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Guest column | Mary Partington

A shopping tradition undone by the calender

"Tradition, tradition! Tradition!'' So sings Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. The song is about the treasured traditions of his life. What has been and what will be. I am also a person who likes "tradition" but as the years go by I find clinging to the customs of my life harder to do.

As Thanksgiving approaches another practice has been shattered. Black Friday is now Black every day. Holidays are meant for celebrating with those we love. Thanksgiving is just that, a time to set aside to be thankful for our country, our families and our friends.

The retailing ritual of the past was to gather all the newspapers after dinner and develop a plan of shopping attack for Friday. Who needs what? Where do we go? How do we get there? The planning was a family event followed by turkey sandwiches and a holiday movie on television.

There have been copious changes to our valued traditions. There was a time stores were closed on Sundays. And you never went downtown unless you were dressed in your Sunday best. The major department stores are no more. They are just parts of mega shopping corporations. Where are the Hudson's or the Marshall Field's of yesteryear? And then Black Friday advanced on the calendar. Macy's created the first break for the mainline stores by opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Life goes on in spite of these major changes to our way of life. Cyber Monday is now part of our lexicon. We own smart phones that can tell us where an item can be purchased at the lowest cost.

Last year my daughter and I ventured out to the Thanksgiving openings. We went to that big box store just after the doors opened. You were given a piece of paper to wait in line for an item you are hoping to purchase at a lifetime low price. She looked at me and we silently decided we did not need to do this. We gave our place in line to a grateful shopper. As we left the lines were long but the shoppers were planning the next move while they waited.

We went across the street to another establishment with a later opening time. An employee of the store directing traffic told us we had to go the end of the line and because the line was so long it would be 45 minutes just to get through the door. Again we decided not to participate and gave our parking place to another harried shopper.

I'll admit we chose yet another store and since we arrived after the store had opened the lines for the registers were being managed with the cool efficiency of a ride queue at Disney World. Indeed, it felt like the Magic Kingdom, because there in the middle of the aisle was an item I had long coveted. I grabbed the box and held it to my chest. The price was awesome and I told my daughter this is just what I wanted for Christmas. I had my treasure and I waited in line while she went to look for other goodies.

Black Friday is now a national game. Retailers are the managers and the shoppers are the players, moving around the playing field with smart phones and tweets looking for the big one — the item and price you brag about all year.

Tradition? Yes, we create our traditions while we mourn the passing of old ones. That is what life is all about. As for me and the much-wanted treasure to which I clung, I returned it in July. I am sorry I returned it and now I want it back. I wonder what my daughter will think this Black Friday when I find it again and buy it for myself. This may be my new tradition.

Mary Partington lives in west Pasco.

A shopping tradition undone by the calender 11/21/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 4:56pm]
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