The American Saturnalia

The first shopping day of the Christmas season is upon us, with the usual crowds, the frantic sales and the inevitable parking nightmare. Even the name—Black Friday—suggests that Americans are deeply ambivalent about this strange shopping holiday. But is it, perhaps, the most American day of the year? A spectacle of commerce and crowds, consumerism and credit cards, a day structured like a poll (vote with your pocketbook) on the state of the American economy? Is Black Friday the perfect and most fabulously self-reflective, narcissistic American holiday we’ve invented?

Every December, we regret the increasing commercialization of Christmas, as if we’re slipping further and further from some ideal understanding of the holiday (last seen in a Dickens story or film by Frank Capra?). But let’s be hardheaded and pragmatic about the facts. Christmas isn’t devolving from some Christian fantasy of love and regeneration. That ship has left the harbor. No, it’s evolving into the perfect, five-week spectacle of Americana, with all our best American gadgets and gizmos on display, with all of our basic habits of the heart—desire, acquisitiveness, competition—perfectly exercised. Black Friday is the first day of the American Saturnalia, a festival of capitalism and technology and American self-love all rolled into one.

About these ads

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Feuilleton

3 responses to “The American Saturnalia

  1. Pingback: A weak defense of the consumer’s Christmas | Civil Religion | STLtoday

  2. Pingback: A weak defense of the consumer’s Christmas | Times & Seasons

  3. Pingback: Active Waiting During Advent | Civil Religion | STLtoday

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s