DOES the last Thursday in November have any special significance for you?

Maybe it’s your birthday or wedding anniversary, in which case, many happy returns or congratulations.

But apart from that, there’s no national celebration associated to that particular day. Well not in this country anyway.

But cross the Atlantic to America and it’s a whole different ball game, as our American cousins might say.

The last Thursday in November is, of course, Thanksgiving, probably the biggest holiday in the calendar.

Thanksgiving has been a federal holiday every year since 1863 when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”.

The concept of Thanksgiving has its roots in the more familiar harvest festivals and is commonly accepted to have been imported into the US by the first settlers from this county.

The thing to keep in mind is that Thanksgiving is absolutely massive in America.

It’s the time when families will traditionally make every effort to get back home for the Thanksgiving feast (think tables with huge turkeys, giant honeyed hams and all the trimmings – a sort of Christmas lunch on steroids).

It could be argued that Thanksgiving is actually a bigger date in an American’s calender than Christmas itself.

But one effect of Thanksgiving is it so concentrates the average American’s mind that the excesses of Christmas are put on the back burner until the last Thursday in November has been and gone.

At this point, I am prepared to admit that in the past, I have extolled the virtues of this.

It is only six or seven weeks ago I had a bit of a rant about how Christmas marketing in this country now starts in October and how ridiculous I think that is.

To my shame, I held up the American model as one we should adopt – no mention of Christmas until the end of November.

How wrong could I be.

I refer, of course to the dark side of Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday.

Apparently, the phrase Black Friday when used about the day after Thanksgiving, originated in Philadelphia in 1961 when the local police department complained about the worst day of the year for traffic on the city’s roads and people clogging up the pavements and shops.

Black Friday is popular as a shopping day in America for a combination of reasons.

As the first day after the last major holiday before Christmas, it marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season. Additionally, many employers – including some public bodies – give their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

To take advantage of this, retailers have attempted to drive people into their shops with staggeringly low prices on loss-leader items, thereby fuelling the already hyped up shopping experience.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things I like about America, but I really think there are some things that should stay over there – and Black Friday is one of them.

But how did Black Friday make its way to these shores?

Currys had a Black Friday event as long ago as 2003 and online retailer Amazon introduced the event to its website four years ago.

But it got a massive kick-start last year whenAsda (part of giant American retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.) announced its ‘Walmart’s Black Friday by ASDA’ campaign, promoting the Black Friday concept in the UK.

And look where we’ve ended up.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the worst scenes were in Greater Manchester, where at least three people were arrested as fighting broke out between shoppers.

Shortly after midnight, when some shops first opened their doors, a 42-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault in an incident at the Tesco store in Burnage.

Another man was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence after police were called to reports of fighting in a 300-strong crowd at a Tesco in Hattersley.

A third man was held at a Tesco in Salford, after he threatened to smash in a shop worker’s face, police said.

In Stretford, fights broke out and a woman was injured by a falling television.

A member of staff at a branch of Tesco in Manchester was seen with a black eye after a disturbance broke out, and one shopper said the store had resembled ‘a war zone at midnight.

So much for the spirit of Christmas.

Is this what we really want? A spurious, made-up marketing event tied to another country’s public holiday leading to disgraceful scenes of people crawling over each other to get a bargain?

I don’t think so.

I can do no better than report the words of The Right Rev Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, who said the scenes showed an ‘ugly side of human nature.

He added: “I would like to think Christmas is all about the intangibles — like being with family and friends — and not about buying widescreen televisions.”