For many, the real holiday began around the time your Examiner hit the driveway when it was still dark this morning.

For many, the real holiday began around the time your Examiner hit the driveway when it was still dark this morning.

Or at midnight. Or 10 p.m. last night. Or whenever stores decided to fling wide their doors and usher in Black Friday with one-time-only deals to entice customers to shift their holiday spending into high gear. Let’s not forget why it’s called Black Friday. It’s because – or so it’s said – a good day after Thanksgiving can make the difference between a retailer ending the year in the red or in the black.

Let’s not overlook a few other things. For starters, such a phenomenon is only possible in a country so prosperous that it’s become an assumption for millions that they’ll have not just the Thanksgiving holiday off but also the day after, the bridge to the weekend. Let’s not forget the many who arose even earlier than the shoppers today in order to stock the shelves and ring up the sales. A long day with sometimes frantic, sometimes cranky customers isn’t always a lot of fun, even if it is profitable.

And this much needs to be said, too, even if it feels like spitting into a cultural hurricane: We are not the things we buy, give or get. They are part of the holiday season, but they should not define it. The heart of the season is about things that are priceless, chiefly the hope and promise of human salvation. The rush to buy and give and consume can obscure that. All of these need to be seen in a balanced perspective.