It's a tradition in my family.
It's not something we do casually; we have a very serious plan about the whole thing.
Every year, before Thanksgiving lunch, we sit down with the ads. We gather together and talk about what we see that we like, what we want to buy, where we need to go, and what our kids would like as gifts. This year there were 6 of us gathered around that table. We spent our time together laughing at the ridiculous, oooohing over the "must haves", and sharing stories of our lives together. It's one of my favorite hours of the year.
When the time comes to shop, we do it together. We stand in line together, we team up to help one another get the items we want, we eat together, laugh together, and tolerate one another's idiosyncrasies. It doesn't get much more "family" than that.
I'm tired of people telling me that my family's traditions are bad.
I'm tired of Christians railing against Black Friday as if it's what's wrong with our world.
I'm tired of being told that I'm partially to blame for the commercialism that Christmas has become.
Black Friday is a special holiday for me, just like any other, and here's why.
I've already told you that it's family time for me. There are very few things that a 17 year old girl, a 22 year old young man, and a 60-something woman can do together and enjoy. But we do. Even the young kids who don't go with us enjoy looking over the ads and telling us about their Christmas wishes. In a family the size of mine - where we don't even fit at 2 tables, let alone 1 - nothing will be appealing to the whole group. But this activity is as close as we come!
It's also about the crowds.
Yes, for me it's about the crowds in a good way.
One day a year I have a chance to talk to total strangers about their families and my own.
Every single year I come out of those stores with stories about people I met while standing in a line.
I share my life with these strangers for a few hours a year.
And I am always, always kind!
You know what else?
Most everyone else is too.
It's common for the news to feature the stories of people trampled or shot or otherwise injured in the chaos, and that does happen. But the reality is that for most of the country, Black Friday is just a fun time. I think I counted 3 or 4 incidents that appeared on the news this year; that quantity happens every day - we just don't hear about it if it's not in our town.
And here's the part that really gets me.
Please stop telling me that I'm making Christmas more chaotic and missing the point of the holiday by being out in "that mess."
Because by the first day of Advent, my holiday shopping was finished except for 1 gift card still to be purchased.
I choose to do my Christmas shopping early exactly because of the chaos.
I like the fact that we're not even to the 2nd Sunday of Advent and my gifts are purchased, wrapped, and ready to go. I have weeks to enjoy the peace of the season when all of the shopping is finished. I don't sit in worship distracted by thoughts of what I still need to do. I sit in worship and wait - wait for the Christ child. I have time to slow down and enjoy the mystery and miracle of the season because I put all of my "hustle and bustle" into one evening.
"But what about the people forced to work in that mess?!"
Chris worked retail on Black Friday a few years ago. He was home alone for the holiday and had nothing else to do, anyway. It was an exhausting night, but he didn't mind the hours of work. For many families, the holiday pay is what makes Christmas affordable. I do wish there were a way to make working that day optional, but I also recognize that these employees are getting other time off somewhere to "make up" for the hours (because we all know that the mega-chains aren't paying people overtime!). 40 hours is 40 hours.
It's fine with me if you don't want to shop on Black Friday or "Brown Thursday" as my family took to calling it. It's fine with me if you choose to have no gifts or homemade gifts or only shop online this year. It's your choice how you spend your time and your money. But it's also mine.
I choose to shop Black Friday because it's a family tradition that allows me to finish shopping early so I can enjoy the season. I choose to shop because I love to spend that time with my family. I choose to be among the crowds because I believe that people are inherently good.
Shopping on Black Friday does not make me a heartless consumer. Black Friday shopping doesn't mean I'm missing the point of the Christmas season. It makes me attentive. Attentive to my own family, attentive to the world around me, attentive to our resources, and attentive to the bigger mystery of the season.
I love it.