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Nathan Hansen column: Our most dangerous holiday

We celebrate Thanksgiving is this week: America’s annual opportunity for friends and family to come together, sit around their dining room table and make plans for their Black Friday shopping.

It’s just like the Pilgrims, who were notoriously cheap when it came to their Christmas gifting.

It’s fair at this point to call our annual celebration of consumerism November’s biggest holiday, isn’t it? Veterans get their due earlier in the month. Thanksgiving is all about taking stock of the good things in our lives. National Marooned Without a Compass Day on Nov. 6 is — actually, I don’t know what that’s about. But Black Friday is the rare national day of celebration on which we actually have to worry about people getting trampled to death.

It’s America’s Running of the Bulls, but in this case the shoppers are all bulls, and instead of going to the bullfighting ring they’re at Wal-Mart hoping to get a really good deal on a flatscreen TV. And instead of those white outfits with the red sashes, the people involved are probably wearing sweatpants and comfortable shoes.

Pretty epic, right?

How epic? Consider I just saw two commercials that used the word surviving in relation to Black Friday. You survive accidents or Taylor Swift concerts. You shouldn’t have to worry about surviving a trip to Target.

Or, consider how Black Friday has grown over the years. Stores seem to open earlier ever year. People will get up to shop at 4 a.m.? Let’s see if we can get them there at 2.

The holiday has even spawned offshoots. As if one day wasn’t enough to dedicate to satiating our basest consumer urges, we now have Small Business Saturday, which is basically Black Friday for locally-owned business. There’s also Cyber Monday, which is dedicated to online shopping. It’s Black Friday for people who find even putting on sweatpants a little too much exertion.

That’s a pretty serious expansion for a holiday that asks us to forego sleep, sit in the cold for hours on end and look in to the blackest corners of the human soul, where human life and a bargain iPad have roughly the same value.

It’s big. Maybe even a little too big. There are signs this year that perhaps Black Friday retailers have reached too far. With many big stores planning to open on Thanksgiving itself, some are calling foul.

Or possibly fowl. Turkey joke!

Thanksgiving should be about being thankful for what you have, Black Friday deniers have argued. It should be about being with family and friends, not prowling the aisles of Best Buy.

It’s a nice sentiment, and one that suggests people have been confused about how Black Friday has worked all along. Still, it’s good to know where people’s limits are.

There is an easy solution, of course. America’s shopping public could stay home with friends and family on Thursday. They could sleep in on Friday. They’d pay a little bit more for their Christmas gifts, but they wouldn’t have to worry about dying.

Because, and this really can’t be stressed enough, it seems like someone dies every year in one of these Black Friday crushes. It is America’s deadliest holiday, with the possible exception of Groundhog Day.

I don’t know if that will ever happen. We’re a country that likes to take stands. We’ll sign petitions and there’s not much we like better than making outraged posts on Facebook. But we also really like a bargain.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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