Monday, November 30, 2015

Paint It Black

It’s Black Friday here in Britain. I know, it’s ludicrous; you can’t have Black Friday without Thanksgiving but try telling that to the Brits.

Now, you may be thinking I’m a little late with this post, because Black Friday was ages ago, but here, Black Friday seems to be a weekend event. Hence, we had Black Friday Saturday, and Black Friday Sunday and, for all I know, this is Black Friday Monday and Black Friday Week is just beginning. This is because, although the shops are keen to cash in on the lucrative Black Friday feeding frenzy, they have no actual clue what Black Friday is about.

See? Not a clue.
You cannot import another country’s tradition without the feelings, cultural consciousness and collective clan memory that goes along with it. That would be like Price Chopper forcing Inuits to pretend to celebrate Independence Day by barbecuing hot dogs, eating potato salad and setting off fireworks simply so they could shift a surplus of Frankfurter buns. Chain stores holding sales on a random weekend and calling it black Friday makes it Black Friday in the same way that changing my name to Cheryl Cole makes me an anorexic X-Factor judge.

Black Friday is not a stand-alone event; it is part of a holiday tradition that goes something like this:


It’s a holiday but you’re up early because there is a lot to do. You will not be cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner this year, but the house is still bursting with food—bowls of nuts, plates of cakes, fresh rolls, spiced drinks, a small turkey and, of course, pumpkin pie. You have pumpkin pie for breakfast because you like pumpkin pie and, hey, it’s Thanksgiving, and the tradition of excessive eating begins NOW. Then you start decorating the house for Christmas.

At ten o’clock you have an early lunch of turkey with Stove Top stuffing and Pepperidge Farm gravy and a bit of ambrosia for dessert before starting the two hour drive to your father-in-law’s house, where you have an early Thanksgiving feast with him and his wife.

Mmm, ambrosia.
Then, stuffed with turkey, potatoes, candied yams, creamed corn, three-bean salad, ambrosia, pumpkin pie and more mulled wine than advisable, you drive your family to your mother-in-law’s house.

She lives alone but she puts on a huge dinner for you and the rest of her extended family, all of whom—the adults, the teenagers, the children—are arguing and running riot. You eat more turkey, stuffing, potatoes, candied yams, creamed corn, dinner rolls, mince pies, cranberry sauce, ambrosia and three-bean salad and top it off with more mulled wine and a slice of pumpkin pie.

By now, thanks mainly to the wine, the arguing—for the adults and teenagers, at least—has stopped and everyone hugs. When you leave, your mother-in-law is crying.

You squeeze into your car, feeling like a tick about to pop, and drive to your father’s house for evening drinks and snacks. You have—at your wife’s insistence—non-alcoholic mulled wine, which tastes like lavatory cakes, and more pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. You promise your dad and his new wife that, next year for sure, you will have the main Thanksgiving dinner with them. As you leave, you shake hands and his new wife gives you an awkward hug and you wonder if you are ever going to visit your father again and then you drive home for a night filled with troubled dreams, indigestion and alarming flatulence.

The next day, you have to go to work. Your wife, however, has taken the day off and is already out at the Black Friday sales. You have pumpkin pie for breakfast and go to the office to commiserate with your co-workers.

That evening, your wife regales you with tales of the sales as you eat left over turkey for dinner with a slice of pumpkin pie for dessert.

Black Friday, a sort of commercial interlude between Thanksgiving dinners.
On Saturday, you get up early. It's still dark when you set out on the road. Your family sits sullen and silent as you make the six-hour trip to your mother’s house. You arrive at noon, greet your brothers and sisters and step-father and settle into another turkey dinner, complete with arguments, mulled wine, pumpkin pie and hugs. You leave at 6 PM and arrive home at midnight.

Nothing says "I never want to see you, your wife or your spoiled brats again," like a nice family dinner.
(Ignore the fact that this is a British Christmas dinner--it was the best photo I could find.)
Sunday you are allowed to sleep late. A little. You have pumpkin pie for breakfast and begin clearing up the clutter. You have leftover turkey for lunch and dinner and, after you finally put the finishing touches on the Christmas decorations, you celebrate with mulled wine and a slice of pumpkin pie.

Monday AM, it is all behind you. You get up to go to work. You have muesli and soy milk for breakfast. You never want to see another slice of pumpkin pie as long as you live.


Now that, my British friends, is what Black Friday is all about.

The other problem with Black Friday in Britain is, while nobody is shy about going to the sales, everyone complains about it. The prevailing view seems to be, “Oh sure, another American custom insinuating itself into our culture.” I think you Yanks should be a bit miffed about this. I mean, there you are, having your turkey and holding your sales, and the Brits go and steal the 'Sales' part of your tradition, and then bad-mouth you for it. I think you deserve restitution. You should demand a British holiday tradition in return.

If you do, might I suggest Boxing Day. A day off after Christmas is a tradition worth adopting; it makes it handy for visiting your mother and step-father, who you couldn’t spend Christmas with because you were too busy visiting everyone else.

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