Ask Fr. John: Sharing some thoughts on Black Friday

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What is your take on so-called “Black Friday?” — A. L. H.

One’s desire to give gifts to loved ones is not problematic — at all. Also, the desire to get good deals and save money is not wrong. I say save where you can.
After all, we are called to responsible stewardship and frugality. However, I think many Orthodox Christians find Black Friday problematic because it manifests certain materialistic tendencies in our secularized culture.
What constitutes problematic materialism? Huge amounts of attention to material “stuff” and less concern for God and neighbor. It is not hard to observe that every major corporation and store has exploited “Black Friday,” making it into a veritable holiday.
It is now advertised as the day we go out and spend more money to get better deals. On this day, many people will go to great lengths to get the last sale item.
We may sacrifice peace of mind and soul. By risking encounters and even possible fights, just to get the last sale item, we risk upsetting the sense of fellowship that we attained at the Thanksgiving table. We all know the stories of our neighbor getting trampled and killed during the opening rush into a store to find the best deal. What is this?
The Orthodox are Eucharistic people, that is, a people who give thanks continually. This is why Orthodox in America celebrate Thanksgiving as though it were their own feast.
We celebrate it as a holiday on which we give thanks even more specifically, “as a nation.” In the Orthodox Church, whenever we have a major feast — whether it’s Christmas, Easter or Theophany — the feast lasts for days, sometimes eight days, sometimes 40.
We typically do not celebrate one-day feasts, because we are usually just entering into the spirit of the feast. The same goes with Thanksgiving. Why spoil it?
I will close with a question. Why celebrate a holiday like Thanksgiving, where one gives thanks to God, nurtures one’s sense of eucharisticness and enters into profound fellowship with God, family and friends, only to have it dashed by materialistic Black Friday?
For my part I am going to stay home and remain in the spirit of Thanksgiving, and not spoil it by struggling with my neighbor to get the better deal.