Why I boycott Black Friday every year

20191118 - Boycott Black Friday
Photo credit: Rimma_Bondarenko/Getty Images; Tiberius Catinas/Grateful

It’s 4 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. At this ungodly hour, I’m up and ready to go shopping for Christmas presents. I meet my sister at Kohl’s. There is already a long line of people waiting to check out.

Why are we doing this? Oh, yeah, it’s for the deals. For toys. For gifts. For stuff. Stuff that no one really needs, including me. So, again, why are we doing this?

I only participated in Black Friday once, 11 years ago. That was more than enough. I cannot conceive of a reason why I need to get up at 3:30 a.m. to go shopping for toys and technology and dishes and kitchen rugs. How does any of this matter? How does getting up at 3:30 a.m. to elbow my way through crowds to get what no one in my family truly needs match the meaning of Christmas? The answer is it doesn’t. None of it really matters.

However, if you trust retail outlets, Black Friday is not to be missed. Need a new TV? We got you covered. Do your kids need the latest talking/peeing/singing whatchamajig? Come on in.

Can’t live without the latest and greatest thingamabob? It can all be found if you’re willing to get up long before the sun comes up, wait in a concert-sized crowd of others and fight your way through the automatic doors while not getting trampled on your way to the magic aisle that holds the thing that will bring you the most joy. (Oh, and don’t forget to bring your boxing gloves, because you never know when you might have to fight someone for the last doohickey.)

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Why boycott Black Friday? It’s not really that important

The day after Thanksgiving officially became known as Black Friday in 1966, when the Philadelphia Police Department used the term to describe the traffic jams and crowding in downtown stores. Very apropos then; even more so now.

According to BlackFriday.com, 89 million people shopped on the day after Thanksgiving in 2018, both in stores and online, and spent an average of $472 each. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder retail outlets of all kinds push their sales from essentially the day after Halloween.

And part of me gets it and understands the draw. It’s tempting to hear about all the money you can save, the deals you can get. These savings seem important. It can feel like something you must do.

But is it? Important, that is. The supposed savings. The toys, gadgets, clothes.

Beyond the overt consumerism that completely turns me off, it’s the emptiness, nastiness, greed and even violence that seems to overwhelm the day. Turn the television on, and you’ll likely see news story after news story showing video after video of crowds pushing and shoving, trampling, grabbing, fighting.

In other words, displaying true Christmas spirit.

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Crowded shopping mall escalator for Black Friday
Photo by baona/Getty Images

It doesn’t really scream holiday spirit

Black Friday Death Count that has been keeping track of deaths and injuries that occur on Black Friday since 2006. Count to date? Twelve deaths and 117 injuries. There’s also a Black Friday song and video on YouTube, where you can see people’s horrendous behavior. All of this makes me cringe.

How does any of this behavior gel with the purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday and the celebration of, and giving of thanks for, our family, friends and health? It’s difficult for me to reconcile being thankful for the people and time and memories with almost immediately afterward feeding the urge to buy more things.

There is research that suggests there are two kinds of Black Friday shoppers — those who are horrified at the thought of shopping in big crowds, and those who are energized by the craziness of the day. I am definitely in the former category, which arguably could explain why I boycott Black Friday — and some of the disdain I feel for this day.

It’s more than that, however. Yes, I do my best to do any type of shopping when I know the stores are the least crowded, and I don’t enjoy much about shopping and wandering from store to store for hours. But Black Friday is in a category all its own.

While not all shoppers seem to temporarily lose their minds this day, many do. Or are drawn into the madness. Or simply go along with it, seemingly powerless to step back and wonder what in the hell is going on, and decide to go home and shop from the comfort of their couch.

Why not go ahead and take another day to remember all you’re grateful for?

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Why boycott Black Friday? It’s stealing Thanksgiving’s thunder

I know there are individuals out there who think it’s never too early for all things Christmas. I’m not one of them. I believe each holiday deserves its own time, and Black Friday contributes to Christmas creep — the phenomenon where the Christmas season seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. We can’t even get through Halloween anymore without beginning to see signs of Christmas peeking from dark corners waiting to pounce.

How about we let each holiday be its own thing?

Black Friday has invaded Thanksgiving Day, with stores beginning the madness the evening of Thanksgiving. Employees are forced — and shoppers choose — to forgo time with family and friends to practice what I see as needless consumerism. Frenzy takes the place of family and feasting. One minute we’re thankful for what we have, and the next we’re determined to buy what it suddenly seems like we can’t live without.

Over the years, as my focus on gifts and other tangibles has shifted to focus on family and friends and non-tangibles like time and memories, I’ve cemented my belief that events like Black Friday are antithetical to what is meaningful to me, and just do not have a place in my life.

Maybe it’s having kids who have grown up way too fast and don’t remember the “things,” just the moments. Maybe it’s moving far away from family that is a constant reminder of what truly matters. Maybe it’s knowing that there is literally no physical object I could be given that means more to me than the people in my life.

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In conclusion: It’s not for me

This year, I once again plan to boycott Black Friday. If you are going to participate, though, please be safe out there.

But if you can pass on it, sleep in. Stay home by the fire and play games with your family. Get a rousing game of flag football going. Binge watch your favorite movies. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Walk your dog. Drink eggnog.

And, for a moment, just be still and thankful. The stores and all the stuff are not going anywhere. And even if they do, I truly believe you won’t miss them.

Instead of buying more, how about making stuff you need? Check out this handy how-to for DIY macrame bags! 

How do you spend the day after Thanksgiving? Let us know! Tag us on Instagram @makeitgrateful and #makeitgrateful!