The news that Walmart, Sears, Toys R Us, Kmart and Target will launch the Black Friday sales stampede on Thanksgiving night -- and not the day after -- is the final stake through the wishbone of our national day of thanks.
Old Kris Kringle got his mitts on Thanksgiving decades ago, and now, after making the holiday nothing more than a launching pad for holiday shopping, he's finally strangled it by the giblets.
Which, let's note, is the same time-stamp likely to show up on the coroner's report for the first shopper of the season to be trampled to death while fighting to grab an LCD television.
Turkey Day is chicken feed
Retailers are blackening Thursday because there's no big money in Thanksgiving. You don't go on a Thanksgiving Day buying binge, or at least you don't have to. Turkeys are the cheapest protein you can buy all year. Add some potatoes. Pick up a can of green beans, cream of mushroom soup and those fried onion thingies. Grab a pie in the bakery aisle, and you're set.
Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday for bad times, which, if you haven't noticed, are still lingering. The cost of a Turkey Day feast for 10, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, is $49.48 -- less than $5 per person -- up a whopping 28 cents from last year. Turkeys are $1.10 to $1.14 per pound this year. Wild turkeys are $3.25 a pound or, at my house, $21 a fifth.
Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation estimates that we'll spend an average of $749.51 each on gifts, decor, greeting cards and more for a holly, jolly HanuKwanzaMas. Just think: You can have 15 ten-person Thanksgivings for the price of one person's Christmas -- and you don't have to pretend to like that sweater-shaver from your cousin.
Fly like a turkey
The only big-ticket Thanksgiving cost can be a flight home, but at an average of $393, a November seat still beats the $430 you'll spend in December, according to Priceline.com. And if you can't afford to fly the crowded, cranky skies, Thanksgiving is the one holiday for which you can gather up any rag-tag group of temporary orphans to celebrate.
That's because Thanksgiving is the one holiday that every American can get behind, knowing that whatever junk we're in, we've still got plenty for which to be thankful, even if it's the fact that things could be much, much worse. Think about it: Do you hear anyone saying, "President-elect Bachmann"?
But traditions change, right? So, grab a turkey sandwich at the drive-through and drag your sleeping bag to camp out for a cheap laptop at the mall. You've still got the rest of Thursday to contemplate how truly thankful we Americans are for all that we have -- right before you run through the Walmart doors to buy more stuff.
(Brian J. O'Connor is an award-winning columnist for The Detroit News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)