Black Friday: Shoppers enticed early with added promotions, sales

Woman smiling with multiple colored paper bags

Photo by Roderick Eime, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23 and FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24: Millions of shoppers may have to choose between sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and hitting stores on Thursday this year, as Black Friday sales begin earlier than ever. Days before in-store deals began, shoppers were signing up for email lists or connecting with favorite stores via social media for inside access to upcoming deals, promotions and coupons. Online sales also began earlier than ever in 2017: This year, many stores—such as Kohls—began their Black Friday online deals at the beginning of Black Friday week.

Original use of the term “Black Friday” was associated negatively with the less-than-ideal conditions that occurred from the shopping chaos of the day following Thanksgiving, though as years passed, the term morphed into its current meaning: as a day (or two days, now) that retailers move from operating at a financial loss (“in the red”) to a period of profit (“in the black”).

Internationally, Black Friday—along with its corresponding Cyber Monday and Cyber Week—has gained immense popularity.

BLACK FRIDAY: HOURS, SALES & ONLINE VS. IN-STORE

Busy shopping mall, people, escalators

Photo courtesy of PxHere

Black Friday only gained its No. 1 ranking as the busiest shopping day of the year in 2003. (Prior to 2003, Black Friday made the list of top-10 busiest shopping days of the year.) For several years, stores opened their doors at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, but in 2011, major retailers like Target, Kohls, Macy’s and Best Buy opened at midnight. In 2012, Walmart and others announced sales as starting on Thanksgiving evening; this year, Kohls, Best Buy, Macy’s and Toys R Us have announced a 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day opening, while JCPenney will start its Black Friday sales even earlier: on Thursday at 2 p.m. (USA Today has a list of store opening times.)

As online retailers like Amazon provide increasing competition for Black Friday sales, some brick-and-mortar stores are amping up their own competitive edge this year. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp are offering especially early discounts, making in-store prices better than their online counterparts and placing increased emphasis on products they offer that are not available from online giants like Amazon.

Though their Thanksgiving holiday occurred weeks ago, Canadians have been getting into the spirit of Black Friday during the past decade, and 2012 saw the biggest Black Friday to date in Canada. Online retailers like Amazon and Apple have begun reaching out to the United Kingdom, and Black Friday was promoted in Australia by Online Shopping USA in 2011.

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Categories: National Observances

Black Friday: When to open? Close? The debate rages in 2014

Row of shopping carts in colors purple, orange and blue

Will you be among the millions shopping on Black Friday this year? Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28: Post-turkey sleepiness doesn’t stand a chance with the millions of shoppers hitting stores on Black Friday, an American holiday shopping custom that has skyrocketed in recent years. Original use of the term “Black Friday” was associated negatively with the less-than-ideal conditions that occurred from the shopping chaos of the day following Thanksgiving. As years passed, though, the term morphed into its current meaning: as a day that retailers move from operating at a financial loss (“in the red”) to a period of profit (“in the black”). (Wikipedia has details.)

Black Friday is unofficially considered the start of the holiday shopping season, although holiday-themed marketing starts earlier each year.

In recent years, retailers have been opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday, with some pushing their hours into the evening of Thanksgiving. This year, some major retailers are proudly announcing that they will not make their employees work on Thanksgiving Day, despite the loss of profits. (New York Times has the story.) Internationally, Black Friday, along with its corresponding Cyber Monday and Cyber Week, has gained immense popularity.

BLACK FRIDAY:
FROM CHAOS TO COMPETITION AND BACK AGAIN

From its origins describing the chaos of post-Thanksgiving shopping, Black Friday only gained its No. 1 ranking as the busiest shopping day of the year in 2003. (Prior to 2003, Black Friday made the list of top-10 busiest shopping days of the year.) For several years, stores opened their doors at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, but in 2011, major retailers like Target, Kohls, Macy’s and Best Buy opened at midnight. In 2012, Walmart and others announced sales as starting on Thanksgiving evening; this year, Walmart will span its best deals over a period of five days.

This year, more than two dozen nationwide retail chains—including Costco Wholesale, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Crate and Barrel—have announced that store employees will be able to enjoy the entire Thanksgiving holiday away from work. In Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island, “blue laws” ban stores from being open on Thanksgiving Day. (Read more from the Huffington Post.)

Though their Thanksgiving holiday occurred weeks ago, Canadians have been getting into the spirit of Black Friday during the past decade, and 2012 saw the biggest Black Friday to date in Canada. Online retailers like Amazon and Apple have begun reaching out to the United Kingdom, and Black Friday was promoted in Australia by Online Shopping USA in 2011. Last year, Forbes reported that Cyber Monday had gained unprecedented popularity.

Are millennials to blame for the demand on Thanksgiving Day shopping? Some surveys have found that millennials are much more eager to shop on the American holiday than those of the Baby Boomer generation, TIME reported recently. Yet when all factors are taken into consideration, millennials also stand by the idea that employees should be able to spend Thanksgiving Day with their families—even if it means slowing down on the 24/7 deals that millennials have become accustomed to.

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Categories: International ObservancesNational Observances

Palm Sunday and Holy Week: Christians repent during final days of Lent

Jesus on cross in shadow and monochrome

Photo by Jes, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, APRIL 13: Western and Eastern Palm Sunday—In Western Christian tradition, Lent continues into Holy Week and Palm Sunday marks the ironic celebration of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem days before his crucifixion; but in Eastern tradition, Great Lent is over and Holy Week begins with the Great Feast of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17: Western and Eastern Holy Thursday (in some traditions “Maundy Thursday”)—Both East and West recall Jesus’s Last Supper, but use different terms to describe elements of this day. For Western Christians, for example, talk about this day ushering in the Triduum, or “three days” of Easter.

FRIDAY, APRIL 18: Western Good Friday; Eastern Great and Holy Friday.
Both traditions mourn Jesus’s death on the cross, but with distinctive rituals. Eastern Christians will see the removal of an iconic representation of Jesus’s body from a cross in the church; Western Christians typically follow the Stations of the Cross (artistic representations of Jesus’s final days on earth) on Good Friday.

SATURDAY, APRIL 19: Western Holy Saturday; Eastern Great and Holy Saturday. In Eastern and Western traditions, Holy Saturday is a period of waiting for Easter (or Pascha in Eastern churches). While some Western Christians celebrate Easter with a Mass on “Saturday night;” ancient Eastern liturgies focus much more extensively on the Saturday night vigil, followed by a huge celebration of Pascha after midnight that same night. Across the United States, millions of Americans will mark Easter on the morning Sunday April 20; but many Eastern Christians will be at home that morning after a long night of liturgies.

PALM SUNDAY IN MOST CHURCHES

Palm fronds growing wild

Palm fronds. Photo by Les Chatfield, courtesy of Flickr

Palm Sunday and Easter both draw big crowds in churches coast to coast and, for most Americans, Palm Sunday is marked with palm fronds distributed to recall the crowds that waved branches on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

All four Gospels detail Jesus’ entry into the holy city. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, people swarmed his path and laid their garments and palm branches on the roadway. (Wikipedia has many more details.)

During the Catholic Mass on this holiday, palms—or the branches of available trees, given the church’s location and climate—are blessed, and a procession of congregation members takes place.

After leaving church, the faithful bring their blessed palm fronds home and, as is custom, hang them near crucifixes or holy pictures. In Italy and Mexico, pride is taken in the art of braiding and shaping palm fronds into stunning figures and shapes. (Fold palms into the shape of a cross with help from this YouTube video. Advanced weavers can check out this video, as well.) In most regions of the world, these carefully saved palm branches will remain intact until the following year’s Ash Wednesday—at which time Christian tradition holds that old palm branches should be burned to make ashes.

For the three days of Holy Week preceding the Holy Triduum, houses are cleaned to make time for the proper observation of the quickly approaching Passion and Resurrection.

MAUNDY OR HOLY THURSDAY

Priest bent over, washing feet of people sitting in a line of chairs

The term Maundy derives from the Latin ‘to command,’ referring to Jesus’ command to the disciples that they love one another, announced when he washed their feet. Photo by Catholic Church England and Wales, courtesy of Flickr

According to Christian tradition, the Last Supper that Jesus held on this night before his death was the establishment of the Eucharist—the foundation of the Christian sacrament shared by more than 2 billion Christians around the world. Even though specific liturgical customs do vary between the branches of this worldwide faith, the basic sacred tradition stems from the Gospel verses describing Jesus’s last meal with his followers. The New Testament also describes Jesus washing the feet of his followers on this night, so foot washing also widely practiced on Maundy or Holy Thursday.

What does Maundy mean? Wikipedia has an extensive article about the use of this term, which varies widely country by country. Some denominations prefer the term for this Thursday; some never use it—and others use the terms Maundy and Holy interchangeably. Confusing? Yes, it certainly is. But you’ll have a great bit of trivia to share with friends and family if you know what “Maundy” means. According to Wikipedia’s summary:

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

As Jesus and his disciples left their upper room, they traveled out of the Old City of Jerusalem and to the Garden of Gethsemane. Before sunrise, Jesus would be betrayed and the events of Good Friday would begin.

Each Maundy Thursday in the Catholic church, a daytime Chrism Mass takes place and a new stock of holy oil is blessed. Following the evening liturgy, the holy water is removed from all stoups—and all hangings and vestments are changed to black (or another Lenten color). Bells will remain silent until Saturday evening’s Easter Vigil.

GOOD FRIDAY:
PASSION PLAYS, STATIONS OF THE CROSS

Three crucifixes stand with three actors hanging from them, portraying the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. A crowd watches

A Passion play, reenacting the crucifixion, takes place in Trafalgar Square on Good Friday. Photo courtesy of Geograph.org

The day laden with darkness and lamentation has arrived, as Christians recall the somber events of Good Friday—Jesus’s death on a Roman cross. Between two criminals sentenced to death by Roman authorities, Jesus hung on a crucifix for six excruciating hours. During the last three hours, Gospels account that darkness fell over the land; at approximately 3 p.m., Jesus gave up his spirit and died. Such dramatic natural events occurred that the centurion on guard at the site of the crucifixion announced, “Truly this was God’s Son!”

In the Catholic Church, Good Friday is a strict fast day: only one full meal or two small meals is permitted, and the faithful abstain from meat and joyful activities. Many gather at church to pray the Stations of the Cross, painfully recalling each step on Jesus’ path to the crucifixion site. Some devotees attend a prayer service known as the Three Hours’ Agony, and it’s not uncommon for Passion plays and processions to reenact the day’s events. (Wikipedia has details.) In Rome, the Pope or Vatican representatives will lead meditations on the Stations of the Cross while a crucifix is carried to the Colosseum. Good Friday is a public or government holiday in many countries of the world, and the stock market is closed.

By tradition dating to 1361 CE, currant-filled, glazed hot cross buns are eaten for breakfast on Good Friday morning. The glaze forms a cross on the bun, signifying the day’s focus. (You can find a wonderful hot cross bun recipe in Lynne Meredith Golodner’s book The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads.)

HOLY SATURDAY:
DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

A candle burns in a dimly lit cathedral

A candle burns at St. Anne’s Church in Krakow on Holy Saturday. Photo by Marcin Bunsch, courtesy of Flickr

Terms and traditions for this Saturday vary widely across Christianity. For millions of American Protestants, this Saturday is simply a good occasion to clean the house and prepare treats for Easter dinner. Very little is said about this day in the vast majority of mainline Protestant and evangelical churches. However, Holy Saturday liturgies are ancient traditions in the Catholic church, Orthodox churches and others around the world.

In the Gospel stories, Holy Saturday recalls Jesus’s body laying in a tomb. Wikipedia’s account of Holy Saturday points out that this occasion is known by many names, including: Holy Saturday, the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Easter Eve, Joyous Saturday and the Saturday of Light.

In Eastern tradition, one of the most beautiful and unusual of icons is used in Saturday liturgies, called the Epitaphios. This icon is made of fabric and represents a kind of burial shroud, showing Jesus’s body being prepared for burial. On “Great and Holy Saturday,” the Epitaphios is carried in a procession around the church.

American holiday travelers always watch headlines about possible congestion or delays, as the Easter holiday approaches. But travel challenges may be even greater in the Philippines, where the population is more than 80 percent Roman Catholic. Headlines in Filipino newspapers began reporting, weeks early, on efforts to make the holiday migration to hometowns move smoothly. One of the big efforts in Manila this year involves inspecting the safety and cleanliness of the bus fleets that soon will be packed with holiday travelers.

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Categories: ChristianInternational Observances