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Heyl: Why not Thanksgiving in January?

It’s time for Thanksgiving to raise the white flag to Black Friday.

Society has evolved greatly from the days when primitive cultures would delay the beginning of their primal holiday shopping ritual — one named after a Friday — until an actual Friday. Thanksgiving, which for years has unsuccessfully battled creeping consumerism, needs to take the hint and finally get out of the way.

There’s no longer time to give thanks on the day once reserved solely for doing that. Attitudes have changed, priorities have shifted.

The practice of reflecting on what we are grateful for has been replaced by the practice of viciously elbowing those who would keep us from the Target door-buster to which we are entitled.

So let’s acknowledge the obvious: Thanksgiving has been permanently usurped by Black Friday. That’s certainly a concern for traditionalists sadly unfocused on obtaining that 65-inch Vizio TV door-buster for only $648 (bargain!), but the problem has a solution as obvious as it is radical.

Thanksgiving needs to move to a different day.

The evidence that the holiday should scoot to a less occupied space on the calendar is insurmountable.

Likely before your turkey is in the oven on Thanksgiving, Kmart, Big Lots and Dollar General will be open. Their door-busters begin at 7 a.m., making retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s seem like models of restraint because they won’t open until 6 p.m.

Even some stores that want to observe Thanksgiving in its entirety might not be able to delay their Black Friday openings until Friday.

Butler’s Clearview Mall is one of several malls across the country that has threatened to fine retailers who fail to open on the holiday in violation of their leases.

(I suppose that’s good news for folks who just can’t wait a day for a personalized vehicle vanity plate. Clearview definitely is doing them a favor by forcing Lehren Auto Tags to staff its kiosk).

With rare exceptions, Thanksgiving has been held on the fourth Thursday of November since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that day the holiday in 1863. But who said Thanksgiving has to remain on that day?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt certainly didn’t.

Attempting to aid retailers and boost holiday sales during the waning years of the Great Depression, Roosevelt in 1939 moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November, where it stayed until Congress moved it back to the fourth in 1941. There is precedent in tinkering with Thanksgiving’s timing; Congress easily could do it again.

The difficult task would be to move the holiday to a day where there is virtually no chance of Black Friday holiday shopping intruding upon it. That’s a tall order, I realize.

But I think everyone eventually would be thankful they’re carving their turkey in January.

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412- 320-7857 or [email protected].


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