It’s Black Friday! For some, a joyous day of bargains; for the cynics, a kickoff to the annual festival of peppermint and debt we call Christmas. If you were incapacitated by a bolus of turkey yesterday, you didn’t get off the sofa to participate in pre-Black Friday Thanksgiving sales. But even if you were at Macy’s yesterday throwing elbows to get that Thigh D’Amour perfume gift-set, there’s something tingly about today no one can ignore. BECAUSE THE MEDIA WILL NOT LET YOU.
As part of the media, let me do my part to pretend this day is an integral part of our shared cultural experience and answer any questions you may have.
Q: Why is it called Black Friday?
A: It goes back to colonial times. The day after Thanksgiving men would put on hats with enormous buckles above the brim and go out to “make merrie,” which involved smearing coal on their faces and buying bags of chestnuts, which they would roast, salt, dice, then throw away because good Lord those things are nasty.
President McKinley made Black Friday a national holiday in A.D. 1899. (A.D. 19.80 when you added the tax.) The holiday was suspended during the early years of World War II, when people were encouraged to spend the day bringing scrap metal to the fire station for conversion into armaments in exchange for a coupon entitling them to an extra ration of Victory Rutabagas.
The holiday was revived in 1947, although to this day major retailers keep rutabaga coupons on hand in case an old feller walks in with a length of gutter.
Q: Do I have to go shopping?
A: Yes. Minnesota Statue 145-5(b) requires all citizens to show up at the mall of their choice and purchase something. Stopping at SuperAmerica for jerky does not qualify, unless you can present within 30 days of Christmas photographic proof that it was gifted in an appropriate holiday setting.
No, of course you don’t have to go shopping. It’s entirely up to you whether you want to troll the lots for a space and brave the crowds and stand in the atrium hearing “Holly Jolly Christmas” while thinking It seems like just yesterday I took the tree down, and now a year has passed. O Time, slow thy gait! The grave yawns and Fate extends his crooked finger, beckoning us on. Oh look, there’s Cinnabon. Let’s. Side of Frosting, right? It’s Christmas!
You should feel no pressure to shop. Don’t, if you prefer. Ya commie.
Q: About “Holly Jolly Christmas”: There’s the lyric “and as you walk down the street / say hello to friends you know / and everyone you meet.” Doesn’t the latter set encompass the former? And would one say hello to friends you don’t know?
A: All these songs have problems. Don’t even get me started on “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” The tree is usually against the wall or in a corner, which prevents total circular rocking. It SHOULD be “Making a Semi-parabolic motion Around the Christmas Tree,” but when you mention that to the clerk you get a glazed expression, almost as if she’s having a long nightmare in which she’s an elf who hears Karen Carpenter every 97 minutes.
Q: Many of the stores are advertising “Doorbusters.” Is this intended literally?
A: Yes and no. The term is intended to make you think of a mob pressed against the entrance of the store, faces smeared against the glass in terror until the pressure from the rear of the mob provides sufficient force to break the doors, after which the bargain-seeking mob will trample on the bodies of those on the ground to get to the new X-Box, which is 15 percent faster and plays that new hot game, Robot Death-Punch 3.
But the term is just an imaginative way of saying, “Boy, folks will be busting down the doors for this bargain,” knowing full well that people will respect the posted hours of operation, and not unhinge the doors at 8:58. NOTE: Some retailers use the term to mean that the first 100 people to disengage the door from its frame by force get an additional 10 percent off. Consult the ad in yesterday’s glossy supplement for details. Availability may vary depending on location. Additional discounts do not apply. Robot Death-Punch is a registered trademark of Satan’s GoreFist Productions. Merry Christmas!
Q: What’s this year’s must-have hot item?
A: A surprising comeback story of the year is the George Foreman Wound Cauterizer, experts say. Keurig has a new coffeemaker with a Snob Function: It makes a cup, dismisses it as “predictable,” then takes 20 minutes to make a better one.
There’s a Snugli made of a special fabric that generates so much static electricity it fries every follicle of hair from your body when you remove it. (Comes with air freshener.) Also popular: a kitchen gadget that comes with a prepaid envelope so you can save time and mail it right away to Goodwill instead of sticking it in the back of the cupboard for five years.
Q: If the media reports that Black Friday sales were less than the previous year, should I be afraid?
A: Yes. The entire consumer culture lives or dies by the next few weeks, but don’t worry. If there’s a story about a “slow start” to the shopping season, there’ll be a story about “Last Minute Bargains Lure Shoppers” and made the “cash registers ring.” Then there’s the post-holiday sales, which will have even better bargains.
It’s almost as if they have this planned in advance.