The numbers are in and it's looking very good for Christianity and the Reason for the Season.
Unless you fell asleep on Thanksgiving night from overeating and didn't wake up until Saturday, you'd know that Black Friday is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.
The Christmas shopping season is crucial for the US and world economies because 30% of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas. For some retailers, such as jewelers, it's nearly 40%.
On 2016 Black Friday, stores raked in $3.34 billion spent online —$5.27 billion if the income from actual brick-and-mortar shopping done on Thanksgiving Day.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports shoppers spent $1.2 billion on Black Friday. Both Adobe and the National Retail Federation reported that this year's Black Friday produced:
- $3.34 billion spent online on Black Friday. This is a 21.6% increase since last year which totaled only $2.74 billion.
- $5.27 billion was spent online on Thanksgiving and Black Friday combined, a 17.7% increase since last year. On Thanksgiving alone, online sales came in at $1.93 billion.
- Mobile shopping revenue on Black Friday was responsible for $1.2 billion worth of sales. That’s a 33% growth since last year.
- The average shopper spent $289.19 during the Thanksgiving weekend.
And what does this mean to the average Christian? A great deal indeed and even more of which to be proud.
Around this time every year, Christians are bombarded with the unthinking complaints that Christmas has become commercialized. I, on the other hand, absolutely rejoice in it.
The rare fistfights that start at the mall aside, I relish the glorious, frenetic energy that marks the Christmas shopping season and, frankly, it's a sign of the mark Christianity has made on our society, Christendom and on the world in general.
I'm not recommending crass materialism―rather, I eschew the pursuit of money and the accumulation of physical possessions which are ultimately meaningless. Christians who believe in "Keeping up with the Joneses" aren't taking Christ's message seriously. That kind of acquisitive greed was condemned by Jesus time and time again. (Mt 19:24, Mk 4:19, Mk 6:8-9, Mk 9:42-49, Mk 10:17-31, Lk 1:46-55, Lk 4:18-19, Lk 12:16-20-21, Lk 12:34, Lk 16:14-15, Lk 19:1-10, Lk 19:23-27, Lk 6:20-26, 1 Tim 6:9-10)
I'm applauding the opposite of what is popularly denounced as the "commercialization" of Christmas. That commercialization is often confused with the secularization of Christmas which rears its ugly head every year.
The actual commercialization of Christmas, on the other hand, is an indication of how pervasive and dependent modern Western society has become on Christianity in general and, in this case, economically.
The Friday after Thanksgiving is referred to as "Black Friday" because it's the first day in the year that retailers are "in the black" after having operated "in the red" for the previous eleven months.
This translates to about 10% of the $220 billion expected in total Christmas sales nationwide this year.
In total, Black Friday garnered $8 billion for retailers this year. The money generated during this shopping period is imperative for retailers and wholesalers to keep them solvent. The income from the Christmas season accounts for a quarter of total annual retail sales.
Put differently, Christianity, and its ideal of total disregard for self for the benefit of others, is the sole cause for the success of the U.S. economy and, by extension, the economic health of the entire world. The Chinese economy would collapse for want of selling toys and clothes to gift-giving Christians around the world. The same can be said of the Japanese electronics industry and clothing manufacturers around the world that supply us with those items. To those who think we're submitting to capitalist and materialist excess, I offer gentle correction―rather, it's capitalism which is beholden to us. No matter what materialists could hope in their attempt at destroying our Christian principles, their existence is dependent upon our generosity, fellow-feeling and good-will. And, whether they like it or not, those attributes are dependent upon our Faith and God's grace. As more reasonable Christians will gladly point out, gift-giving is a natural and beautiful part of our belief and not some kind of aberration we need to stop. Since humans don't live in a world of Platonic ideals, we use physical objects to represent the love we hold for others.
Let all Christians agree to never allow the less principled in our society to destroy the Reason for This Blessed Season and, in its place, create a holiday in which we're pressured to buy presents for ourselves without regard for our loved ones—that would be selfish. It would be the end of Christianity and I'm not interested in giving up so easily.
Because Christmas has been "commercialized," retailers bend over backwards to associate themselves with our holiday. At what other time of year do you see television commercials that make any reference, however indirect, to Jesus Christ? Thus, Christians have a great deal of power in our wallets/purses. Many people boycotted Macy's and Barnes & Nobles, TD Bank and Fairway Supermarkets when they refused to acknowledge Christmas. It's odd in the extreme to be literally dependent upon something and simultaneously hate it and hope for its destruction.
It's reminiscent of the self-blind culture of death which the Popes St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI warned us.
Christmas is about giving, not keeping. Secularist materialists no doubt celebrate their own selfishness and ignorant pride but Christians mustn't. (John 15:18) If they can manage to convince the rest of Christian society that we should be buying presents for ourselves rather than for others, we should begin to worry but I doubt most Americans would debase themselves thusly.
I've met too many Christians and non-Christians who complain about gift-giving simply because they're too cheap to buy nice gifts for people. They couldn't care less if Christmas was commercialized or not. They just want everyone to stop giving gifts to better hide their own tightfistedness. Methinks Scrooge doth protest too much! Most of us understand that love isn't bought with pretty presents and the best way to raise a brood of sociopaths is by inundating one's children with presents. Further, buying impossibly expensive presents in order to impress someone isn't in keeping with Christ's hard-fought message.
The purpose of our Christmas celebrations is to share joyous times with friends and family and to recall the priceless gift we received in the Christ Child―Who is Love Itself. Clearly, love can't be bought. But, presents are a sign and symptom of love and its perfectly acceptable to express love for another human being by giving them a heartfelt present. Such sharing is the height of Christian love―not its corruption.
To those who insist Christmas has been "commercialized," I say, "Bah! Humbug!" Let the cash registers ring! Bring on the schlock! The over-decorated houses! The tedious Christmas office parties! Even that infernal fruitcake that has made the regifting rounds a few times too many. The point is that Christians and Christianity have made an indelible mark upon society which no one in their right minds would want to be rid of. We put food on the table for all retailers and wholesalers throughout Christendom. Non-Christians should be so lucky!
And if secularists insist on their way, all they need do is have to do is explain why it is that they haven't been able to produce a simulacrum for Christmas. If they think this Blessed Holy Day is expendable or negotiable or passé, all they have to do is produce another reason to give gifts―sufficient to put retailers and wholesalers into the black every year. If Christianity goes, there'll be no reason to celebrate Christ's Nativity. And without a Joyous Reason for the Season of Giving, the secularists don’t have a financial leg to stand on.
Give! Give 'til it hurts! Give out of love of neighbor and of God! (Mk 12:30-31) Be gracious to the poor for the Lord will repay you in full! (Prov 19:17) Give to the poor to repay God for your sins! (Lk 19:8) Give in confidence that you'll never lose your reward! (Mt 10:42) Don't give reluctantly for God loves a cheerful giver! (2 Cor 9:7) And always remember to help the weak and remember―it's more blessed to give than to receive! (Acts 20:35)