WHITNEY: Thanksgiving Day is becoming Shopping Day

Alongside the time tested and stained recipe cards used as the game plan for the Thanksgiving meal, many families also are stacking up circulars and plotting their just desserts at Black Friday and Thanksgiving night sales.

Let us bow our heads in prayer now as we remember the retail workers who will soon be tested by the teeming hoards of Thanksgiving Day shoppers.

In the past few years, some of the nation’s largest retailers have taken to opening their doors on Thanksgiving evening, further eroding the holiday that had already been downgraded from a celebration in its own right to nothing more than the unofficial start of Christmas.

Thanksgiving Day shopping wouldn’t be what it is today, however, without the support of the American public. In 2013, 44.8 million people shopped the sales while digesting their turkey, a 27 percent increase over 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. Even more fascinating, in 2013, 37 percent of people who shopped during Thanksgiving weekend were at the stores by 12:01 a.m. on Black Friday, and 64 percent had done their shopping before 10 a.m. on Black Friday (meaning they either shopped on Thanksgiving Day or took advantage of early morning Black Friday doorbusters).

Speaking from experience, let me tell you: Working retail is difficult on a boring, average Tuesday evening. It requires feats of strength and stamina on Black Friday. This sounds hyperbolic, but I’ve seen people walk off the job on Black Friday.

So to take that insanity and allow it to overrun one of the three days a year retail workers can count on having with their families seems kind of cruel.

It’s a bummer to see Thanksgiving erode because, in many ways, it’s kind of the purer version of Christmas. All the food and family time without the gifting obligations. Sitting around playing cards or listening to Uncle Paul rail on about the way things used to be. Watching the Lions lose with your cousins. Thanksgiving is all about quality family time.

If you’re shopping on Thanksgiving — even if you’re with your aunts and cousins and the excursion has become a tradition for your family — that means someone else can’t be with their family because they’re stuck behind a register, ringing up $5 copies of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” DVDs.

I’d end here making a plea for our readers to stay home from the Thanksgiving sales, but I don’t know what good that would do.

See, I’ve worked my share of Thanksgivings reporting in Big Rapids and I’ve seen the sale-crazed mobs even in this small town. I don’t think there’s much convincing I can do.

But here’s a bit of food for thought if you’re going to hit the sales next Thursday: Even if it has always been a big shopping day, before we gave it a cute name Black Friday, it was just the day after Thanksgiving. The next biggest shopping day of the year is the day after Christmas, when people cash in gift cards and return things they didn’t want in order to get things they actually want. It might not be long before someone comes up with a great nickname for 5 p.m. on Dec. 25 and 44.8 million people find themselves marching back to the mall before the morning’s wrapping paper even makes it into the trash.

I’d like to think we won’t bite when corporate America inevitably tries to bait us into the stores on Christmas evening — what with all the concern that someone might try to start a war against Christmas – but based on how nonchalantly we’ve let Thanksgiving go, I’m not holding out hope.