Eyes On U.S. — Thanksgiving Gone Global, Black Friday Bad Influence
PARIS — The city of lights is littered with advertisements for “Black Friday” deals. Of course, virtually none of the city’s residents will celebrate Thanksgiving — and few probably even know that the traditional Friday shopping day is linked to the uniquely American (always-on-Thursday) holiday.
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If you’ll allow me a small moment of personal commentary, as an American living abroad: There’s something sad about this all. Leaving aside all its dark historical context (which Germany’s Stern magazine explained last year to its readers), I’ve always found Thanksgiving to be a uniquely unifying holiday. It belongs to no specific religious tradition nor stirs nationalist fervor, with its defining characteristic just a whole lot of hearty eating, and reflecting on what you’re truly grateful for.
Leave it to U.S. consumer culture to tack-on to this idea of being thankful for what you have, a mad rush to buy what you haven’t yet got — and then in more recent years to export to the rest of the world just this consumeristic flipside of the coin. Black Friday has become in the past five years, the giant sales event that conquered all, from Greece to Guyane. (Although some are pushing back, like this French store that decided to make everything free on Friday.)
Nevertheless, even if Thanksgiving itself hasn’t gone global the way the day-after sales have, there’s still a healthy amount of interest as to juuuuust what those Americans are up to with their turkey and pumpkin pie…
German site Praxtipps explains how to celebrate Thanksgiving, making note of the breaking of the wishbone. Most of these align with the “6 Commandments of Thanksgiving” as Marie-Claire explains to its Francophone audience, meaning that the French and the Germans, at least, have understood the basics.
Moving south, Brazil’s O Globo asks, in a short, gif-illustrated listicle, “What if Thanksgiving were celebrated in Brazil?” and concludes that it would probably include an aunt asking uncomfortable questions about your new boyfriend (or potential lack thereof), and might even break into family drama. So, the Brazilians as well have grasped the basics!
I find myself a Homo Festivus, removed from history, living in a continual feast.
On the other side of the world, China’s Global Times decided to play the role of your contrarian uncle (or superpower rival) at the dinner table, judging that this year Americans have very little to be thankful for, and that the dinner itself is going to be far more expensive than last year, due to inflation.
To close it all off back in Paris, I can’t help but chuckle at a take only a far-right French magazine could have. Causeur asks, “can you be a good French person and celebrate Thanksgiving?” A question filled with existential dread, and a response filled with intellectual musings (“I find myself a Homo Festivus, removed from history, living in a continual feast”) and obligatory wine snobbery (“In fact, I feel the same kind of culpability that we, the French, often feel when drinking a foreign wine, worst of all a New World wine…”). The writer ultimately concludes that, yes, one can be a good French person and celebrate Thanksgiving because, after all, the values celebrated at Thanksgiving are situated, in a broad sense, in Western civilization itself.
Would that be Black Friday’s runaway consumerism, mon ami, or Thanksgiving’s original sin of colonialism? Oh nevermind: for today, I’ll just try to be thankful…
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Like other global newspapers this week, Italian daily Corriere della Sera featured a front-page report on the U.S. decision to recognize diplomatic immunity for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “It was improbable that the United States, trading partner and ally of Saudi Arabia, would clear the way for the arrest of MBS,” writes Corriere’s U.S. correspondent Viviana Mazza. “But guaranteeing him immunity in this way sparked protests from human rights groups.”
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