Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Church of Stuff- or- a Black Friday Rant

Tomorrow is a holy day of obligation for many consumers. They prepared for their worship of  stuff by checking the ads, reading and comparing the best prices. They have their cell phones charged for communicating with friends who they are shopping with and have prepared their driving schedules to get to all the right stores. Although an hour or two is too much on Sundays for church (too busy), many will wake up before the sun rises to get the best deals on goods most likely made in China or another country that has no employee or environmental protections.

I don't shop on the day after Thanksgiving- or the day after Christmas for that matter. There are many days where I can find 'great deals' on random stuff. It is just too depressing to see all the consumerism in preparation of a holy day where we will  remember a tiny baby- who is God- born in a cave to parents who had almost nothing. On the years where I have ventured out to shop a bit on 'Black Friday,' I see people (not assuming- I know these people) who don't believe in Christ and actually are hostile towards His Church. Why are they charging stuff on a credit card to commemorate a holy day that they despise and scoff at?

Culturally, we love to give gifts for Christmas. We love the excitement of kids running down the stairs to check their stockings. I love that, too. I have great memories as a child of opening gifts. I love to give gifts. But the endless supply of STUFF that we Westerners get from poorer nations at cheap prices is not a way to celebrate Christ's birth.

I am trying to be more intentional in my gift giving. I encourage you to do so as well- Read this post to see where I am coming from on certain aspects of Christmas consumerism-  Let us all avoid being parishioners at the Church of Stuff. I promise to stop writing about this- but it is on my heart right now. But for today- 

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving day!

A psalm for Thanksgiving
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5).


  1. For the past six years, I have had to work at the store on the Black Friday! Ooh, it made me not like Christmas and eliminated all 'magic' and meaning. I am happy that this year I can immerse myself in Advent!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Happy Thanksgiving! Have you ever been Ann Voskamp's blog "holy Experience"? Their family hasn't exchanged presents for the last ten years, and choose to give to the poor instead- presents for Jesus! You've gotta admire that! I like your posts!

  3. I have been trying to leave a comment for a couple of days since finding your blog. I have always been intrieged by the Eastern Cathoic perspective and will love getting to know you better.
    Looking forward to this
    God Bless

  4. Gae- Welcome and thanks for commenting- The priest who baptized my last 2 children (so my husband didn't have to do it) was Fr Maximos- a monk from Australia, he and his small monastery are well-loved here in the states

  5. Preoteasa, you may have to explain a little context for those of us who live far from the US of A. While most of us have heard of Thanksgiving (and consider it an odd thing to celebrate) we have no idea when it is, except maybe deep winter.

    Also I have never heard of "Black Friday" except when the 13th falls on a friday (or it refers to a disaster occurring on a friday - ask your monks about that). But I assume that you are referring to some frenzied rite, similar to the religious rites is Phrygia described by Catullus.

    But there is an entire culture of giving gifts is a horribly materialistic way. As I understand it, children now expect gifts at Easter and Christmas. My more cynical friends sometime speculate that the many secular "Holy Days" - St Valentines, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving (and I am sure I have missed a few) are driven for commercial interests (yes a certain greeting card company is mentioned).

    The entire "Santa Claus" thing is really a secularisation of a Dutch celebration of St Nicholas. In this, children put out a shoe (or clog - being Dutch) and a small gift was put in it.

    PW - please continue the rant! Hopefully more will join in to wrest our festivals from Mammon.

  6. Bear- Thanks for commenting- Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks to God for all our blessings and a commemoration of the survival of the winter of 1620 when the Wampanoag tribe and Puritans feasted for 3 days. Now, as many holidays both secular and religious, it has changed.

    My rant is against the complete secularization of Christmas. The Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because this is when most retail merchants hope to be 'in the black'- i.e. making a profit for the year.

    I do like to give gifts during Christmas time, but I don't consider it my patriotic duty to prop up the consumerist lifestyle. We are pretty practical and try to be mindful of what we are buying- luckily, my immediate and extended families do not get into a gift competition, we draw names for the cousins so they can have the fun of gifts without anyone getting too crazy...Bear, I am so curious as to which country you are from :)

  7. Preoteasa, shall we say that I first came across the Archimandrite Nick when he was O.P. (although he will not remember me). ;) We also have some friends in common. (I would have thought my spelling and grammar would have indicated where I am living.)

    I very much agree with you about the consumer lifestyle: the principal contradiction being God and Mammon.

    For example, many people are more concerned about the environment and have a greater awareness of "environmental impact" of their activities, it does not seem to translate into their personal lifestyles. They consume as much as before.

    But such is the human condition - we Christians are not alone in being bad at living our faith.

  8. I just want to point out to 'Bear' that my understanding of Santa Claus is that it actualy does not have anything to do with St Nicholas but is insead a celebration of the norse god thor. He was the god of the hearth and so the fireplaces where dedicated to him, he also drove a sleigh drawn by eight goats/reindeer.
    I need to find my notes on this but am posotive that most people misinterpret St Nicholas as being re-represented as Santa Claus.

    BTW- I would love it would stop by and check out my blog when you have time. I am currently trying to share some of the ways we celebrate Advent (slow process trying to fit it in around life in general)and keep our eyes focused on the birth os our Saviour.

  9. Gae, there is one problem with your assertion that Santa Claus has nothing to do with St Nicholas --- his name!! Claus is the Germanic form of Nicholas and the origins of "Santa" are clear. The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas (or St Nicholas) as his feast on 6th December.

    I am not sure about other influences into the legend - there are probably many --- but it seems to be a fusing of traditions, which emerged in New York (or is that New Amsterdam??). The North pole thing seems to of Scandinavian origin. However, it referred to the Lapps, who were also Reindeer herders: the stories of the Lapps included that they lived at the North Pole, they were also able to call up storms and to fly.

    So there are several influences to the legend - but the most destructive influence has been the consumerism associated with this time of year.

  10. There is a great book I got one year for Christmas- generally the only thing I ask for beyond necessities during our gift exchange- called the Physics of Christmas. It talks about all kinds of winter traditions including the almagamation that became Santa Claus, the story behind "don't eat yellow snow," and more. It's a great history/cultural lesson if nothing else. Keep up the good work!

  11. We, too, did not shop on "black Friday" though we noticed the malls were busy all through the weekend.


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