I hope everybody's holiday feasts were as spectacular as mine was! I judge a feast by its gravy, and let me tell you... It was divine. That's right, divine gravy. I said it. ; )
Wikipedia says that the term "Black Friday" was coined in Philadelphia in 1966, in reference to the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic that the city experienced as a result of the beginning of the Christmas buying season. Since then, it's become the money slinging free-for-all that we know it as today.
I first heard the term in the early 2000's from a friend that worked in a camera store in the Tucson Mall. I had known that lots of people started shopping for Christmas gifts then, but I hadn't realized that it was a national phenomenon with so much notoriety.
Further research indicated that "Black Friday" and subsequent "Cyber Monday" are local phenomenon. They have spread to other english speaking countries (Canada, England, and Australia) slowly over the course of the last couple of decades with the expansion of websites like Amazon and Apple.
A newer interpretation of the term defines it as the shopping day that puts everyones profits back "in the black".
My impressions of the holiday are far from positive. To me Black Friday is the epitome of consumer gluttony and decadence. It represents a social sickness that infects western culture. It is an orgy for big business. Sneaky corporations and producers of defective goods cheating sheep-like, lemming-consumers out of their savings, wages and assets. A couple of years ago people were killed and sustained heavy injury as a result of this ridiculous display (look here and here). Is a day of discounted shopping spree really worth human lives?
To not be robbed, to not participate in this event, is to be a rebel and an outcast. To not participate is to declare oneself "poor" and stingy. The way this is expressed can vary. I've noticed that if one does not take advantage of the sales, one is labeled a frivolous spender, because clearly, not taking advantage of sales means that one can't manage one's finances. I think people should be praised for buying gifts throughout the year, when one can afford them. Why have your budget take a giant hit for Christmas when you can easily find more meaningful presents all year long for friends and family? Why is participating in a consumer mania far more important than money management and thoughtful gift giving? I can only guess; it makes no sense to me.
Of course, for me, gift giving happens all year long. I don't confine the act to birthdays and gift-heavy holidays. Usually if I find something I like for someone, and I can afford it, I'll buy it and give it to them right away. Sometimes I have the presence of mind to check on when their birthday is or consider an upcoming holiday, but I usually forgo it in favor of not forgetting that I have bought the item. I'll call it a belated birthday gift or and early Solstice present.
If I had my way, and there was less stigma attached to the forgoing of gifts, I'd give only a couple of gifts per year. The need never strikes me to get gifts for everyone I know. I may send a card or salutation or bag of cookies, but that's usually as far as it goes. I trust my friends to know that I love them, even though I skimp on presents. I'm not stingy, but I am financially decrepit and forgetful. Luckily I surround myself with people who consider those reasons adequate excuses, and are sensitive to them.
The point is, that the act of giving is cheapened by holidays and social events of this kind. If you want to give a gift, do it! Don't worry about cost and sales and holidays and brands and trends. If you find a thoughtful trinket that you feel displays your gratitude for someone's friendship and support, get it and give it. Simply. Better yet, make it yourself! Paint a painting, knit a scarf, crochet a hat, sew a plushie, sculpt a chochkey, bind a journal, put a piece of yourself into the gifts that you give and have it be a labor of love!
Happy holidays to all. I hope your gift giving is heartfelt and genuine and filled with the affection you feel towards the receiver. Love!