10 alternatives to the soul-suck of shopping on Black Friday

Ways to spend the day for those who'd like to skip the whole 'bloodsport of mass consumerism' thing.

Leave it to modern America to take the least commercial of holidays – one about family and gratitude and sharing a meal – and turn it into a national day of stampeding and brawling in the name of hoarding cheap stuff. Go USA! It was bad enough when Black Friday started on Friday, but now people set up tents and camp for weeks in parking lots and more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Thursday. It’s not my place to judge, different things make different people happy … but it just feels like a sad homage to gratitude when the holiday devoted to thanks turns into frenzied mobs fighting for flat-screen TVs.

The day after Thanksgiving does make for a logical day to kick off the holiday season, but there are so many lovely ways to do it that don’t involve mad grabs and fisticuffs. Here are a few ideas:

1. Go to a park, not a parking lot

Let’s see … giant redwoods or reckless consumerism. For anyone struggling between the two, know that 49 state parks in California are being sponsored by the San Francisco nonprofit, Save the Redwoods League, for free admission on Black Friday. Likewise, Minnesota State Parks system announced that admission will be free at all 75 state park and recreation areas. Missouri State Parks are also being kind enough to offer free camping on the day. (And I know that parks have parking lots, but allow me some poetic license.)

2. Have a DIY gathering

The hardest part about making DIY things for gift-giving is often just making a game-plan and sticking with it. So commit by starting a DIY party tradition to take place on Black Friday. Pick a fun and realistic project (like any of these: 10 DIY gifts you make in less than an hour) and assign supplies as you would a potluck dinner. I know it sounds a bit “grown up Girl Scouts” … but that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. Plus, wine (if you swing that way).

3. Take a walk; bathe in the forest

If you’re a walker or a hiker, you already know that you may use your free Friday – your free Friday where you may be feeling extra full – to take a walk or hike. But if you are someone who is not in the habit of going around on foot just for kicks, there’s no time like now. The health benefits of walking are legion, and the mental benefits are wonderful. It’s such a beautiful way to feel connected to where you’re at – whether city sidewalk or mountain trail, it’s like your own personal Sensurround film experience, in real life! If you live near the woods, follow the Japanese tradition of forest bathing, a practice that science shows reduces stress and blood pressure....more