist 80% off, and having no such things tying me down, I had nothing better to do than wait. The line was, for Best Buy, amazingly short compared to past years due to the proximity to a food coma and football, and that gave me a chance to look at something I’d never noticed before:
The line, in a very affluent area was about 70% immigrant families.
And I thought about it.
At least 50 of that 70% were East Asia, Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese — all represented, there laughing and talking with what appeared to be their immediate families. In Asia, many cultures celebrate the harvest with a large community festival; there isn’t as much of a tradition of the isolated family meal like we have here, and given that the closest blood relative may be 10,000 miles away, it’s hard to get together for that massive multi-generational event.
And that’s when I realized that these people had taken out culture, and adapted it to their own. They’ve created their own family holiday that fits in perfectly with American commercialism. The family goes shopping together, but they do it as a unit, something everyone can look forward to together, and that probably generates some fun stories to share with the people back home.
And isn’t that what the holidays are really about? So while Black Firday is in many ways a madhouse of crass commercialism, yesterday — thanks to the greed of the majority of major retailers in the area insisting on opening at 6PM — I got to see that it really does mean something to a lot of people that are otherwise invisible in the din. While my experience is certainly anecdotal, it certainly gave me a lot to think about the melting pot of America, and that perhaps for some, Black Friday is the chocolate to their peanut butter. Amazing on their own, but when combined, creating an entirely new thing that’s just as good.
Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good hunt, because now I’m going to go back to clawing your eyes out for that $6 brick of 40 batteries at Radio Shack.