Black Friday creep creates shopping divide

Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 @ 6:56 PM
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 @ 6:56 PM

It’s one remedy for turkey coma.

Before you reach for a second helping of Thanksgiving dinner — perhaps even before you can actually sit down to Thanksgiving dinner — the annual shopping fete once known as Black Friday will already be under way.

This year, several retailers — including Wal-Mart, the world’s largest — will open earlier than ever for Black Friday, the term used to describe the shopping holiday that has for decades helped retailers boost end-of-year profits.

“Black Friday Eve” or “Gray Thursday,” as it is now called, has been an evolving trend for several years.

And it has created a divide.

Even as some shoppers protest store openings on Thanksgiving, retailers have reported double-digit sales increases as a result of extended hours last year. And although about two dozen retail workers and their supporters have launched online petitions asking employers to save Thanksgiving, others will eagerly accept time-and-a-half holiday pay in today’s tough economy.

“Retailers are reaping their own rewards,” said Ronald Goodstein, associate professor of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “Retailers have trained shoppers to get a deal, and consumers, like lemmings, have followed suit. Now, the idea is we can get our sales started early and beat the competition. … It is all about them selling more items and making more money.”

Shoppers and retail employees who object to the Thanksgiving Day intrusion have taken to social media in protest — posting complaints on Facebook, for example, or launching petitions on social change website

Target employee Casey St. Clair of Corona, Calif., created a petition on asking the retailer to stop the “Black Friday Creep” so she could have Thanksgiving Day to relax and visit family. St. Clair’s petition has more than 200,000 signatures, a number comparable to a similar petition last year.

Protesters have also made the same request of Best Buy, Wal-Mart and others.

Jennifer O’Donnell, 43, of Sandy Springs was happy to sign St. Clair’s petition.

“I believe in capitalism. The problem is the commercialization of certain holidays,” she said. “Holidays where we are supposed to give thanks should remain holidays.”

Sears was among the first retailers to announce an early opening this year. Its stores will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day compared to last year’s midnight opening.

“The reason behind it largely came from our own “Shop your Way” members and other customers,” said Brian Hanover, spokesman for Sears Holdings Inc. “This is something that a certain segment of the Sears customer base really wants — to be in our stores early.”

Sears will stagger the big deals known as doorbusters with one round at 8 p.m. and another at 4 a.m. They will also allow reward program members to shop the same deals five days early. “You want to talk about early shopping, that is as early as it can get,” Hanover says.

Wal-Mart will also open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year.

“Last year our busiest time was 10 p.m.,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Veronica Marshall. “What (customers) shared was that they would rather stay up late than get up early.”

Wal-Mart is also offering deals at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and they are guaranteeing certain doorbusters for anyone in line between 10 and 11 p.m.

Among the other retailers opening early is Kmart — from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Toys R Us will open an hour earlier this year at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while department stores including Macy’s and Kohl’s will open at midnight Friday.

This week, Target announced it would open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving with deals including high-definition television sets, cameras and e-Readers.

O’Donnell, a costume designer for film and television, said that in the last couple of years, if she just has to shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, she shops online or with small businesses. While she hopes retailers will heed the concerns of consumers opposed to Thanksgiving store openings, she is doubtful they will reverse corporate decisions.

Marshall, Wal-Mart’s spokeswoman, confirms O’Donnell’s doubts. “I think overall (those critics are) still a small number compared to the 140 million customers that come to our store each week,” Marshall said. “I don’t think the conversations taking place right now online will have any impact on the business.”

Nor will they have an impact on the 28.7 million people who did their Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Day last year, according to data from the National Retail Federation.

So while shoppers must choose to miss out on deals or dinner and store employees miss out on dinner or dollars, retailers it would seem, will always get the prize.

“They aren’t going to lose any business by opening early,” Goodstein said. “If anything, they are gaining.”

5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

Muslims around the globe are gearing up for the holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

Throughout the holiday, observers fast from sunrise to sunset and partake in nightly feasts.

» RELATED: Muslims in America, by the numbers

Here are five things to know about Islam’s sacred month:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the holy month of fasting, spiritual reflection and prayer for Muslims.

It is believed to be the month in which the Prophet Muhammad revealed the holy book — Quran — to Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” itself is taken from the Arabic word, “ramad,” an adjective describing something scorchingly dry or intensely heated by the sun.

» RELATED: Mahershala Ali makes history as first Muslim to win an Academy Award 

When is Ramadan?

The Islamic calendar is based on the moon’s cycle and not the sun’s (what the Western world uses), so the dates vary year to year.

By the Gregorian solar calendar, Ramadan is 10 to 12 days earlier every year.

In 2017, Ramadan is expected to start on May 27 and last through June 24.

Last year, the first day of Ramadan was June 6, 2016.

To determine when exactly the holy month will begin, Muslim-majority countries look to local moon sighters, according to Al Jazeera.

The lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon on the 29th night of each month. If the moon is not visible, the month will last 30 days.

» RELATED: 5 inspiring quotes from iconic Muslim women to celebrate #MuslimWomensDay 

What do Muslims do during Ramadan and why?

Ramadan is known as the holy month of fasting, with Muslims abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Fasting during the holiday is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with the daily prayer, declaration of faith, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Last year, according to Al Jazeera, fasting hours around the globe ranged between 11 and 22 hours and in the US, 16 to 18 hours.

The fast is intended to remind Muslims of the suffering of those less fortunate and bring believers closer to God (Allah, in Arabic). 

During the month, Muslims also abstain from habits such as smoking, caffeine, sex, and gossip; this is seen as a way to both physically and spiritually purify oneself while practicing self-restraint.

Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:

  • Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
  • Then, they fast all day until sunset.
  • At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
  • After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar."

» RELATED: Photos of famous Muslim Americans

How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?

Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses.

On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.

To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun.

Does every Muslim fast during Ramadan?

According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting.

Some interpreters also consider intense hunger and thirst as well as compulsion (someone threatening another to do something) exceptions.

But as an entirety, whether Muslims fast or not often depends on their ethnicity and country.

Many Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, for example, observe the monthlong fast during Ramadan, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center.

In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims can be fined or jailed for eating in public during the day, according to the Associated Press.

But in the United States and in Europe, many Muslims are accepting of non-observers.


How not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 @ 11:28 AM

Cinco de Mayo is Friday, and before everyone gets ready for happy hours and parties, it helps to go in with a plan.

>> Read more trending stories

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the day, which commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5 1862, during the French-Mexican war.

Make sure you do not do any of the following:

Dress up in sombreros and fake mustaches

There is no need to "dress up" for this day, but if you do, do not wear a sombrero, mariachi suit, serape, fake mustache or anything of the sort if you are not a member of that culture. Those things have historical and cultural significance, and donning them just for a day caricatures and stereotypes people. That's not fun.

Go out and get drunk

There is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation and doing it socially, but responsibility is key. What is the use in celebrating a day if you get sick or can't remember it?

Make English words Spanish by adding an "o" on the end

Not only does it not make any sense, but by doing this, it makes fun of another language and turns it into a joke. The same goes for plays on the holiday name, so no parties or themes like "Cinco de Drinko."

You can make a margarita cupcake or a fun cocktail, or have dinner at a family-owned Mexican restaurant. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo without doing any of the three above.

Woman turns son's hospital bed into giant Easter basket

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 5:14 PM

Marine2844/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A woman turned her son’s hospital bed at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, into a giant Easter basket, and social media loved it.

>> Read more trending news

The hospital posted the image on its Facebook page on Monday. Within 24 hours, the post has nearly 2,000 likes and nearly 400 shares.
“The lengths great parents will go to for their precious children,” one commenter wrote. 

The family is showing support for the post and have commented that they hope this becomes a trend for patients at the hospital every Easter.

Why is it called Good Friday and what’s so good about it?

Published: Friday, April 14, 2017 @ 12:14 PM

Pictured is a mosaic of Jesus Christ inside Messina Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, Sicily.
Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Christians believe Jesus was mocked publicly and crucified on a solemn Friday two thousand years ago. Today, the calamitous day is celebrated as Good Friday.

But what’s so good about that?

>> Read more trending news

One answer is that at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, “good” may have referred to “holy” in Old English, a linguistic theory supported by many language experts.

According to Slate, the Oxford English Dictionary notes the Wednesday before Easter was once called “Good Wednesday.” Today, it’s more commonly known as Holy Wednesday.

And Anatoly Liberman, a University of Minnesota professor who studies the origins of English words, told Slate if we consider the alternative names for Good Friday, such as “Sacred Friday” (romance languages) or “Passion Friday” (Russian), this theory makes a lot of sense.

Another possible reason for its moniker — a theory supported by both linguists and historical evidence — refers to the holiday’s ties to Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

Because Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected without dying, the day of his death is, in a sense, “good.”

“That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” the Huffington Post reported.

A third answer, some believe, is that the “good” in Good Friday was derived from "God” or “God’s Friday” — the way the term “goodbye” comes from a contraction of the phrase “God Be With You.”

Still, not everyone refers to this day as Good Friday. For example, 

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that, in the Greek Church, the holiday is known as "the Holy and Great Friday." In German, it's referred to as "Sorrowful Friday."

And as aforementioned, “Sacred Friday” and “Passion Friday” are also used.

In addition, because the holiday is also commemorated with a long fast, Good Friday was also referred to as “Long Friday” by the Anglo-Saxons.