Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Over the years many American traditions have become part of British culture. Mother’s Day – an American invention – has come to replace Mothering Sunday in popular culture. Once Mother’s Day became established it was natural that Father’s Day should follow. In many of our schools the end of year disco has been replaced by a School prom requiring children – or their parents – to spend money on evening dresses, dinner jackets or suits, and often a chauffeur driven limo – money that many families almost certainly can’t afford. In the past thirty or forty years the custom of ‘trick or treat’ has caught on at Halloween, a practice succinctly described by one BBC journalist as making demands with menaces and a custom far removed from any significance of Halloween as a preparation for All Saints Day.
Sadly, there seems to be no end in sight to these cultural invasions. A survey by Waitrose some years ago found that as many as one in six British households celebrate American Thanksgiving Day and the Waitrose website advertises a thanksgiving dinner made to order. In the United States Black Friday follows Thanksgiving Day and that has become the latest widely adopted import. The term Black Friday has been used to describe many events throughout history, usually events of a disastrous nature. Wikipedia lists events such as the collapse of the gold market in 1869 and the Eyemouth disaster of 1881 in which 189 fishermen died. The current use of the term is said to describe the day when US companies begin to make their profit for the year – moving from being in the red to being in the black. Black Friday is marked by supposedly large markdowns in price. Everyone likes a bargain – if the goods bought are needed. Even one multimillionaire financial expert wrote that he never believes in paying more for things than he needs to. The problem is that it fuels excessive consumerism, and the offers are sometimes accompanied by high-pressure, sometimes misleading sales tactics, often to offload poorly selling goods which no one actually needs. There are undoubtedly some bargains to be had but a recent report by Which? found that many of the so-called bargains have been offered at lower prices at other times during the year. More worrying is a warning by the government agency England Illegal Money Lending Team of loan sharks cashing in on people carried away by Black Friday offers and encouraging them into excessive debt. For such people Black Friday takes on a more sinister meaning. Moreover, many people will recall the fighting that broke out at an Asda store as people fought over cut price televisions, scenes that were replicated elsewhere as the hype surrounding Black Friday brought out the very worst in many people. America is -usually – a good friend of the United Kingdom but if Black Friday is typical, we should perhaps be wary of adopting many more of their customs.
On a more cheerful note, it was a delight when Danny was baptised and confirmed by the Bishop of Fulham on All Saints Day and Martin was formally received into the communion of the Church of England. This was the first visit by Bishop Jonathan to All Saints for more than two years and it was good to have him with us.
For those of you who will be travelling over the fast approaching Christmas season I hope you travel safely. For those not going away there will be our usual Christmas celebrations. Although we have decided not to go carol singing around the parish this year, we will as usual have carols by candlelight, the crib and Christingle service, Midnight Mass, and the Mass of the Day on Christmas morning. I hope that you will be able to join us for all of these and that all of you with your loved ones and friends will have a very happy Christmas.