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On Black Friday

This is not the blog post I was going to write today.

I was going to write a handful of words about consumerism and greed and the big bad Black Friday and how we need to get back to a simpler way of celebrating holidays.

But I would have been wrong.


I’ve noticed something about the internet. About myself. About humans, really:

We sure like telling each other what to do.

There’s no shortage of blog traffic for folks who make lists of what other people should be doing, or should not be doing.

I’m not sure why.


I watched a really amazing video last week about the Advent Conspiracy; it said that Americans spend over $450 billion every year on Christmas, and that maybe we should spend some of that on helping other people get clean water.

I can’t wrap my mind around that much money, but it struck me as a bit excessive.


I’ve joined in the outrage over the Thanksgiving deals this year.

We’ve been so distracted with the war on Christmas that we haven’t noticed Black Friday winning the war on Thanksgiving, I joked.

I felt bad for those retail workers who had to skip the turkey feast to man the cash registers in the big mall stores.

I hated the creeping consumerism that I saw encroaching on a day that’s supposed to be all about gratefulness. I hated the way that all those commercials and ads and sales and specials tend to erode gratefulness in my own heart.


Assured of the moral high ground, I tweeted about how we should #BoycottBlackFriday.

But then I read what Kathryn Elizabeth wrote about how the money that retail workers make on Black Friday helps them provide Christmas for their own families.

And I realized that the $450 billion we spend on Christmas is how a lot of people are earning a living, providing for their families, buying presents for their kids.

Maybe there aren’t answers as simple as “Black Friday is evil, Thanksgiving is good.”


I know that malls aren’t good for my soul.

I’ve dabbled in Black Friday shopping and I always wind up feeling ungrateful and dissatisfied and inadequate.

But I read what my friend Juan wrote today, about how Black Friday sales make it possible to give his kids the Christmas he never had. About how “you don’t have to try to be a minimalist when you can’t afford anything.”

“Because when you’ve experienced a holiday season where all you’ve had to unwrap was tamales. You don’t want anyone else to ever experience that.”

And it struck me how pretentious and obnoxious I am sitting here on a couch in my pajamas tweeting sanctimoniously about how bad Black Friday shopping is, while thousands of people are using this day to buy generous gifts for people they love.


I’m learning to intentionally reject the lie of consumerism – the idea that the more stuff I buy the happier I’ll be. The idea that I need just one more thing in order to be satisfied. The idea that the best way to show my love, to celebrate a holiday, is to go to the store and buy something.

I’m trying to really believe that it’s better to give than to spend.

It’s not easy for me, because the voices that say “Buy more! Spend more!” are loud and handsome and shiny and everywhere all the time.

So I’m grateful for voices like the folks at Becoming Minimalist, who remind me of the value of simplicity. I need to hear that. It’s good for my soul.

But I also need to remember that it’s not the only way to have a happy Thanksgiving.


I’m glad I didn’t write that blog post about what you shouldn’t be doing today. I’m glad I read what Kathryn wrote and what Juan wrote instead.

Whatever you do today, I hope you have fun. I hope you’re with people who love you. I hope you find some tasty food.

I’m off to eat some leftover turkey; maybe eventually I’ll put some pants on.

Happy Black Friday.

( originally published November 2013 )

[ image: r. gordon ]

published November 29, 2013

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