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Article updated: 11/22/2012 6:47 AM

"Black Friday creep" another sign of changing times

By Jamie Sotonoff

For most suburban families, Thanksgiving was never really like the Norman Rockwell painting where an apron-wearing mom served a turkey to her dressed-up family.

The holiday has always been about turkey, football and giving thanks. But these days, it also might include heading out to the movies, serving vegetarian or allergen-free fare and tweeting greetings to far-flung loved ones.

The tradition is changing even more this year as some suburban families will end their Thanksgiving gatherings earlier than usual so they can get in line for Black Friday sales.

At 8 p.m. today, some of the suburbs' biggest national retail chains -- including Target, ToysRUs, Walmart and Hoffman Estates-based Sears -- will start their big holiday shopping sales.

Stores used to wait until 4 a.m. Friday, then 2 a.m., and then midnight to offer their "doorbuster" deals. Some chains have always been open Thanksgiving Day, but this is the first year they've offered their blockbuster deals on the actual holiday.

"Black Friday creep," as it's known, has drawn mixed reactions from suburban shoppers. Some are anxious to snatch up the deals before midnight, while others are offended or saddened that shopping has encroached on Thanksgiving.

"Anyone can go shopping at 8 p.m.," said Carrie Maraccini, of Elgin, whose Black Friday shopping trip has been a family tradition for many years. "It takes the fun out of it a little bit for someone like me. I kind of like the whole old school feel, that you get up at 3 a.m. and go."

Other shoppers say they're usually done eating by 8 p.m. and happy to shop earlier instead of napping for two or three hours before a middle-of-the-night shopping run.

"I'll just be more awake and alert," joked Darcy Vazquez, of Elk Grove Village, a longtime Black Friday shopper. "It's easier to start when you're still awake, rather than getting in bed thinking, 'I've got to get up in a couple of hours.'"

Angrier views on the "creep" were posted on social media as some people rallied behind retail employees and on behalf of families and tradition.

"I love Black Friday deals, but not at the expense of the workers who would have to work on Thanksgiving night. Give them just one day to enjoy with their loved ones, please!" said Jennifer Casselberry, a former Glendale Heights resident, on change.org/savethanksgiving.

Her comments were part of a petition that had more than 365,000 signatures, and one of 60 similar petitions opposing Black Friday creep on change.org.

"For employees, especially those who don't have a choice ... I feel bad for them," said Casselberry, 36, who now lives in Chicago.

By opening earlier, retailers hope to get a leg-up on the competition during the all-important shopping season. Sears spokesman Brian Hanover said the company decided to open on Thanksgiving night based on feedback from customers. Last year, their stores opened at 4 a.m. on Black Friday.

Hanover said not all Black Friday shoppers can -- or want to -- go shopping at midnight or 4 a.m. in order to score doorbuster deals.

"It's the nature of retailing today," Hanover said. "This is how people shop in 2012. (They) are dropping their drumsticks and picking up doorbusters. They're saying, 'I've had my meal and my time with my family, let's shop.'"

Sears, like many retailers, will make many Black Friday deals available online. At Sears, they're available to the store's Shop Your Way members (there's no fee to join, and it can be done online).

"Shopping is a sport to many people, and this is the Super Bowl," Hanover added.

Maraccini said she's not sure if she'll go Black Friday shopping tonight, because she enjoys hanging out with her family after the Thanksgiving meal and enjoying her aunt's homemade desserts.

"There's something about waiting for the paper on Thanksgiving and looking through the ads together," she said. "Part of it is the whole tradition."

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