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Forget Thanksgiving. It’s Time to Shop.

Photo by Mason Dowling

Chicagoans know how light pollution often prohibits them from seeing the stars late at night. On November 17th, however, stars illuminated the dark sky in the form of millions of small, water-drop bulbs, celebrating the Windy City’s Festival of Lights and the official kickoff of the holiday season.

The cold chill of late Fall wasn’t enough to drive away city natives and guests, who lined Michigan Ave. to watch the parade and enjoy Festival festivities.  Small, golden droplets fill the overhead blanket of blue, with every color represented in a joyous celebration of the holiday season.

As the holidays approach once more, Americans find themselves in a seemingly growing struggle to find time for it all. A growing trend has been to bump specialty sales up as much as possible, even some stores going into Thanksgiving rather than waiting for Black Friday proper.
For most of us, however, the thought instead is on consumerism and buying things (granted, for others), and Chicago’s Michigan Ave. has this down pat. People flock to the Windy City from all over the country – some as far as Canada — to get in on the solid month leading up to Christmas.
The festivities for Chicago ‘officially,’ start with the Festival of Lights, a party and parade on the night of November 17th to commemorate the beautifying of the city with Christmas lights, trees, and such. What the festival really signifies, though, is the coming of Christmas and — with the festival’s central location on Michigan Ave.– the sales and shopping that come with it. It’s almost as if someone pats people on the shoulder and says, “Hey, it’s okay. You can start thinking about Christmas now.”
It’s no wonder why downtown draws in residents throughout the city for their holiday shopping needs, but Chicago serves as a shopping hub for almost 43 million visitors each year, especially around the holidays. The historic significance and impact of Chicago and Michigan Ave. help draw in shoppers from around the country and outside of it.
What is it about the city, however, that makes people flock towards it this time of year? Surely, there are less-crowded stores closer to home that wouldn’t offer as much hassle.
“Some of these stores have special sales, or something that they don’t offer online,” said Ara Kernan, 21, a Loyola Senior. “I think part of the draw is the fact that…well, you’re in Chicago. Big city, historic. It’s one of those things that presents itself.”
Many retail and shipping companies hire excess, temporary positions during the holiday season, due to their ability to afford it with increased revenue and the demand that shopping puts on the stores themselves. For example, Macy’s has stated hiring of upwards of 80,000 new, part-time employees to help with the Christmas rush.
” Why would you go anywhere but Michigan Avenue,” asked Kernan. “It’s faster than some of the online shopping, and I can figure out what to get for everyone while possibly getting something for myself.”
“When I do my Christmas shopping, I have to go into an actual brick and mortar store to get all of the things I need,” said Vidya Prasad, 23 from Mount Pleasant, MI.  “I suppose it would be cheaper getting the supplies online, but nothing beats handling the stuff in your hands.”
“And it gives me an excuse to crawl out into the sun every once in a while,” she said with a laugh.
Critics of the holiday sales pitches aren’t exactly slouching, either. CBS’ Walter Jacobson has expressed his views, claiming that the retail marketplace is trying to force shopping and consumerism upon Americans.
“Some big stores will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, some will open at 8 and stay open all night,” said Jacobson in his Perspective report during CBS Chicago’s 9 P.M news hour. “America’s gotta shop! Never mind the chopping and stuffing and the pilgrims, and the State street parade. Join the rush to the stores that are pushing us to shop ‘til we drop — now.”
Is consumerism taking too much of the focus away from the holidays? Jacobson obviously believes so, and the horror stories of individuals being trampled in Black-Friday rushes are easily recalled. Shoppers are beginning to become more wary of the lines and rushes for the weekend shopping spree, some willing to take alternatives to the “traditional,” idea.
Emily Duncan, 21, is a Senior at McKendree University, and prefers to do most of her shopping from the computer. “Don’t get me wrong, I loved Chicago when I visited during the summer, but it was a zoo. Hate to see what it’s like now.”
For Duncan and other’s sake, stores are beginning to advertise their online portions more. Cyber Monday sales are great for the stay-at-home shoppers, and stores will often allow for inventory sale even if the store is sold-out.
For better or worse, the Christmas shopping season is here. Hopefully, Chicagoans and visitors will be able to feel cheer more so than the spite of not making it to a sale, and remember what’s important this holiday season.
  • written by mdowling on November 28th, 2012
  • posted in Edit

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.