Tomorrow is Thanksgiving — and then, barely hours after the turkey’s been eaten, in the wee hours of Black Friday, the “official” Christmas season begins. First there are the mobs on Black Friday, then comes the online frenzy of Cyber Monday. To kick off the season of “peace and goodwill,” we’ll be pushing each other out of line, forcing retail workers away from their families on Thanksgiving (to throw those early-early-early bird sales of Black Friday, workers get to the mall on Thanksgiving afternoon), and putting ourselves into debt buying electronics and cheesy stocking stuffers that will be broken and thrown away by next year.
Do I sound bitter? Actually, a lot of us are. Experts are saying Black Friday and Cyber Monday are becoming obsolete, and that the commercialized shopping holidays are going extinct, about to be absorbed by the greater holiday season. This makes sense to me because I think a lot of us are sick of it — not just because of the impact on workers or the commercialization of Christmas, but because these “holidays” are exhausting, and they’re largely devoid of meaning. If millennials are as obsessed with authenticity and experience-over-expense as every blog tells us they are, cyber holidays and sale fliers aren’t going to appeal to shoppers of the future.
But let’s say you’re not ready to ditch the celebratory weekend entirely — there is something nice about kicking off the holiday season in style, and, if you’re spending Thanksgiving weekend with your relatives, there’s something really nice about having an excuse to get everybody out of the house. Have no fear — a few alternative holidays have developed over the last few years to replace Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Here’s the lineup:
On Friday, #optoutside
REI started this one a couple of years ago; they announced that they were closing their stores on Black Friday and, instead, encouraging people to go on hikes and ditch the malls to enjoy mini adventures with family and friends. (Is this a marketing strategy from a huge corporation? Of course it is — but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.) You don’t have to buy anything to embrace this holiday — just plan a hike or something. If you feel like it, post photos and hashtag them #optoutside. If you don’t have any ideas, REI has an #optoutside website this year that will help you find something to do. (Is this a strategy to drive more traffic to their website? Yeah, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.) I’ve participated in #optoutside for the past couple of years, and it’s really quite perfect — it’s usually chilly but not yet miserably cold, the leaves are pretty, and you get to work off some of the Thanksgiving meal. It’s also easier to talk to tricky family members when you’re walking on a trail than when you’re trapped inside sitting adversarially across the table from each other.
On Saturday, Shop Small
Shop Small Saturday is a holiday designed for encouraging people to shop locally at independent stores. As the author of a book that’s all about this (The Localist), obviously I’m pretty into it. (The book came out on Shop Small Saturday, and some of my best book signings have been on Shop Small Saturday — I did a podcast on those stories this week that you can listen to here.) But even if you haven’t written a book on the topic, Shopping Small for holiday gifts is just smart — local shopkeepers are almost always experts in what they sell, and you can generally just tell them the age and interests of the people on your list and they’ll guide you to an amazing gift that will actually make that person happy. It’s really incredible, actually. You’re also investing in your community when you shop locally because so much more money stays in your town instead of getting absorbed into the federal abyss or disappearing into corporate loopholes, but you don’t have to do it for that. You can do it for the selfish reason of being the best gift giver ever, and that works just fine.
Is Shop Small Saturday a holiday manufactured by American Express to attempt to generate goodwill with independent businesses so they’ll accept their credit cards? Yeah, but that doesn’t make it a bad idea. Some people prefer to call it Small Business Saturday because of the corporate connection; I don’t do it because I think Shop Small Saturday sounds cuter.
On Monday, Toast to Cider Monday
I’ve never done this one before, and I’m so excited about it — I love a good pun. This one wasn’t even manufactured by a corporation! It was dreamed up by a guy named Willard Williams from Toadstool Bookshops … because of course it was. The point of this holiday is to reject Cyber Monday in favor of shopping in locally owned stores that put out cider and snacks for customers. I don’t know of anyone in Birmingham participating in Cider Monday, but I’m going to drink cider and refrain from buying stuff online, and I think that’ll still count.
Carrie Rollwagen reviews books for Southern Living and BookPage. She’s also Communications Director at Infomedia and author of The Localist. Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter @crollwagen.