It’s November 18 and two weeks ago I found myself humming along with Silver Bells as I shopped for a curtain rod. Most of the stores have had Christmas merchandise since Labor Day, and some even began putting it out while the temperatures and humidity were in the nineties.
I still have leftover Halloween candy but I’m bombarded with boxes and bags of Christmas treats. Printer paper is hidden behind gift wrap. My face cleanser has disappeared in a sea of red and green gift sets of bubble baths and scented lotions. The garden shop has hidden the potting soil to make room for tinsel and trim.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I especially love my granddaughter’s reaction to Christmas and I have an idea she’s really going to be into the whole Santa and gift thing this year. But Christmas doesn’t seem as special now as it did when I was a kid. I don’t know, but could it be that after 57 Christmases, it’s lost its glow? Or could I just be in a bad mood this year? Or maybe it’s because Christmas isn’t just a month-long season like it used to be. It seems to stretch for half a year now.
I know why merchants put out their Christmas wares so early. As a former retailer, I know that you have to compete. And Christmas is your make-it-or-break-it season. Most retailers strive to make enough profit between Black Friday and December 26 to keep them solvent til the following Christmas season.
And if you’ve ever wondered why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, it’s not because it’s the busiest shopping day in the year that puts stores in the black. Here’s the real story:
The Friday after Thanksgiving has become known in the last few decades as one of the busiest of the year for retailers, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. One of the names used for this day is Black Friday, which some say comes from the fact that it is the biggest shopping day of the year, putting stores firmly in the black. This is false, as the days closer to Christmas generate more in sales. For the true origins of the term, we have to dig back a few decades.
Laurence H. Black was one of the best floor men in town, working in the men’s department of the old Osberger’s Department Store for over thirty years. He had been with the store since its humble beginnings as a menswear store on Richmond Avenue in the late 1920s. Except for a very brief stint in the service during World War II, he remained with the store as it grew, eventually settling into its later eight-floor retail palace on North Geary Street. Black was a fixture in the store, presiding over the suits, shirts, ties and millinery in his ever-present black suit (”That’s how they remember me. Black suit, Mr. Black, see?”) with a red carnation in the lapel. In a very cutthroat industry, his was one of those rare cases in which he was respected by everyone in the city’s retail trade, regardless of store affiliation. His reputation was even cemented throughout the region, as Osberger’s expanded in the 1950s and Mr. Black would often be called upon to train sellers at the various stores.
But it was the downtown store he loved the most. He was typically one of the first there in the morning (just behind Wharton Osberger) and one of the last to leave, which is exactly as it was on November 27, 1964. Toward the end of his twelve-hour shift, as the massive brass clock overlooking the restaurant in the store’s Grande Center Court read 7:48 pm, Laurence H. Black collapsed, felled by a heart attack. Old man Osberger closed the store the next day and clerks at the city’s other retail palaces wore black in tribute.
The following year, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, all of the employees wore black suits and dresses, highlighted by a single red carnation, with a moment of silence at 7:48 pm, a tradition that carried on year after year and was picked up by many other stores in the city. But, through many consolidations and sales and employee turnover and whatnot, the reason for the tribute and the tradition itself has been lost, save for a few old-timers who still remember. The small Osberger chain was dissolved in the early 1990s and the old parent company is now the owner of a chain of movie theaters in Australia. If you trace back through approximately fifteen mergers and acquisitions you’ll find that the old Osberger stores themselves are all now Macy’s. The central Osberger’s store on North Geary was converted to office space in 2001, after sitting vacant for a number of years. They’ve kept the central court and clock, however.
by RJ White from www.thecitydesk.com
So, are you in the Christmas spirit already? Got your Christmas shopping done? Ready to behead a stuffed Santa before December’s even begun?
Just to keep this on a positive note, here’s a nice Christmas decoration I thought you’d enjoy.