The thing about Black Friday…

Ah, Black Friday. It comes once a year and the news headlines are filled with stories about crowds, lines, and I believe I even read something about people being shot today in the circus of people desperate for that $300 savings off that LED flat screen television from Best Buy (or is it Walmart?).

For consumers, today is perhaps the most crucial day of year where people camp out on Thursdays to line up for the best deals of Friday. For Retailers, today is the biggest consumer spending day of not only Q4, but the whole year. I would not  be surprised if that is true.

Funny enough, with the economy still in a slump and the Occupy movement going relatively strong, Many editorials from various news corporations have justified the madness of Black Friday to the fact that most people are poor, unemployed, and that the Middle Class in America has been suffering and need to save wherever they can. So instead of spending Thanksgiving Day with family as traditional, they adhere to the new tradition of camping out for the best deals come Friday.

While the slowly persevering economy is a valid excuse for the animal farm craziness of Black Friday, I really do not buy into it. In fact, most people I know who have been camping out for years have instead shifted their Black Friday focus online. Cyber Mondays start early, and it starts on Black Friday. So what is the deal with all these people still going to wait in line for the best and the cheapest?

Greed.

Of course a bunch of people will jump up in arms and say it is not greed that drives people to go shopping to deals on Black Friday. I admit, for some people, it is not so much the greed as it is the festivities of going Black Friday Shopping. My own brother went to Best Buy last night with friends, even though he came home with nothing. For two years as a teenager, I woke up at 6AM to see what I could find on sale only to return home disappointed with the selection and annoyed by the long waits.

It was not worth it. I still think it’s not worth it.

When you are poor, broke, and can’t really afford anything, you do not go out and wait in line for deals so that you can spend whatever money you have. I grew up poor; I was denied a lot as a child. Treats did not exist except for birthday cakes and I maybe received one toy a year. When you are poor, you primarily only buy things you need, not things you want.

This is not what I see on Black Friday. Instead, I see a large number of people running to stores to buy luxury goods such as a computer or a new flat screen television. America has become a strange culture of materialism and it always rears its ugly head during Black Friday.

No Jobs –> No Money –> No buying things you don’t need.
No Jobs –> No Money –> Going to get that big screen on BF since it’s cheap.

Perhaps I am preaching from an ivory tower since I am surrounded by luxury items even as I type this. But when I see the so many people stressing the lack of jobs in America, and then I see Black Friday, I can’t help but think that there’s a discrepancy here.

My Chinese Thanksgiving

America is a country founded upon immigration and a myriad of cultures with nowhere to go, hoping for a better opportunity. We were all immigants at one point in our family history. Benjamin Franklin’s father was an Englishman. President Obama’s father was Kenyan. It is in our history to be from other places, but we are all still American.

While my parents immigrated from China nearly thirty years ago, they steadfastly held on to the roots and culture of the Chinese. It comes as no surprise that the most important holiday of the year in my family is still the Chinese New Year. However, they’ve lived in America for nearly thirty years, and we’ve had to assimilate–especially when both my brother and I started learning about all these American holidays when we started school, and not quite understanding why we didn’t do anything for Christmas.

Of course, assimilation in my family did not mean taking the culture and values of Americans and using that as the standard for our household. Instead, as Chinese people have done for centuries, milleniums even, we take parts of other people’s culture and make it our own. We just celebrated Thanksgiving last night, just like every year for as long as I clearly remember celebrating Thanksgiving. Every year, We have a turkey, ham, and sometimes yams. That is where we stop being American and we deviate into Chinese culture.

Chinese Roasted Pork - picture from culinaryescapade.com

Chinese people, particularly Chinese people from Southern China, tend to like our food cooked and warm. This means that we do not eat salads. We saute our lettuce with garlic instead of adding dressing. We add shrimp to our broccoli because shrimp is also something that is nearly always present in large family meals. At our Thanksgiving, we will have bok choy without fail. Having any sort of family dinner without bok choy at the table is just unthinkable–at least to me. Another food item that always seem to be present is the roast pork. No, this is not a roast pork as the Western culture sees it but roast pork as you would see at a luai where the skin is crispy and the meat is moist and delicious. This is our chinese version of roast pork. When you read that, you’re probably thinking that there aren’t any carbs in our menu. When you’re having a Chinese meal, the carb is nearly always rice (again, this is southern Chinese). Soup is crucial to any meal when you’re in a Chinese household; we had lotus root soup last night.

It’s not the traditional American Thanksgiving I see on television shows, nor is it like what my collegues talk about–instead my family celebrates a very Chinese-American Thanksgiving and I like it just fine.