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11/23/2012 04:47 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2012

Table Talk: Black Friday And Taking Back The Holidays

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

If you’ve ever gone shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, you know what Black Friday looks like. Traffic, jockeying for parking spots, long lines, and (possibly) some great deals. Why does this happen? And, is it really the right way to start off a holiday season that is supposed to be about giving?

It’s a tradition that dates back to the beginning of the last century. Thanksgiving parades ended with Santa waving and saying “Ho ho ho,” meaning Christmas Eve and presents were just around the corner. Time to get out and shop! President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized how many Americans were out spending money during this time and even moved Thanksgiving up a week to get more people out to the stores. But while this idea is a good one for the economy -- it’s called Black Friday because accountants say a business is in the black when it’s making money -- the continuing focus on commerce has led to holiday shopping mania.

Millions of people wake up early (or even head out on Thursday night as major stores now start sales on Thanksgiving) pumped up to take advantage of rock-bottom prices. In recent years, this has led to so much crowding that shopping on Black Friday has become known as dangerous. Today reports that teens are not allowed to shop at the Mall of America alone and a blogger on ChicagoNow urges parents to leave kids at home.

A tweet about the irony of all of this -- "Black Friday: because only in America people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have" -- has gone viral. Business Insider says that over 20,000 people shared this comment, indicating that it might be time to make a change. We wonder why a season about giving and joy has become a time filled with wanting and stress. So tonight, at the family table, let’s talk about taking our holidays back from the clutches of commercial enterprises -- and making the next month about things that really matter.

Questions for discussion:

What do you think the holiday season is about?

What did you have fun doing on Black Friday that didn't involve shopping?

If you couldn’t spend any money, what holiday gifts would you give to people you love?

In her recent cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.

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