When I was a kid, we would always start our Thanksgiving Day with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We just called it the "Macy's Day Parade." I remember enjoying the floats, the giant balloons, and the marching bands.
This year, I sat and watched the parade with my wife and children. It was the first year that the parade really held the kids' attention. In fact, there were several moments during which my wife and I were in the other room getting the Turkey ready or cleaning up the dining room. The girls kept calling us "oh, you have to come, it's the ______."
Without fail, the blank was filled in by either a product or the logo of some company. "It's Barbie, it's the Pillsbury guy, it's Hello Kitty, it's the Energizer Bunny." It struck me that this entire parade was basically one unending commercial. Some of the examples were a bit more egregious than others. At one point, Barbie came out and sang a song. Then, we cut to an official commercial. For? The Barbie DVD that the song we just heard came from. In fact, the animated Barbie in the commercial was singing the same song, on the same set, as her parading counterpart.
We saw Jordan Sparks, the winner of the Fox show "American Idol," lip syncing while holding a microphone with the NBC label emblazoned on it. We saw children dancing in the streets covered with corporate logos. Suddenly, those giant balloons took on new meaning for me. That wasn't Snoopy, that was a marketing ploy.
Now, I should have thought of this before. It is, after all, a parade run by a chain of department stores. It should not surprise me that marketing is an essential element. But, somehow, it just seemed particularly gross this year.
I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I'm there with my kids. I want them to be both protected from and aware of corporate culture. I want them to be discerning of the Empire in which we live. I guess I'm just struggling with the reality that I didn't notice any of this as a kid. I must have just digested all this advertising. And it's no wonder it still affects me today.
As a Christian, I pray for the grace to be aware of the various ways in which my children and I are being manipulated. I want to be a good steward of the children and the money God entrusts me with. I want to use our money well, and teach our kids to do the same. And this is one Thanksgiving tradition that is not helping me.