Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Black Friday celebrates bounty and benevolence, writes Greg Beato. But because Black Friday is so deliberately bacchanalian, a suburban Mardi Gras where the beads have been upsized into brightly colored boxes filled with children's toys and the goal is to test the absolute load-bearing capacity of today's all-plastic shopping carts, it's natural to focus on its most negative aspects—the deaths that have occurred when crowds got out of hand, the lesser acts of mayhem that sometimes take place as shoppers get swept up in the scrum of the housewares aisle.
Ultimately, though, Black Friday is more about accord than chaos—witness the increasingly the frequent invocations about Black Friday as a cherished "family tradition." Indeed, Black Friday is not just a highly inclusive holiday that draws participants from all creeds, colors, classes, and political persuasions—it's a holiday that does so in shared public spaces. And outside of jury duty and events like St. Patrick's Day and Mardi Gras, Beato writes, where does that happen anymore? Thanksgiving and Christmas are largely private affairs, celebrated at home with only select invitees in attendance. Black Friday is for anyone who wants to show up.