The Black Friday Tradition
What will Black Friday be this year?
Many of us grew up with a tradition of Black Friday shopping on an actual day after Thanksgiving. Some people woke up early, some meandered out around 10 a.m., but many enjoyed it in their own way.
I remember snippets of this tradition. We were in a little town just outside Redding, where my family traditionally celebrated the day. Thanksgiving morning, my father went out and bought the newspaper. After the early Thanksgiving dinner, the men poured over the advertisements to ascertain the year’s “hot item”. The search was on for an electric scooter. They left early the next morning. I recall them only after their return, celebrating the success of their hunt.
The ladies were more leisurely. We breakfasted, combed through ads and then went to the same stores we would have otherwise. I sat in the backseat, watching and learning how it is done from the more seasoned shoppers. My mom bought decorative bags for cookies at a great deal in an old-school discount store. We ate Chinese food together at a restaurant. No one was successful at Macy’s. I had no idea there were so many stores so near my aunt’s idyllic home.
Family celebrations shifted as our nuclear family grew. My husband would rather hunt waterfowl than deals, so Black Friday shopping belonged solely to me. At that time, deals gradually moved online, earlier and earlier. I prepped my online shopping carts. When labor pains began at 3 a.m. in 2012, I ordered my items before going to the hospital. Black Friday shopping has never been the same.
And it never will be again.
I feel confident in saying the big box retailers ruined it.
I still imagine a big shopping day, the hustle, the music, the aromas of the Christmas season with Christmas preparations. When “ahead of time” meant a month before Christmas, not October. When Thanksgiving itself commanded some attention.
With the Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions, stores cannot push the deals they became accustomed to pushing to draw more and more people through their doors. Little local shops have to spread out festive shopping events because of their max. capacity stops below twenty while chain retailers can accommodate hundreds. Those not lucky enough to make it in the doors early wait outside in line, six-feet apart.
Thus the former one-night events span four days, from before Halloween leading up to city Shop the Blocks, what was once after Thanksgiving fell on the day after Halloween. Retailers cannot afford to be left in the dust and have their patrons Christmas merchandise purchased from those who dare to go earlier.
And we miss out.
We miss out on a tradition.
We miss out on adding sentiment and meaning to something that could be an irritating task that must be checked off the list.
We miss out on the togetherness that comes from a shared experience, whether shared with family or shared culturally.
We miss out.
What I am proposing is this.
Halfway through November, plenty of shopping may have already occurred, especially with Thanksgiving and other lovely events taking place this month. Rather than encouraging you not to do “this” or “that” I want to encourage you to add one more thing to your schedule. Schedule a shopping day…soon after Thanksgiving. Buy your coffee or hot chocolate, your pastry, whatever you like, grab a friend or family member and make it a shopping event. When you walk into the local small-business retailer tell them you saved your Christmas shopping day for that day, rather than attending the post-Halloween event. Maybe even contact them now to tell them you won’t be coming in before for your Christmas shopping, but have a special day planned as soon as December starts.
And have a marvelous time.
Then maybe, just maybe, over time, retailers will start offering something more than empty shelves for those who shop late. Maybe, by making something special out of it, we can shift the trends that started years ago. And maybe, just maybe, by this little step, we can start to take back the culture.